7 Firsts in US Presidential Election History

7 Firsts in US Presidential Election History

U.S. presidential history is filled with “firsts.” First president? George Washington. First president to die in office? William Henry Harrison. First president to serve two non-consecutive terms? That would be Grover Cleveland, who won the 1884 election, lost the 1888 election, then won again in 1892. Cleveland is both the 22nd and the 24th president and the only commander-in-chief to hold this dubious distinction.

But there are other “firsts” in presidential election history that mark the changing of the nation. Not all of them involve the major parties of their day. For a long time, third parties were the only way for anyone who wasn’t a white man to launch a bid for the White House. Below are seven key examples of “firsts” in presidential (and vice presidential) history.

WATCH: Ultimate Guide to the Presidents on HISTORY Vault

First Woman to Receive Presidential Nomination

The first woman to run for president was Victoria Woodhull, the Equal Rights Party’s nominee in 1872. The party nominated Frederick Douglass as Woodhull’s running mate, which technically makes him the first Black vice presidential nominee. However, Douglas didn’t accept the nomination and he gave stump speeches for Republican incumbent Ulysses S. Grant, who won that election.

Like many white suffragists, Woodhull resented the fact that Black men had won the vote before white women, and made racist appeals to white men when arguing for white women’s right to vote. Douglass, in the end, decided to endorse Grant.

READ MORE: How Early Suffragists Sold Out Black Women

First Black American to Receive Presidential Nomination

Douglass himself was a minor presidential contender at a couple of conventions: he received one vote at the Liberty Party’s convention in 1848 and one at the Republican Party’s convention in 1888 (the nominee in 1888 was Benjamin Harrison, who became president). However, the first Black American to receive a presidential nomination was George Edwin Taylor in 1904.

Taylor, the son of a formerly enslaved man, was a journalist and politician who’d served as an alternate delegate-at-large at the 1892 Republican National Convention. In 1904, Taylor won the presidential nomination at the convention of the National Negro Liberty Party, also known as the National Liberty Party. The party was skeptical of Republican incumbent Theodore Roosevelt’s loyalty to Black Americans. This skepticism was justified—Roosevelt later sold out his Black Republican allies in the 1912 election.

READ MORE: How Political Conventions Began—And Changed

First Catholic President

Anti-Catholicism was rampant among white Protestants in the early 20th century. The banning of alcohol with Prohibition was tied up with bias against Catholic immigrants, fueling the Ku Klux Klan’s terrorism against them in the 1920s. The first Catholic to receive the presidential nomination from a major party was New York Governor Al Smith, an anti-Prohibition Democrat who lost the 1928 election to Republican Herbert Hoover.

When the Catholic senator John F. Kennedy ran in the 1960 Democratic presidential primaries, party leaders were skeptical that he could win in the general election. Many Protestants believed Catholics had “dual loyalties” to the Vatican and the United States and that, if elected, a Catholic president would follow the orders of the pope (for instance, some feared Kennedy would ban birth control).

But after winning West Virginia in the primaries, party leaders grew more confident in Kennedy, and he went on to win the nomination and the presidency, becoming the first Catholic president.

READ MORE: How John F. Kennedy Overcame Anti-Catholic Bias to Win the Presidency

First Black American and Woman to Seek Democratic Nomination

The year that Nixon won his first presidential election, Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman to win a seat in Congress. Four years later, the New York representative entered the Democratic primaries, making her the first Black American and the first woman to seek the party’s nomination (Frederick Douglass and Margaret Chase Smith were candidates at the Republican National Conventions in 1888 and 1964, respectively).

Chisholm lost the nomination to Senator George McGovern, who then lost in a historic landslide to Nixon. Although she’d known she probably wouldn’t win, she’d also understood that her pioneering presidential campaign would open the door for other Black Americans and women to run in the future.

READ MORE: ‘Unbought and Unbossed’: Why Shirley Chisholm Ran for President

First Black President

WATCH: The Best Photos of Obama's Presidency

The first Black American to win the presidential nomination from a major party was also the first Black American to become president: Barack Obama. As the Democratic candidate, he defeated white male opponents in the 2008 and 2012 elections, serving two terms as the 44th U.S. president.

His candidacy (and presidency) was a historic milestone for the United States, but it also sparked a backlash. One campaign, for example, promoted the unfounded “birther” conspiracy theory that Obama wasn’t born in the United States.

First Woman to Receive Major Party Presidential Nomination

In 2016, Hillary Clinton became the first woman to campaign for president on a major party ticket. The former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state under Obama ran as the Democratic candidate against Republican Donald Trump. Clinton’s historic campaign ended with a victory for her opponent, Trump.

READ MORE: The 2016 US Presidential Election

First Woman and Woman of Color Vice President

On January 20, 2021, Kamala Harris became the first woman and first woman of color vice president. Then-candidate Joe Biden nominated Harris in August 2020 during the Democratic party’s first “remote” national convention. Harris, whose mother immigrated to the United States from India and whose father immigrated from Jamaica, was the first person of African or Asian descent to become a major party’s vice presidential candidate.

Harris was only the third woman to receive the nomination from a major party. The first was Geraldine Ferraro, who ran with Walter Mondale on the 1984 Democratic ticket, losing to Republican incumbent Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush. The second was Sarah Palin, who ran with John McCain on the Republican ticket in 2008, the year of Obama’s historic victory.

READ MORE: 5 Vice Presidential Candidates Who Made an Impact


Alabama

Alabama presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 Ώ] 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party D D D D D D D D D D D D SR ΐ] D D D R AI Α] R D R R R R R R R R R R R

Alaska

Alaska presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A R D R R R R R R R R R R R R R R

Arizona

Arizona presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party N/A N/A N/A D D R R R D D D D D R R R R R R R R R R R D R R R R R D

Arkansas

Arkansas presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D AI Β] R D R R R D D R R R R R R

California

California presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R P Γ] D R R R D D D D D R R R D R R R R R R D D D D D D D D

Colorado

Colorado presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party D R D D D R R R D D R R D R R R D R R R R R R D R R R D D D D

Connecticut

Connecticut presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R D R R R R R D D D R R R D D D R R R R R D D D D D D D D

Delaware

Delaware presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R D R R R R R D D D R R R D D R R D R R R D D D D D D D D

Florida

Florida presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party D D D D D D D R D D D D D R R R D R R D R R R R D R R D D R R

Georgia

Georgia presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D R AI Δ] R D D R R D R R R R R R D

Hawaii

Hawaii presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A D D D R D D R D D D D D D D D D

Idaho

Idaho presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party D R R D D R R R D D D D D R R R D R R R R R R R R R R R R R R

Illinois

Illinois presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R D R R R R D D D D D R R D D R R R R R R D D D D D D D D

Indiana

Indiana presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R D R R R R D D R R R R R R D R R R R R R R R R R D R R R

Iowa presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R D R R R R D D R R D R R R D R R R R R D D D D R D D R R

Kansas

Kansas presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R D D R R R D D R R R R R R D R R R R R R R R R R R R R R

Kentucky

Kentucky presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party D D D D D D R R D D D D D D R R D R R D R R R D D R R R R R R

Louisiana

Louisiana presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party D D D D D D D D D D D D SR Ε] D R D R AI Ζ] R D R R R D D R R R R R R

Maine

Maine presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R D R R R R R R R R R R R R D D R R R R R D D D D D D D D

Maryland

Maryland presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R D D D D R R R D D D D R R R D D D R D D R R D D D D D D D D

Massachusetts

Massachusetts presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R D R R R D D D D D D R R D D D D D R R D D D D D D D D D

Michigan

Michigan presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R P Η] R R R R D D R D R R R D D D R R R R R D D D D D D R D

Minnesota

Minnesota presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R P ⎖] R R R R D D D D D R R D D D R D D D D D D D D D D D D

Mississippi

Mississippi presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 ⎗] 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party D D D D D D D D D D D D SR ⎘] D D D R AI ⎙] R D R R R R R R R R R R R

Missouri

Missouri presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party D R R D D R R R D D D D D R D D D R R D R R R D D R R R R R R

Montana

Montana presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party D R R D D R R R D D D D D R R R D R R R R R R D R R R R R R R

Nebraska

Nebraska presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R D D D R R R D D R R R R R R D R R R R R R R R R R R R R R

Nevada

Nevada presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party D R D D D R R R D D D D D R R D D R R R R R R D D R R D D D D

New Hampshire

New Hampshire presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R D D R R R R D D D R R R R D R R R R R R D D R D D D D D

New Jersey

New Jersey presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R D R R R R D D D D R R R D D R R R R R R D D D D D D D D

New Mexico

New Mexico presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party N/A N/A N/A D D R R R D D D D D R R D D R R R R R R D D D R D D D D

New York

New York presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R D R R R R D D D D R R R D D D R D R R D D D D D D D D D

North Carolina

North Carolina presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party D D D D D D D R D D D D D D D D D R R D R R R R R R R D R R R

North Dakota

North Dakota presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R D D R R R D D R R R R R R D R R R R R R R R R R R R R R

Ohio presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R D D R R R D D D R D R R R D R R D R R R D D R R D D R R

Oklahoma

Oklahoma presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party N/A N/A D D D R D R D D D D D R R R D R R R R R R R R R R R R R R

Oregon

Oregon presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R D R R R R D D D D R R R R D R R R R R D D D D D D D D D

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R P ⎚] R R R R R D D D R R R D D D R D R R R D D D D D D R D

Rhode Island

Rhode Island presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R D R R R D D D D D D R R D D D R D D R D D D D D D D D D

South Carolina

South Carolina presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party D D D D D D D D D D D D SR ⎛] D D D R R R D R R R R R R R R R R R

South Dakota

South Dakota presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R P ⎜] R R R R D D R R R R R R D R R R R R R R R R R R R R R

Tennessee

Tennessee presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party D D D D D R D R D D D D D R R R D R R D R R R D D R R R R R R

Texas

Texas presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party D D D D D D D R D D D D D R R D D D R D R R R R R R R R R R R

Utah presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R R D R R R D D D D D R R R D R R R R R R R R R R R R R R

Vermont

Vermont presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R D R R R R R R D D D D D D D D

Virginia

Virginia presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party D D D D D D D R D D D D D R R R D R R R R R R R R R R D D D D

Washington

Washington presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R P ⎝] D R R R D D D D D R R R D D R R R R D D D D D D D D D

Washington, D.C.

District of Columbia presidential election results (1900-2020)
15 Democratic wins

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D

West Virginia

West Virginia presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R D R R R R D D D D D D R D D D R D D R D D D R R R R R R

Wisconsin

Wisconsin presidential election results (1900-2020)

Year 1900 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020
Winning Party R R R D R R P ⎞] R D D D R D R R R D R R D R R D D D D D D D R D

Wyoming

Wyoming presidential election results (1900-2020)


Today in History, January 7, 1789: America held its first presidential election

George Washington's reception by the ladies, on passing the bridge at Trenton, N.J. April 1789, on his way to New York to be inaugurated first president of the United States. (Photo: Library of Congress)

Today is Jan. 7. On this date:

Astronomer Galileo Galilei began observing three of Jupiter’s moons (he spotted a fourth moon almost a week later).

America held its first presidential election as voters chose electors who, a month later, selected George Washington to be the nation's first chief executive.

The Marconi International Marine Communication Company of London announced that the telegraphed letters “CQD” would serve as a maritime distress call (it was later replaced with “SOS”).

Commercial transatlantic telephone service was inaugurated between New York and London.

Japanese forces began besieging American and Filipino troops in Bataan during World War II. (The fall of Bataan three months later was followed by the notorious Death March.)

President Truman announced in his State of the Union message to Congress that the United States had developed a hydrogen bomb.

On Oct. 7, 1954, Marian Anderson, seen here in 1939 with first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, became the first Black singer hired by the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York. (Photo: AP)

The United States recognized the new government of Cuba, six days after Fidel Castro led the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista.

Vietnamese forces captured the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, overthrowing Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge government.

Emperor Hirohito of Japan died in Tokyo at age 87 he was succeeded by his son, Crown Prince Akihito.

For the second time in history, an impeached American president went on trial before the Senate. President Bill Clinton faced charges of perjury and obstruction of justice he was acquitted.

Jan. 7, 1999: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., reads the articles of impeachment against President Clinton to the Senate, as shown in this image from video. (Photo: AP Photo/APTN)

Masked gunmen stormed the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French newspaper that had caricatured the Prophet Mohammad, methodically killing 12 people before escaping. (Two suspects were killed two days later.)


7 Firsts in US Presidential Election History - HISTORY

On January 7, 1789, voters cast ballots in the first presidential election in the United States.

The first Election Day looked almost nothing like current elections. There were no political parties, no campaigning, and only white men who owned property were allowed to vote. As a result, only 1.3 percent of the total population voted in this election -- a far cry from the roughly 40 percent of the total population who vote in modern presidential elections.

George Washington won 69 electoral votes and became the first and only person to unanimously win the presidency. John Adams, who served as the first U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, became the first vice president after only winning 34 electoral votes.

Not even all states were able to choose the president. Voters from ten states (Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia) were able to cast electoral votes in this election. New York was unable to field a slate of electors while North Carolina and Rhode Island had not yet ratified the Constitution, and thus were unable to participate.

One thing has stayed the same throughout the last two centuries of voting: the Electoral College. The president and vice president are the only federal officials who are not elected by popular vote. The Electoral College allows American citizens over the age of 18 to vote for electors, who then vote for the president.

Our founding fathers put this system into place at least in part because they feared unabridged democracy, and wanted a layer of protection put in place when selecting the nation's top leaders.

As Alexander Hamilton writes in "The Federalist Papers," the Constitution is designed to ensure "that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications." The point of the Electoral College is to preserve "the sense of the people," while at the same time ensuring that a president is chosen "by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice."

When Americans vote today, they are casting ballots for a loyal party member who is all but guaranteed to turn around and vote for the candidate they pledged to support on the ballot. However, some electors do change their votes in rare occasions.

See more on the the first president of the United States below:


The Most Important Presidential Election in History

There is always a lively debate when people discuss “the most important” presidential elections in American history. Abraham Lincoln’s victory in 1860 and his leadership during the Civil War, the peaceful transfer of power from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson in 1800, and the 1932 election of Franklin Roosevelt during the depths of the Great Depression are all contenders for the top spot. Certainly there are other important ones, the 1828 election of Andrew Jackson, the 1912 election of Woodrow Wilson and the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan all mark major turning points in our history as our national identity underwent seismic changes. And presidential candidates routinely declare that THIS election is the most important one ever because …(fill in the blank.)

However if you step back and look at its impact on the world, no election was more important than the one that took place 75 years ago – the 1940 election of Franklin Roosevelt to an unprecedented third term in office. Being re-elected is never as dramatic as a major transfer of power from one party to the other. The fact that it was the only time in American history that a president defied the Two-Term limit established by George Washington is enough to give it great importance. But it is not the political contest that is important in this case, rather it is its consequences: if Wendell Willkie had been elected and Roosevelt defeated the outcome of World War II might have been very different. It might be a cliché but in this case it is true: the fate of the world hung in the balance.

Richard Moe in his book Roosevelt’s Second Act: The Election of 1940 and the Politics of War calls FDR’s decision to seek a third term “…one of the most consequential presidential decisions of the twentieth century, which led to a pivotal moment in American history. Roosevelt’s third term not only affected the course of the United States on the eve of the most horrific war in history but also affected how the world would be after it was over.”

There are few years in history where the forces of darkness and oppression were more powerful than 1940. In Europe the Axis Powers had conquered Albania, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and most of North Africa. The Japanese controlled large portions of China and were expanding their empire in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The Nazi’s were building concentration camps, killing innocent women and children and dropping bombs on London. German submarines hunted in the North Atlantic and sank more than 1000 ships in 1940 alone. The British were on the verge of collapse and without American assistance they would not be able to withstand a Nazi assault.

Americans were strongly opposed to getting involved in another European war. Isolationist fever gripped the country and many powerful political leaders opposed President Roosevelt’s efforts to help England, even in his own party. When Roosevelt was nominated by the Democrats to run for an unheard of third term people were outraged that he would violate such a sacred tradition.

The Republican candidate, Wendell Willkie was a powerful Wall Street industrialist who had supported FDR in 1932, then turned against him when Roosevelt started to break up the electric monopolies. Willkie strongly opposed many aspects of the New Deal, but he supported giving some aid to Britain. He opposed getting involved in the conflict and accused Roosevelt of having a secret plan to join the war. Willkie attacked the president for running for a third term, claiming that “if one man is indispensable, then none of us is free.” He also harshly criticized the president for his Lend-Lease program saying it was “the most arbitrary and dictatorial action ever taken by any President in the history of the United States.”

Across the Atlantic the election was being watched very closely. Adolf Hitler detested Roosevelt and knew he would be a difficult adversary. He feared America’s industrial strength. An isolationist in the White House would make his plans to conquer Britain, and the world, much easier. Winston Churchill was terrified of the possibility that Roosevelt might lose the election. He believed that the fate of the British Empire and indeed the fate of the free world were at stake. He later wrote that he had followed the election “with profound anxiety” and that “No newcomer into power could possess or soon acquire the knowledge and experience of Franklin Roosevelt. None could equal his commanding gifts.” (Churchill : “Their Finest Hour”)

By election day, Nov. 5, 1940, Roosevelt had built a comfortable lead, and won the election by five million votes, with 54.8 percent of the popular vote and 84.5 percent of the electoral college. While this was the smallest of his victory margins, it was none-the-less a significant victory. A majority of citizens voted for experience at a time of crisis. Roosevelt spent the next year preparing the American public for the inevitable war with the Axis powers and transforming the industrial base to become the arsenal of democracy.

President Roosevelt’s leadership as the Commander In Chief during the next four years were extraordinary in every sense. Even as his health failed he continued to be a visionary leader laying the foundation for the United Nations and a future based on peace not war.

One final note. After the election Pres. Roosevelt enlisted Willkie into his war preparation efforts and sent him to England with a personal message for Winston Churchill. The letter contains a poem:


The Ugliest, Most Contentious Presidential Election Ever

Samuel Jones Tilden, Democratic Presidential Candidate, 1876. Photo: Wikipedia

For Rutherford B. Hayes, election evening of November 7, 1876, was shaping up to be any presidential candidate’s nightmare. Even though the first returns were just coming in by telegraph, newspapers were announcing that his opponent, the Democrat Samuel J. Tilden, had won. Hayes, a Republican, would indeed lose the popular vote by more than a quarter-million, but he had no way of knowing that as he prepared his concession speech. He went to bed a gloomy man and consoled his wife, Lucy Webb. “We soon fell into a refreshing sleep,” Hayes wrote in his diary, “and the affair seemed over.”

But the ugliest, most contentious and most controversial presidential election in U.S. history was far from over. Throughout the campaign, Tilden’s opposition had called him everything from a briber to a thief to a drunken syphilitic. Suspicion of voter fraud in Republican-controlled states was rampant, and heavily armed and marauding white supremacist Democrats had canvassed the South, preventing countless blacks from voting. As a result, Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina were deemed too close to call, and with those states still in question, Tilden remained one electoral vote short of the 185 required by the Constitution to win election. With 165 electoral votes tallied for Hayes, all he needed to do was capture the combined 20 electoral votes from those three contested states, and he’d win the presidency. The ensuing crisis took months to unfold, beginning with threats of another civil war and ending with an informal, behind-the-scenes deal—the Compromise of 1877—that gave Hayes the presidency in exchange for the removal of federal troops from the South, effectively ending Reconstruction.

An 1876 poster protesting Louisiana’s electoral corruption. Photo: Wikipedia

For Samuel Tilden, the evening of November 7, 1876, was cause for celebration. He was on his way toward winning an absolute majority of votes cast (he would capture 51.5 percent to Hayes’s 48 percent) and gave newfound hope to Democrats, who had been largely shut out of the political process in the years following the Civil War.

Born in 1814 in New York State, Tilden studied at Yale and New York University. After being admitted to the bar in 1841, he made himself rich as a corporate lawyer, representing railroad companies and making real estate investments. After the Civil War, he built up a relationship with William M. “Boss” Tweed, the head of Tammany Hall, the Democratic political machine that dominated New York politics in the 19th century. But when Tilden entered the New York State Assembly in 1872, he earned a reputation for stifling corruption, which put him at odds with the machine. He became governor of New York State in 1874, and gained a national reputation for his part in breaking up massive fraud in the construction and repair of the state’s canal system. His efforts gained him the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Tilden was attacked on everything from his chronic ill health and his connections to the railroad industry, widely viewed as rife with corporate corruption at the time. Sixty-two and a lifelong bachelor, he was respected for his commitment to political reform though considered dull. With corruption charges plaguing associates of the sitting president, Ulysses S. Grant, Tilden’s candidacy could not have been better timed for Democrats to regain national power.

Rutherford B. Hayes, Republican Presidential Nominee, 1876. Photo: Wikipedia

Although he captured the popular vote, the newly “reconstructed” states of Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina, still under federal occupation, hung in the balance. The Republican Party, which controlled the canvassing boards, quickly challenged the legitimacy of those states’ votes, and on a recount, supposedly supervised by personal agents who were dispatched to these states by President Grant (along with federal troops), many of Tilden’s votes began to be disqualified for unspecified “irregularities.” Democrats had no doubts Republicans were stuffing ballot boxes and claimed there were places where the number of votes exceeded the population. Most egregious was Louisiana’s alleged offer by the Republican-controlled election board: For the sum of $1,000,000, it would certify that the vote had gone to the Democrats. The Democratic National Committee rejected the offer, but similar reports of corruption, on both sides, were reported in Florida and South Carolina.

After all three contested states submitted two sets of electoral ballots (one for each candidate), Congress established an electoral commission in January of 1877, made up of five senators, five Supreme Court justices and five members of the House of Representatives. The commission—seven Republicans, seven Democrats and one Independent—heard arguments from lawyers who represented both Hayes and Tilden. Associate Justice Joseph P. Bradley of New Jersey emerged as the swing vote in the decision to name the next president of the United States.

Associate Justice Joseph P. Bradley, the swing vote on the Electoral Commission, changed his mind at the last moment. Photo: Wikipedia

On the evening before the votes were to be cast, Democrats paid a visit to Bradley, who read his opinion, indicating that Florida’s three electoral votes would be awarded to Tilden, giving him enough to win. But later that evening, after Democratic representatives had left Bradley’s home, Republican Senator Frederick T. Frelinghuysen of New Jersey and George M. Robeson, Secretary of the Navy, arrived for some last-minute lobbying. Aided by Mary Hornblower Bradley, the Justice’s wife, the two Republicans managed to convince Bradley that a Democratic presidency would be a “national disaster.” The commission’s decision made the final electoral tally 185 to 184 for Hayes.

Democrats were not done fighting, however. The Constitution required a president to be named by March 4, otherwise an interregnum occurred, which opened up numerous possibilities for maneuvering and chaos. The Democrats threatened a filibuster, which would delay the completion of the election process and put the government in uncharted waters. The threat brought Republicans to the negotiating table, and over the next two days and nights, representatives from both parties hammered out a deal. The so-called Compromise of 1877, would remove federal troops from the South, a major campaign issue for Democrats, in exchange for the dropped filibuster.

The compromise enabled Democrats to establish a “Solid South.” With the federal government leaving the region, states were free to establish Jim Crow laws, which legally disenfranchised black citizens. Frederick Douglass observed that the freedmen were quickly turned over to the “rage of our infuriated former masters.” As a result, the 1876 presidential election provided the foundation for America’s political landscape, as well as race relations, for the next 100 years.

While Hayes and the Republicans presumptively claimed rights to victory, Tilden proved to be a timid fighter and discouraged his party from challenging the commission’s decision. Instead, he spent more than a month preparing a report on the history of electoral counts—which, in the end, had no effect on the outcome.

“I can retire to public life with the consciousness that I shall receive from posterity the credit of having been elected to the highest position in the gift of the people,” Tilden said after his defeat, “without any of the cares and responsibilities of the office.”

His health did indeed fail him shortly after the election. He died in 1886 a wealthy man, leaving $3 million to the New York Public Library.

Articles:  ”The Election That Got Away,” by Louis W. Koenig, American Heritage, October, 1960. “Samuel J. Tilden, The Man Who Should Have Been President,” Great Lives in History, February 9, 2010, http://greatlivesinhistory.blogspot.com/2010/02/february-9-samuel-j-tilden-man-who.html  ”Volusion Confusion: Tilden-Hayes,” Under the Sun, November 20, 2000, http://www.historyhouse.com/uts/tilden_hayes/

Books: Roy Morris, Fraud of the Century: Rutherford B. Hayes, Samuel Tilden, and the Stolen Election of 1876, Simon & Schuster, 2003. John Bigelow and Nikki Oldaker, The Life of Samuel J. Tilden, Show Biz East Productions, 2009.


Contents

The 2010 Census changed the Electoral College vote apportionment for the Presidential elections from 2012 to 2020 in the following states.

States won by Democrats
in 2000, 2004, and 2008

  • Illinois −1
  • Massachusetts −1
  • Michigan −1
  • New Jersey −1
  • New York −2
  • Washington +1

States won by Republicans
in 2000, 2004, and 2008

  • Arizona +1
  • Florida +2
  • Georgia +1
  • Louisiana −1
  • Missouri −1
  • Ohio −2
  • Pennsylvania −1
  • South Carolina +1
  • Texas +4
  • Utah +1
  • Iowa (Democratic in 2000 and 2008, Republican in 2004) −1
  • Nevada (Democratic in 2008, Republican in 2000 and 2004) +1

Eight states (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Washington) gained votes, due to reapportionment based on the 2010 Census. Similarly ten states (Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania) lost votes.

In the political climate of 2011, this would give the Democratic Party a net loss of six electoral votes in states won by Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama in the past three presidential elections, rendering the party a national total of 242. Conversely, the Republican Party will achieve a net gain of five electoral votes in states won by George W. Bush and John McCain in the past three presidential elections, rendering the GOP a national total of 181. Votes allocated to remaining states remain unchanged from the national total of 115.

The result of the 2008 presidential election

Changes from the 2000 to the 2010 census


A Look at the Most Contentious Presidential Elections in History

It’s Election Day 2020 and after a long and contentious campaign, tensions are running high. It feels like the country is the most divided it has been since the Civil War. Some are worried that the current climate of political instability could jeopardize the country’s democratic process.

Though this election cycle is certainly unprecedented, it isn’t the first contentious election in America’s history. What can we learn from previous fraught elections and how the country endured after them?

Listen: Lessons from America’s history of contentious elections. 

Marc Kruman, founding Director of the Center for the Study of Citizenship and Professor of History at Wayne State University, says that the current election feels very different and is very different from those in recent history. “This is the most contentious presidential election of my lifetime,” says Kruman. He adds that the erosion of trust evidenced throughout this election cycle makes it a uniquely anxious event.

“ I think that if we are going to compare it, it would probably be to the election of 1876,” says Kruman, adding the caveat that the 1876 election was far tenser than the lead up to 2020.

The current climate of division, though anxiety-inducing, may actually be necessary according to Kruman. “Contentiousness actually has led to greater voter participation and greater enthusiasm and that speaks to the health of our democracy,” says Kruman.

Detroit Today associate producer Clare Brennan wrote this article.

Trusted, accurate, up-to-date

WDET is here to keep you informed on essential information, news and resources related to COVID -19.

This is a stressful, insecure time for many. So it’s more important than ever for you, our listeners and readers, who are able to donate to keep supporting WDET ’s mission. Please make a gift today.


United States Presidential Election, 1792 (An Unfortunate King)

The United States presidential election of 1792 was the 2nd quadrennial presidential election. It was held from Friday, November 2 to Wednesday, December 5, 1792. Incumbent President John Hancock was elected to a second term by a landslide vote in the electoral college. As in the first presidential election. Electoral rules of the time, however, required each presidential elector to cast two votes without distinguishing which was for president and which for vice president. The recipient of the most votes would then become president, and the runner-up vice president. Incumbent Vice President George Clinton received 77 votes and was also re-elected (Hancock received 91 votes, or one from each elector).

It was also the only presidential election that was not held exactly four years after the previous election, although part of the previous election was technically held four years prior. The second inauguration was on March 4, 1793 at the Senate Chamber Congress Hall in Philadelphia. However a year after his victory in the election, John Hancock would unfortunately die and his Vice President, Clinton, would take his place as president.


How does the Electoral College work, and what is the Federal Register's role?

In early November, Americans go to the polls to elect a President and a Vice President who will serve for the next four years. But the voters don't directly vote for the candidates they vote for "electors," individuals pledged to vote for the candidates, in what has become known as the Electoral College.

The Electoral College is a process, not a place. The process consists of the selection of the electors (called for by Article II and the 12th Amendment of the Constitution), the meeting of the electors where they vote for President and Vice President, and the counting of the electoral votes by Congress.

The Federal Register's role begins with sending instructions to the governments of the 50 states and the District of Columbia to receiving and reviewing certificates of votes to turning over the votes to Congress. Read more on the Federal Register's Electoral College page.


Watch the video: . Presidential Elections 1789-2020