As the dust settled from the Revolutionary War, America’s founding fathers hashed out a political system that was entirely novel for an era in which monarchs ruled most countries around the world. Free at last from the British Empire, the fledgling nation would have no king. Instead, an elected civilian—the President of the United States of America—would lead the federal government, enforcing the laws of the land and acting as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. And yet, while the presidency has since become an emblem of the American way of life, the country might have gone in a very different direction. Before George Washington took the oath of office on April 30, 1789, many Americans envisioned a crown for the wildly popular Virginia planter. Washington refused, and so did the framers of the Constitution. For more than 200 years, U.S. presidents and their families have resided at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., in a sandstone mansion known as the White House. It has 132 rooms, 412 doors, 28 fireplaces—and not a single throne.
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This Day in History
On this day in 2004, as reported in the Washington Post, President George Bush recovers from a bicycle accident he'd had the day before. Bush had taken up…
George Washington served two terms as the first U.S. president, from 1789 to 1797.
The 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln led the Union to victory in the Civil War and emancipated the South's African-American slaves.
John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, served just over 1,000 days in office before he was assassinated in November 1963.
The 44th president of the United States, Obama is the first African American to hold the office.
Did You Know?
To be eligible for the presidency, a person must be a native-born citizen of the United States (or born abroad of two citizen parents); at least 35 years of age; and have lived in the United States for at least 14 years.
There have been 44 U.S. presidential administrations, but only 43 presidents--Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms from 1885 to 1889 and 1893 to 1897.
William Henry Harrison held the office for the shortest period of time--he died of pneumonia after about a month in office.
The longest-serving president was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died shortly into his fourth term in office. (The 22nd Amendment, ratified in 1951, limited to two the number of presidential terms one person could serve.)
In addition to Harrison and Roosevelt, six other presidents have died while in office-- Taylor, Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Harding and Kennedy. Of these, four were assassinated: Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy.
At 43, John F. Kennedy was the youngest president elected to the office, but Theodore Roosevelt, who was sworn in at age 42 after the death of McKinley, was the youngest ever to hold the office.
The oldest was Ronald Reagan, who began his first term at age 69.
List of U.S. Presidents, in date order
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