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Photograph of the Four Presidents (Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon) toasting in the Blue Room prior to leaving for Egypt and Sadat's Funeral, 10/08/1981 (National Archives)
Photograph of the Four Presidents (Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon) toasting in the Blue Room prior to leaving for Egypt and Sadat's Funeral, 10/08/1981 (National Archives)

Summary of the United States President's duties

The head of state of the United States is called the President, who also serves the functions of chief executive and commander in chief of the armed forces. By current law, the U.S. president serves a four-year term and may only be re-elected once, as a result of the twenty-second amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In slang, the President of the United States is sometimes called POTUS. The wife of the President is known as the First Lady.

Relative to many of the heads of head from around the world, who often hold largely ceremonial powers, United States Presidents are capable of a large degree of meaningful political action. They can veto any legislation passed by the two houses of Congress. (Overriding a President's veto requries a full two-thirds majority in each house of Congress.) They appoint the heads of the various government agencies. Although the Congress must approve the government's annual budget, it is prepared for them by the President. Though constrained by various other laws passed by Congress, the President's executive branch conducts most foreign policy, and his power to order and direct troops as commander-in-chief is quite significant. (The exact limits of what a President can do with the military without Congressional authorization are open to debate.)

There is a well-defined sequence of who should fill the Presidential office, upon the death, resignation, or removal from office (by impeachment) of a current President:

  1. the Vice President of the United States of America
  2. the Speaker of the House of Representatives
  3. the President pro tempore of the United States Senate.
(Note: The complete list is longer.)

Thus, the Vice President will succeed the President. If the Vice President can no longer service as President, the Speaker of the House becomes and President. And so on.

United States Presidents Timeline

  1. George Washington (1789-1797) Federalist
  2. John Adams (1797-1801) Federalist
  3. Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) Democratic-Republican
  4. James Madison (1809-1817) Democratic-Republican
  5. James Monroe (1817-1825) Democratic-Republican
  6. John Quincy Adams (1825-1829) Democratic-Republican
  7. Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) Democrat
  8. Martin Van Buren (1837-1841) Democrat
  9. William Henry Harrison (1841) Whig
  10. John Tyler (1841-1845) Whig (Democrat on Whig ticket)
  11. James Knox Polk (1845-1849) Democrat
  12. Zachary Taylor (1849-1850) Whig
  13. Millard Fillmore (1850-1853) Whig
  14. Franklin Pierce (1853-1857) Democrat
  15. James Buchanan (1857-1861) Democrat
  16. Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) Republican
  17. Andrew Johnson (1865-1869) Republican (Democrat on Republican ticket)
  18. Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) Republican
  19. Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) Republican
  20. James Garfield (1881) Republican
  21. Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885) Republican
  22. Grover Cleveland (1885-1889) Democrat
  23. Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893) Republican
  24. Grover Cleveland (1893-1897) Democrat (same as #22)
  25. William McKinley (1897-1901) Republican
  26. Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) Republican
  27. William Howard Taft (1909-1913) Republican
  28. Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) Democrat
  29. Warren G. Harding (1921-1923) Republican
  30. Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929) Republican
  31. Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) Republican
  32. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945) Democrat
  33. Harry S. Truman (1945-1953) Democrat
  34. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) Republican
  35. John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) Democrat
  36. Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969) Democrat
  37. Richard Nixon (1969-1974) Republican
  38. Gerald R. Ford (1974-1977) Republican
  39. Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) Democrat
  40. Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) Republican
  41. George Bush (1989-1993) Republican
  42. Bill Clinton (1993-2001) Democrat
  43. George W. Bush (2001-2009) Republican
  44. Barack Obama (2009- ) Democrat

Presidential Facts and Figures

Photograph of servicemen removing the flag from the casket of President John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery, as the late President's widow and other mourners look on., 11/25/1963 (National Archives)
Photograph of servicemen removing the flag from the casket of President John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery, as the late President's widow and other mourners look on., 11/25/1963 (National Archives)

Four U.S. Presidents have been assassinated:

Four others died in office:

One president resigned from office:

Two Presidents have been impeached, though neither was subsequently convicted:

George Washington receiving French generals at Mount Vernon (National Archives)
George Washington receiving French generals at Mount Vernon (National Archives)

The President's residence is the White House Presidents of course had homes other than the White House. This is a list of some of those homes:

Presidents of the Continental Congress

There were seven Presidents of the Continental Congress prior to the ratification of the Articles of Confederation. These men held very few powers that are now associated with the US presidency and cannot be considered to have been heads of state. Their primary duty was to preside over the Congress (hence the original meaning of "president"):

  • Peyton Randolph (September 5 to October 21, 1774, and again from May 10 to May 23, 1775)
  • Henry Middleton (October 22, 1774 to May 10, 1775)
  • John Hancock (May 24, 1775 to October 30, 1777)
  • Henry Laurens (November 1, 1777 to December 9, 1778)
  • John Jay (December 10, 1778 to September 27, 1779)
  • Samuel Huntington (September 28, 1779 to July 9, 1781)
  • Thomas McKean (July 10, 1781 to November 4, 1782)

Presidents of the United States in Congress Assembled

There were eight Presidents under the Articles of Confederation. These men held few powers that are now associated with the US presidency and cannot be considered to have been heads of state or the "Chief Executive". These men were simply heads of government with Congress holding all executive powers:

  • John Hanson (1781-1782)
  • Elias Boudinot (1783)
  • Thomas Mifflin (1784)
  • Richard Henry Lee (1785)
  • John Hancock (1786)
  • Nathan Gorman (1787)
  • Arthur St. Clair (1788)
  • Cyrus Griffin (1789)

Miscellaneous information on a less serious note

How They're Acting and How They Feel - 11/05/1912 (National Archives)
“How They're Acting and How They Feel” - 11/05/1912
(National Archives) This cartoon depicts Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and William Howard Taft before the 1912 Presidential Election. The divided cartoons reveals the confident public persona each candidate projects--how they're acting-- versus the nervousnous each candidate undoubtedly feels.

  • David Rice Atchison (August 11, 1807-1886) was a mid-19th century Senator from Missouri who is thought by some to have been President of the United States for one day: Sunday, March 4, 1849, between the expiration of James Polk's term at noon on Sunday and the official oath of office taken by Zachary Taylor on Monday. The law at that time specified that the President was to be sworn in on March 4th, but President-elect Taylor refused to be sworn in on the Sabbath (Sunday). Atchison had been elected President Pro Tempore of the Senate a couple of days previously and would therefore technically be third in line of succession behind the President and Vice President. Since neither office was held by a person on that day, he is considered by some the President of the United States for that period. However none of the legal requirements for replacing the President with the President pro tempore were fulfilled and on Mar. 4, Atchison was not even technically president pro tempore since the 31st Congress had not yet started.

    When asked what he did on this day, he commented "I went to bed. There had been two or three busy nights finishing up the work of the Senate, and I slept most of that Sunday."

    Born in Frogtown (now named Kirklevington), Fayette County, Kentucky, Atchison was appointed to the United States Senate to replace a Missouri Senator that had just died. He held this office from 1843 to 1855. He became the first senator from western Missouri and at age 36 the youngest Missourian at that time to enter the U. S. Senate. He also was U. S. Vice President from April 18, 1853, until December 4, 1854, by right of succession upon the death of President Franklin Pierce's vice president, William R. King. He is buried in his home of Plattsburg, Missouri, where a statue honors him in front of the Clinton County Courthouse.


  • Emperor Norton I (1859-1880) - (February 14 1819 - January 8 1880) was a famous, impoverished and highly eccentric citizen of San Francisco, California in the mid-to-late 19th century. Among his many celebrated and curious activities, he most famously anointed himself as "Emperor of the United States" in 1859. Other notable activities include his dissolution of the United States Congress, and his numerous (and prophetic) decrees that a bridge be built across the San Francisco Bay. The King in Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn is reportedly modeled after him. Sadly, his decrees were not properly observed by the rebellious politicians in Washington. Serious measures were obviously called for, and in another imperial decree of January 1860, Emperor Norton I summoned the army to remove them.

    Much to the disappointment of the Emperor, the army failed in its appointed task, and the former Congress persisted in their disobedience to his decrees. This necessitated further decrees in 1860 that dissolved the republic and forbade the assembly of any members of the former Congress. This battle against the former leaders of his empire was to persist throughout his reign, and it appears that the Emperor eventually, if somewhat grudgingly, granted consent for the Congress to continue operating.

    The benevolent and largely harmless reign of Emperor Norton I came to an end, sadly, on the evening of January 8, 1880, when he collapsed on a street while on his way to a lecture at the Academy of Sciences. The funeral for the Emperor was a solemn, mournful and large affair, some accounts report that as many as 30 000 peoples lined the streets to pay homage and that the funeral cortege was two miles long. He was buried at the Masonic Cemetery, at the expense of the City of San Francisco.

    In 1934, the remains of Emperor Norton I were transferred, again at the expense of the City of San Francisco, to a gravesite of moderate splendour at Woodlawn Cemetery. His present gravestone refers to him as "Norton I, Emperor of the United States, Protector of Mexico". In January 1980, numerous ceremonies and memorials were conducted in San Francisco to honour the 100th anniversary of the passing of the only Emperor of the United States.


  • There is also a rock band called The Presidents of the United States of America; however, no person has both held the office of President of the U.S. and played in that band.


To learn more about the US Presidents
Use these online Internet resources

   See Also:

President Bush walks up the South Lawn towards the Oval Office with his son, George W. Bush, 04/29/1992 (National Archives)
President Bush walks up the South Lawn towards the Oval Office with his son, George W. Bush, 04/29/1992 (National Archives)

    Presidents of the United States - Background information, election results, cabinet members, notable events, and some points of interest on each of the presidents. Links to biographies, historical documents, audio and video files, and other presidential sites are also included to enrich this site.

    Character in Time: The U.S. Presidents - Project seeks to produce quality one-act plays that capture the character of each President. Site includes synopsis of each play, along with profiles of the playwrights involved in the project.

    American Presidents: Life Portraits - Site complements CSPAN television series of the same name. Includes brief facts about each president, plus video clips from the series.

    Presidents - Index contains biographies, sketches, writings, and speeches.

    Presidential Letters - Excerpts from personal letters allow readers to catch a glimpse into the private lives of some of America's best-known presidents. From the United States Postal Service.

    Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies - Find pictorial records of the first families from the Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division.

    4President - Guide to the Presidency from - The lives, issues, and legacies of George Washington and his successors. Includes text of Inaugural Addresses.

    Complete Resource for Presidential Information - Includes biographies, presidential campaign and election links, and historical papers.

    Program in Presidential Rhetoric - Comprehensive archive of well-known presidential speeches from Texas A&M.

    Masonic Presidents Tour - Identifies U.S. Presidents who were Masons. Includes a portrait of each, along with his signature and a record of his Masonic career.

    Grolier Online: The American Presidency - A history of presidents, the presidency, politics and related subjects. Includes biographies for every president.

    JWhiz's Home of Presidential Facts - Trivia as well as standard information about the various Presidents of the United States

    U.S. Presidents Lists - Sorts presidents according to a wide variety of criteria ranging from religion to military rank to number of children.

    Portraits of the Presidents - Online exhibit from the National Portrait Gallery featuring likenesses of former presidents as well as a brief summary of major events occuring during their administration and information about the works of art.

    U.S. Presidents: Lists and Records - Collection of presidential facts and trivia in list form.

    Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies - Collection contains an Illustrated reference aid with 156 portraits.

    The Tennessee President's Trust - Contains historical information on all U.S. Presidents with a focus on those from Tennessee as well as a directory of presidential resources on the web.

    The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden - Official exhibit site of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Traces the history and culture of the presidency from 1789 through 2000.

    The American President - Official site for the PBS series includes presidential biographies, historical documents, essays, an overview of the election process, a campaign simulation game, and related lesson plans.

    Pets in the White House - Introduces pets that have joined their masters in America's highest office in recent years.

    The American Presidency - An informal reference guide including bibliographies, biographies, quotes, trivia and sundry other source materials from the world wide web.

    The Presidents of the United States - Short history of the U.S. Presidency, along with biographical sketches and portraits of all the presidents to date. From the official White House site.

    Trivia One - Interesting and unusual facts about United States Presidents, in the form of a trivia quiz.

    Dead Presidents - Visits to the gravesites of the U.S. Presidents, with links for more information on their lives.

    The Great Presidential Outline Archive - Contains outline-format biographies for each president from Washington to Ford.

    Presidents and First Ladies - Original articles, discussions, answer to questions, and links to other sites on the subject of presidents, vice-presidents, and first ladies.

    The Hall of Forgotten Presidents - Arthur, Tyler, and Polk are identified and chronicled as forgotten, yet important, Presidents.

    Our Political Drama: Conventions, Campaigns, Candidates - Anecdotal history of American presidential campaigns, conventions and inaugurations, with six chapters about the development and use of political cartoons in presidential politics.

    Public Papers of the Presidents - Material compiled and published by the Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration.

    Presidential Factfile - A comprehensive collection of photographs, biographies, quizzes, and trivia from

    The Importance of Assuming Full Power - A comparison of the leadership skills of Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams to two modern American business leaders.

    A Presidential Exploration - The Oval Office - ThinkQuest site provides fast facts about the men who have occupied the Oval Office, as well as in-depth looks at their administrations.

    President of the United States - Article from Encarta Encyclopedia provides on overview of the higest government position in the United States.

    Voices of The Presidents - Sound files from the Archer Audio Archives.

    History of Camp David - A look at the history of Camp David, the mountain retreat of U.S. presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt through George W. Bush. Impeachment - Explains how crimes and misdemeanors in the White House are dealt with. Includes detailed information on Watergate and the Starr report.

    U.S. Presidents and the Presidency - Tells about the office of president, the history of the presidency, and the office of vice president. Includes portraits of first ladies and interactive quizzes. From the publishers of World Book Encyclopedia.

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