In 1776, the American colonies declared independence from the British. Then in 1789, George Washington was elected the first President of the United States — but it turns out, the Virginian may not have been the first president. The problem with the version we all know is that it ignores over a decade of American history. The Declaration of Independence was written in 1776, but the Constitution of the United States was written in 1787, and Washington’s presidency of course started in 1789.
In those intervening years, America was run by governments that preceded the Constitution, and it was during those governments that other ‘first presidents’ lead the country. The first ‘first president’ was John Hancock. In 1776, he served as the President of the Continental Congress, the American colonies’ national government at the time. When he signed the Declaration of Independence, he was instantly promoted to President of the United States.
The second ‘first president’ was Samuel Huntington, but he is often overlooked because he earned his title on a technicality. He happened to be the President of Continental Congress in 1781 when the Articles of Confederation were ratified. The first president elected under the Articles and to serve his full term in office was John Hanson of Maryland. Many historians argue that this fact means that Hanson was America’s true first president.