How do you do, Mr. President?

Who was the first President of the United States? John Hanson, of course. Although the Declaration of Independence was issued on July 4, 1776, there was still a war to be fought before the new country was acknowledged. In 1781, before the Revolutionary War was over, America's wartime Continental Congress voted Maryland Representative John Hanson "President of the United States in Congress Assembled." He served only a year before resigning for health reasons. In 1789, having won independence and ratified a new constitution, Americans elected George Washington as our first "real" president.

Elsewhere on these pages you'll find lots of ways to get acquainted with more of our nation's leaders: lists of presidential facts, historical photos, and a quiz on "firsts" to see how much you know – and how much you've learned from these stories.

Have fun!

How two leaders helped each other

When the Civil War began in 1861, 18-year-old Billy was the first in his town to volunteer for the Union Army. In April 1862 he was promoted to mess sergeant, feeding soldiers and their horses. His commanding officer noted that Billy was very good at ordering and managing supplies.

On Sept. 17, 1862, a fierce battle broke out near Antietam Creek in Maryland. Billy was behind the battle lines, guarding the supply wagons, but he wanted to help his comrades. He knew they had been sent out to fight at daylight without breakfast. Now it was afternoon, and the soldiers must be hungry and exhausted. Billy took a wagon full of supplies and drove it through enemy fire to deliver food and water to the soldiers. They welcomed the supplies and were inspired by Billy's bravery. One of the soldiers later declared, "We saw a wagon, drawn by army mules, coming towards us from the rear at breakneck speed, through a terrific fire of musketry and artillery.... I have many times since thought it a miracle that it ... was not utterly destroyed."

Billy's commander was so impressed that he promoted him to second lieutenant. The commander was Col. Rutherford B. Hayes, who would become the 19th president of the United States in 1877. Billy was William McKinley. He rose to the rank of brevet major, and then became a lawyer.

In 1897, he became our 25th president.

Presidential facts

• The first president to live in the White House moved in before it was completed. Only six rooms were finished and Abigail, the new president's wife, had to hang the laundry in the East Room. The first bathtub and kitchen stove were installed during Millard Fillmore's term (1850-1853).

• Electricity was first installed in the White House during Benjamin Harrison's term (1889-1893).

• Our seventh president (he served from 1829 to 1837) was the first who didn't come from a well-to-do family.

• James Madison (1809-1817) was the first president to wear long pants. (Before that, men wore knee breeches and stockings.)

• The first baby born in the White House was the grandson of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809).

• John Tyler (1841-1845) was the first president to marry while in office. He eventually had 15 children.

• The only president and vice president to resign from their offices were President Richard M. Nixon and his Vice President, Spiro T. Agnew.

• The first president to speak on the radio was Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921).

Test your knowledge

Match the president on the left with his 'first' on the right. (Need a hint? See clues below.)


1. John Adams (served 1797-1801)

2. Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)

3. James Polk (1845-1849)

4. Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877)

5. Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)

6. Herbert C. Hoover (1929-1933)

7. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945)

8. Harry S. Truman (1945-1953)

9. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)

10. Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974)

11. Gerald R. Ford (1974-1977)

Presidential firsts

a. The first president to rule under a flag with 50 stars.

b. The first national park was created during his term.

c. The first (and, so far, only) president to serve without being elected.

d. The first president to fly in an airplane while in office.

e. The first president to live with his family in the White House.

f. The first president that women could vote for.

g. The first president whose nomination was announced by telegraph.

h. The first president that 19-year-olds could vote for.

i. The first president born in a log cabin.

j. He was president when "The Star-Spangled Banner" became the national anthem.

k. The first nationwide TV broadcast occurred during his term.


(1) e; (2) i; (3) g; (4) b; (5) f; (6) j; (7) d; (8) k; (9) a; (10) h; (11) c.

Here are some hints for the 'firsts' quiz

Hawaii was admitted to the Union in 1959 as the 50th state.

The 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified in 1971. It gave the vote to citizens aged 18 and older.

Samuel F.B. Morse transmitted the first telegraph message from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, Md., in 1844.

The 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified in 1920, giving women the right to vote.

Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872.

Engineering advances in the 1930s made air travel faster and safer.

Congress adopted a national anthem in 1931.

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