Who was the first US president? Full list of presidents of the United States ahead of the 2020 presidential election

There have been more than 40 US presidents since the office was created in the 18th century

Who was the first US president? Full list of presidents of the United States ahead of the 2020 presidential election (Photo: Shutterstock)

Depending on the result of the forthcoming US presidential election, the United States could be about to see its 46th president enter the White House, or see its 45th serve another term.

Although Donald Trump is often referred to as the 45th president, in truth there have only been 44 men to take the office, though there have been 45 separate presidencies.

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The United States presidency was created in April 1789, a month after the US Constitution was officially enacted.

Here’s a full list of every US president, from George Washington to Donald Trump.

George Washington - 1

The first president of the United States, and the man after whom the capital city is named, was George Washington, who served from 1789, just after the constitution was ratified, to 1797.

After Washington was posthumously promoted to General of the Armies of the United States in 1976, he technically became the highest-ranking member of the US military in history, and the country’s only six-star general.

John Adams - 2

John Adams served as George Washington’s vice-president before taking up the presidency himself in 1797.

Adams remained in office until 1801, when his vice-president carried on the trend of taking over the presidency.

Thomas Jefferson - 3

Thomas Jefferson served as vice-president under John Adams before winning the presidency himself in 1801.

Jefferson is one of the most famous historic presidents, as he drafted the Declaration of Independence.

He left office in 1809, and was the first president not to be succeeded by his vice-president.

James Madison – 4

Though he hadn’t served under the previous chief, James Madison was a respected political figure when he took office in 1809, on account of the main author and a signatory of the Constitution.

He left office in 1817, having led the United States in the Anglo-American war.

James Monroe – 5

After taking up office in 1817, James Monroe went on to become the father of US foreign policy, with his Monroe Doctrine designed to prevent European powers interfering with the United States.

Monroe had studied law under Thomas Jefferson prior to taking the presidency.

He left office in 1825.

John Quincy Adams - 6

John Quincy Adams was the first president to live in the White House, and was famously gifted an alligator by the Marquis De Lafayette.

Taking office in 1825 until 1829, Adams was the first of two president’s to follow in his father’s footsteps in taking up the role.

Andrew Jackson - 7

Andrew Jackson took on the presidency in 1829 and remained in office until 1837.

Jackson, who founded the Democratic party, features on the $20 bill.

Martin Van Buren - 8

The first president to be born in the officially constituted United States of America, unlike his predecessor’s who had all been born as British subjects, Martin Van Buren served from 1837 to 1841.

William Henry Harrison - 9

The man who will be remembered in history for the shortest and perhaps most tragic US presidency is William Henry Harrison.

Harrison had been in office for just a month in 1841 when he died from pneumonia which he is thought to have developed after delivering his hour-long inauguration speech in the rain.

John Tyler - 10

As he had served briefly as vice-president to William Henry Harrison, John Tyler became the first president to assume office without being elected in 1841.

His presidency was a controversial one, in which he presided over the annexation of Texas.

James K Polk - 11

Elected in 1854, James K Polk’s presidency was defined by expansion.

By the time he left office in 1849, he had extended the United States by 1.2 million square miles, mainly in the pacific ocean.

Zachary Taylor - 12

When Zachary Taylor took office in 1849, he took over a country which was bitterly divided over the issue of slavery.

A slave-owner himself, Zachary was a hero of the Mexican-American War, whose presidency ended abruptly when he died of stomach disease in 1850.

Millard Fillmore - 13

Millard Fillmore was the last president to be elected from the Whig party in 1850.

He tried and ultimately failed to ease tensions between the slave-owning and free states, before leaving office in 1853.

Franklin Pierce - 14

Considered by many to be one of the worst US presidents of all time, Franklin Pierce took office in 1853.

With his desire to expand the slave trade, many blame him for riling up tensions which would eventually lead to the Civil War, before he left office in 1857.

James Buchanan - 15

James Buchanan was the only unmarried president and the last to take office before the outbreak of civil war.

He was in office between 1857 and 1861.

Abraham Lincoln - 16

Arguably the best-known and most respected US president, Abraham Lincoln took office just as the civil war broke out in 1861.

He reunited the country and abolished slavery, before being assassinated in 1865.

Andrew Johnson - 17

After taking over from the slain Lincoln in 1865, Andrew Johnson would come to be known as the Veto President, for continually vetoing bills passed by Congress.

This led to him becoming the first president to be impeached, though he survived by one vote and eventually left office in 1869.

Ulysses S. Grant - 18

Ulysses S. Grant was elected in 1869, and would go on to establish the National Park System.

He had fought as a Union general in the Civil War, and was one of the first presidents to push for civil rights for native american and african americans.

Rutherford Birchard Hayes - 19

Rutherford B. Hayes dedicated his term in office, between 1877 and 1881, to restoring the reputation of the government and furthering his predecessor’s quest for civil rights.

James A Garfield - 20

James Garfield became the second president to meet a grisly end when he was assassinated less than a year into his 1881 presidency.

Chester A Arthur 21

Chester Arthur took over after the murder of Garfield in 1881 and served until 1885.

He reportedly held the nickname “Elegant Arthur” because he liked to change outfits so often.

Grover Cleveland 22

Elected in 1885, Grover Cleveland lost his re-election bid and left office in 1889…

Benjamin Harrison 23

Benjamin Harrison presided over the first US government to reach $1billion in federal spending, during his time in office from 1889 to 1893

Grover Cleveland 24

In 1893, Grover Cleveland became the first and only president so far to serve non-consecutive terms after he won election again, and went on to serve until 1897.

Cleveland’s second presidency is the reason that the current president is often described as number 45, despite being the 44th individual to assume the presidency.

William McKinley 25

After winning election in 1897 William McKinley went on to become the fourth president to be assassinated when he was shot at a fair in 1901.

Theodore Roosevelt 26

Elected in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt was a popular president who became the first American to win a Nobel Peace Prize, before he left office in 1909

William H Taft 27

President Taft took office in 1909 and established the 16th amendment, which brought in a federal tax.

During his single-term which ended in 1913, Taft began the presidential tradition of throwing the first pitch at a Major League Baseball game.

Woodrow Wilson 28

Woodrow Wilson’s two-term presidency from 1913 to 1921 meant he was in power throughout World War One, and drafted the peace plan after the war.

Warren G Harding 29

The first president to die of illness while in office, Warren Harding’s brief presidency was mired with scandal throughout his 1921-1923 tenure, as he repeatedly gave top jobs to personal friends.

Calvin Coolidge 30

The only US president to be born on 4 July, US independence day, Calvin Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act which gave full U.S. citizenship rights to all native americans.

He was in office between 1923 and 1929, and declined to run for reelection for a second term.

Herbert Hoover 31

Herbert Hoover took office just before the Great Depression hit, in 1929, and donated his salary to charity.

Before leaving office in 1933 he made “The Star-Spangled Banner” the national anthem.

Franklin D Roosevelt 32

As his tenure of 1933 to 1945 ran from the end of the Great Depression right through the Second World War, Roosevelt is arguably the most influential US president of all time.

Harry S Truman 33

Harry Truman was another highly influential and controversial president.

During his two-terms between 1945 and 1953 Truman ordered that atomic bombs be dropped on Japan, and declared war on Korea.

Dwight D Eisenhower 34

After leading the allied forces as commander and 5-star general during the second world war, Dwight Eisenhower was elected in 1953 and served until 1961.

John F Kennedy 35

John F Kennedy took on the US presidency in 1961 at a tense time in the cold war and became the most recent president to be assassinated in 1963.

Lyndon B Johnson 36

Lyndon B Johnson stepped in to replace John F Kennedy in 1963 and went on to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964 before leaving office in 1969.

Richard M Nixon 37

Richard Nixon took office in 1969, and his presidency is infamous due to the way it eventually ended with impeachment and his resignation in 1981 following the Watergate scandal.

Gerald R Ford 38

Gerald Ford holds the strange title of being the only person to have served both as vice-president and president without winning election as either.

He became president after Nixon resigned in 1974 and served the remainder of that term until 1977.

Jimmy Carter 39

President Jimmy Carter took office in 1977 for a single term which was characterised by frugality; he sold the presidential yacht as it was too expensive to maintain.

Ronald Reagan 40

Former Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan won power in 1981 and held it for two terms until 1989, after surviving an assasination attempt.

George Bush 41

George Bush took over from Reagan and replaced the Cold War with conflict in the Gulf. He served a single term, from 1989 to 1993.

Bill Clinton 42

After taking office in 1993, Bill Clinton held office throughout two terms which saw the longest prolonged period of peace and economic growth in US history, before leaving in 2001.

George W Bush 43

Having taken office just months before 9/11 in 2001, George W. Bush became the second son of a president to become president himself.

He served two terms, until 2009.

Barack Obama 44

Barack Obama became the first African american president in 2009.

During his two terms he pushed major healthcare expansion and presided over the elimination of Osama Bin Laden, prior to leaving office in 2017.

Donald J Trump 45

A businessman and television personality for decades before entering politics, Donald Trump won office ahead of Hilary Clinton in the 2016 election.

On 3 November he will face Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.