George Washington was not the first president of the United States -- it was John Hanson?

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
13 PHOTOS
John Hanson, the real first president?
See Gallery
George Washington was not the first president of the United States -- it was John Hanson?
Hanson, John (bust), 1871 518070
George Washington (1732–1799), the first president of the United States of America. Painted by Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828).
A bronze statue of John Hanson, president of the Continental Congress from Maryland during the era of the American Revolution, stands near the entrance to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 28, 2011. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
A larger-than-life bronze statue of John Hanson, president of the Continental Congress from Maryland during the era of the American Revolution, stands near the entrance to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 28, 2011. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
A larger-than-life bronze statue of John Hanson, president of the Continental Congress from Maryland during the era of the American Revolution, right, stands near the entrance to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 28, 2011. Beside Hanson are statues of Patrick A. McCarran of Nevada, left, and Roger Williams of Rhode Island. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
A detail of the statue of John Hanson, president of the Continental Congress from Maryland during the era of the American Revolution, is seen near the entrance to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 28, 2011. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1981: A postcard printed in USA shows John Hanson, circa 1981
US postage stamp, John Hanson
Gilbert Charles Stuart, George Washington the first good president. 1797 Oil on canvas.
A statue of George Washington, first president of the United States, in front of Federal Hall in New York City, USA
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR THE SMITHSONIAN'S NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN - The signature of President George Washington on the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua, on display as part of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian’s latest exhibition, Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations, on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014 in Washington. The Treaty is the first of six original treaties to be featured in the exhibition. Nation to Nation opens to the public at the National Museum of the American Indian on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. (Paul Morigi/AP Images for The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian)
John Hanson - bust
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION


By RYAN GORMAN

Everything you learned in history class is wrong, George Washington was not the first American chief executive.

Mostly forgotten, but equally important, John Hanson was the first president of the Continental Congress following the ratification of the Articles of Confederation. A descendant of his who is trying to revive the national hero's memory spoke recently to Yahoo News. Hanson was elected to the position in 1781.

George Washington, widely viewed as the first president, was elected into office in 1789 after leading the Continental Army to victory over Britain in the Revolutionary War.

Hanson was a businessman from Maryland who was chosen by his peers in the first Continental Congress to lead the country in its infancy. He served from November 3, 1781 to November 5, 1782.

He and that first congress operated under the original articles of confederation shortly after the 13 Colonies declared their independence from the British Monarchy.

Hanson was not the only man to lead the Continental Congress before George Washington's ascension, but he was the first.

The foundation for America's modern government was laid during that term.

"John Hanson and his Congress inherited a blank slate and had to create a government from whole cloth and they did -- and successfully," Peter Michael told Yahoo News.

Michael is a Hanson descendant working to bring his ancestor's contributions to the country's founding back into the public consciousness.

"If they hadn't, the United States might not have existed."

The original U.S. was a single government with no separate branches. The legislative and executive branches were formed during his tenure.

The boldface names in today's history books also looked to the older Hanson, in his 60s, to guide the in forming the new country.

"The American icons of the Revolutionary period -- Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, [and] others -- looked to John Hanson as the one [who] twice saved the nation and also to Hanson's way with people," Michael said.

"When no one else could do it, he persuaded the six states with the western lands to cede the western lands."

Hanson also established Thanksgiving as the first official holiday in the U.S., according to Michael.

"Thanksgiving, as an observance, had been recognized since the days of the pilgrims," Michael explained. "But it fell to John Hanson to establish Thanksgiving as an official annual observed holiday."

The holiday was not celebrated by all states on the same day until 1863, under a proclamation from President Abraham Lincoln, according to at least one historian. It was fixed as the final Thursday of every November in an attempt to foster unity during the Civil War.

The annual feast became a paid holiday in 1941, under a joint resolution of Congress signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Hanson died only days after his only term as President ended, and many soon forgot him.

His Maryland home was torn down in the 1980s and later replaced with a replica, according to Yahoo.

The national treasure's burial site is now a parking lot.
George Washington - Mini Biography

Related links:
Royals to US media: Keep calm during William and Kate's visit ... and dress smart
George W. Bush once went on a blind date with Richard Nixon's daughter
Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners