50 famous firsts from presidential history | Features


George Washington, the country’s first president, won both of his elections unanimously, with every elector casting their vote for him. That’s a far cry from today’s bitterly contested battles. President Washington was followed in office by John Adams, the first resident of the new White House, then still called the President’s House.

Presidential firsts made headlines and history through subsequent administrations. In the early years of the country, precedents were established and earlier flaws in procedures were remedied. A separate vote for the vice president came about in 1804 after a marred election four years earlier. Then Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied and the winner was chosen by the House of Representatives. James Monroe, the last of the Founding Fathers to hold the presidency, became known for what was later called the Monroe Doctrine, the United States establishing its sphere of influence in the Western Hemisphere and warning Europe in the process.

Presidential firsts can include not just what presidents do in office, but the identity of the presidents themselves. The country has seen two father-son pairs win the White House: first the Adamses and much later the Bushes. Women and candidates of color joined the competition and with the victory of the Biden-Harris ticket, Sen. Kamala Harris became the first woman and woman of color to become vice president. President-elect Joe Biden will be the oldest man ever to serve. And while the Republican and Democratic national conventions to chose each party’s candidate seems like an enshrined practice now, candidates were once chosen differently, and the procedures governing each selection process have changed over the centuries. 

If the country began by rallying behind President Washington as the one man to lead the United States, the last election was one of the most divisive. President Donald Trump has become the most norm-breaking president in history, accruing his own large list of presidential firsts. 

Stacker compiled a list of 50 presidential firsts from the founding of the country to the present by looking at government records, official documents, and news and historical reports. Here is a look at some of those milestones over the years.

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