How Many Presidents Have We Had?

President Jimmy Carter

Like any simple question, there is no simple answer to 

How many presidents have we had?

We have had 45 different presidents. However, it is often said that we have had 46 presidents, as Grover Cleveland served two terms with Benjamin Harrison serving as president in between.

Read on to find out more about those presidents.

The Number of Presidents in US History

As of 2022, the United States has had 46 presidents, with the first dating back to 1789. Each president is elected through the electoral college system, which entitles them to four years in office. Presidents may be elected twice. However, they cannot serve more than this due to the 22nd Amendment established in 1951, which states that a president is limited to just two terms.

President Jimmy Carter

Amongst the 46 men that have had the top job as President of the United States, some have served previously as Vice President, have been assassinated, or have been impeached. Let’s take a closer look at the 46 presidents of the United States.

The 46 Presidents of the United States

The 46 men that have been president from first to last are as follows:

  • George Washington (1789-1797)
  • John Adams (1797-1801)
  • Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)
  • James Madison (1809-1817)
  • James Monroe (1817-1825)
  • John Quincy Adams (1825-1829)
  • Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)
  • Martin Van Buren (1837-1841)
  • William Henry Harrison (1841)
  • John Tyler (1841-1845)
  • James K. Polk (1845-1849)
  • Zachary Taylor (1849-1850)
  • Millard Fillmore (1850-1853)
  • Franklin Pierce (1853-1857)
  • James Buchanan (1857-1861)
  • Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)
  • Andrew Johnson (1865-1869)
  • Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877)
  • Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881)
  • James A. Garfield (1881)
  • Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885)
  • Grover Cleveland (1885-1889, 1893-1897)
  • Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893)
  • William Mckinley (1897-1901)
  • Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)
  • William Howard Taft (1909-1913)
  • Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)
  • Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)
  • Calvin Coolidge (1921-1929)
  • Herbert Hoover (1929-1933)
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945)
  • Harry S. Truman (1945-1953)
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)
  • John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)
  • Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)
  • Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974)
  • Gerald R. Ford (1974-1977)
  • Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)
  • Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)
  • George Bush (1989-1993)
  • William J. Clinton (1993-2001)
  • George W. Bush (2001-2009)
  • Barack Obama (2009-2017)
  • Donald J. Trump (2017-2021)
  • Joseph R. Biden Jr. (2021-present)

The 1st President: George Washington

The first president of the United States was George Washington, taking his oath on the April 30th, 1789 – but how did he come to be the first-ever president in American history?

Bust of George Washington
George Washington was the first President of the United States.

The idea of a US president began in the 1780s when the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution and decided how the country would be run in the future. Washington took a leading role at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, where the fathers were debating the shape American government and leadership would take from that point onwards.

When their debates settled that the United States must have an executive officer – they weren’t initially sure to call him. They knew they didn’t want an all-powerful king, so they settled on the term “president,” as it implied the position was similar to a chairman or leader of the country. Once the new Constitution was ratified, George Washington was elected by due process amongst the Electoral College to become the first president of the United States. 

However, even after Washington had been elected, Congress remained unsure about whether it was right to address him as “president.” This was largely because the head of Continental Congress in the 1770s also held the title of “president,” so it could become confusing. The Senate thought that the term “president” was far too casual, especially for a man like George Washington who had been addressed as “General” and “Your Excellency” during his time in the Revolutionary forces. However, these connotations of modesty worked well with the Constitutional vision for America, and it has stuck to this very day.

The Founding Fathers also did not intend for America to have the two-party political system it has today, which explains why George Washington is one of the only US presidents to have never been affiliated with a political party. The concept of two separate political parties was beginning to form during the end of Washington’s final term, leading to his retirement and denouncing party affiliations.

The 46th President: Joe Biden

Today, Joe Biden is the 46th president of the United States and is currently serving his first term. Unlike when the 1st president George Washington was elected, America is now accustomed to the two-party political system, and Joe Biden represents the US Democratic Party. This makes him the 21st democratic president.

Photo of President Joe Biden
Joe Biden was elected 46th President of the United States in 2020.

Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president on the January 20th, 2021, and at 78 years old, he is the oldest person to have been president thus far. Previous to this position, he represented Delaware in the Senate for 36 years and became the 47th Vice President of the United States in 2009 under Barack Obama. Biden was one of the youngest people to have ever been sworn into the Senate at the age of 29. 

He later played a key role in shaping the United States’ foreign policy as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman. Joe Biden ran for the role of President of the United States in 2019, prioritizing the need to rebuild America’s middle classes and regain the nation’s soul. These aims resonated with the country during a turbulent time shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing racial divisions. 

How many vice presidents have become president?

15 vice-presidents have become president.

As of 2022, 15 US presidents have previously served as vice president – including the current president, Joe Biden, who served two terms as vice president to Barack Obama between 2008 and 2017. The other 14 presidents that have previously served as vice president are:

  • George H.W. Bush: Bush was vice president to Ronald Reagan for two terms before being elected president in 1989.
  • Gerald Ford: Vice president to Richard Nixon after his previous vice president Spiro Agnew resigned, later becoming president after Nixon’s resignation in 1974. This makes him the only person to have been both a vice president and president without being elected.
  • Richard Nixon: Nixon served two terms as vice president under Dwight D. Eisenhower.
  • Lyndon Johnson: Johnson was vice president to Kennedy before assuming the presidency after his assassination.
  • Harry Truman: Truman was FDR’s vice president and assumed the presidency after his death in 1945.
  • Calvin Coolidge: Vice president to Warren G. Harding.
  • Theodore Roosevelt: Vice president to William McKinley, later becoming president after his assassination.
  • Chester Arthur: Vice president to James A. Garfield, becoming president after his assassination.
  • Andrew Johnson: Abraham Lincoln’s vice president, becoming president after his assassination.
  • Millard Fillmore: Became president after Zachary Taylor’s death.
  • John Tyler: Became president after William Henry Harrison died.
  • Martin Van Buren: Vice president to Andrew Jackson.
  • John Adams: George Washington’s vice president.

How Many Were President Twice?

So far, 21 US presidents have been elected to serve a second term. This typically comes directly after their first term, when the Electoral Committee decides to vote the same president in again. However, Grover Cleveland has been the only president to serve two terms separately, making him both the 22nd and 24th President of the United States. As previously noted, the 22nd Amendment of the US Constitution established in 1951 states that a president could not serve more than these two terms.

Photo of Grover Cleveland
Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th President of the US.

The second-term curse is a term that refers to the political belief that second terms are often troubled by scandal, catastrophe, or general problems which can mar a president’s reputation forever. Whether or not this political myth has any truth to it, research has found that presidential approval ratings do tend to drop significantly during a president’s second term. Some research even states that a president’s second term is less economically prosperous for the country on average.

In 2020, Donald Trump became the 23rd president not to have a second term, making him the first president to do so since the 1990s.

How Many Presidents Were Assassinated?

Four of the 46 presidents of the United States have been assassinated while in office. Abraham Lincoln was the first president to have his term cut short by assassination in 1865 when John Wilkes Booth shot him at Ford’s Theater in the back of the head.

The next president to be assassinated was James Garfield when he was shot in 1881, although it took him around two months to pass after the incident. William McKinley was the third Commander in Chief to die by assassination in 1901 when he was shot in the abdomen. And lastly, John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas in 1963 by Lee Harvey Oswald. 

How Many Presidents Were Impeached?

Impeachment is considered a check on the president’s power when US Congress votes to put the president (or other American officials) on trial. The process was written into the US Constitution, stating that if the President commits a serious offense, he could be impeached and removed from his position in office.

So far, only three presidents have been impeached – and none have been convicted. These presidents include Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Donald Trump in 2019 and 2021. Donald Trump holds the dubious honor of being the first president to be impeached twice.

Answering the question of how many presidents we have had in the United States may seem simple, and the simple answer would be 46. However, every presidency has a story of its own – from scandals to tragedies, and it will be interesting to see what the presidents of the future have in store. 

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