Gloria Day is a wonderful little old church with roots nearly as far back into American history as any structure in the nation. Within Gloria Dei there is a plaque (one among many such interesting plaques) dedicated to John Hanson (and if I recall correctly he is buried on the grounds) who, according to myth, was the first President of the United States.
A dear friend with whom I share a fond, nearly fiendish, enjoyment of animatedly discussing matters of politics and history, mentioned that he'd first learned of John Hanson, and subsequently the little known "fact" that Hanson was the "First President of the United States of America", from one of his many visits to Gloria Dei. I cannot resist such provocations and responded that the notion that John Hanson was the first president of the United States is an urban legend - a myth. My friend wagered our next dinner together that he was correct. He owes my bride and me a dinner.
The facts of this matter are that John Hanson, a "founder" due our respect, was the third President of the Congress Assembled under the Articles of Confederation. John Hanson was the first to serve a full one-year term as President of the Congress Assembled but he was the third person elected to the position. Samuel Huntington was the first and served from March, 1781 until July, 1781 when he resigned due to ill health. Thomas McKeane was the second who served until November, 1781, when Hanson was elected.
If nothing else I win the wager on the technicality of first vs. third (the myth bears no qualifying "first to serve a full term"). But the post of President of the Congress Assembled was not at all an executive position presiding over the government of a nation known as the United States of America. The Articles (for brevity I'll only reproduce the short first three here) were:
Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts-bay Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.The "president" was a matter barely mentioned in the Articles and merely presided over the "Congress Assembled" and, presumably, the "Committee of the States" which was a committee of the congress that sat while the congress itself was adjourned. The president, under the Articles, had no executive power with respect to the confederation of the states which each retained individual sovereignty. A useful analogy, perhaps, to the current structure of our government as defined by the constitution is the role of the vice president as the "president" of the Senate. The role of president of the congress assembled did take on some ceremonial functions (such as receiving foreign dignitaries) but had no power within the confederation. And the confederation itself was so weak that it soon required replacement by the constitution.
I. The Stile of this Confederacy shall be "The United States of America".
II. Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.
III. The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.
For anyone interested, further discussion of this urban legend regarding John Hanson can be found at Snopes, and Wikipedia. Standard encyclopedias don't carry a great deal of information about Hanson but do typically contain words similar to (or exactly matching): Hanson is sometimes referred to as the first President of the United States. His duties were, however, merely those of a presiding officer and bore no relation to the duties of the President under the Constitution.