1. George Washington (1788-96).Got the experiment with the new constitutional structure going. Jefferson and Hamilton, two cabinet members, famously argued over the extent of federal powers, and the propriety of a national bank.
2. John Adams (1796-1800). Often called the “father of the American navy.” Built up the Navy in the face of the conflict between England and France, and their competing claims to control trade in the North Atlantic.
3. Thomas Jefferson (1800-1808). Founder of the Republican-Democratic Party. Later shortened its name to “Democratic.” Still around – oldest political party in the world.
4. James Madison (1808-16). He allowed the charter of the Bank of the United States, Hamilton’s bank, to expire unrenewed. But he was soon forced to create a new one, the so-called Second Bank, in order to finance a new war with England in 1812-14.
5. James Monroe (1816-1824). Best remembered for the so-called “Monroe Doctrine,” that the whole of the Americas, north and south, would hereafter be free from further European colonization. Used to justify US interference in Latin America often since.
6. John Quincy Adams (1824-28). Son of number #2 on the list. Opponents claimed that he attained the presidency through a “corrupt bargain” with Henry Clay. Believer in fiscal responsibility: paid off much of the national debt that had developed.
7. Andrew Jackson (1828-1836). Destroyed the Second Bank. Also responsible for a murderous Indian removal policy, trying to ride the whole area east of the Mississippi of Indian tribes.
8. Martin Van Buren (1836 – 1840). Denied the first application of the Republic of Texas to become a state in the United States. Generally opposed to the expansion of slavery into western territories.
9. William Henry Harrison (1840-1841). The first president ever to die in office. Nicknamed “Old Tippecanoe.”
10. John Tyler (1841-1844). Took over from Harrison. Annexed the Republic of Texas into the United States. Generally of southern sympathies in the developing regional conflict.
11. James K. Polk (1844-1848). Responsible for the war with Mexico and the seizure of much of what we today call the southwestern US. Reached a settlement with the British over the northwest, drawing the boundary between the US and Canada there where it remains today.
12. Zachary Taylor (1848-1850). A southerner with northern sympathies, tried to stop the western expansion of slavery. Died in office.
13. Millard Fillmore (1850 – 1852), completed Taylor’s term. The Whig party was breaking up at this time, and Fillmore refused to join the new-fangled Republican Party, dooming any hopes for a term of his own.
14. Franklin Pierce (1852-1856) A northerner with southern sympathies. Notable for insisting on enforcement of the “Fugitive Slave Act,” that is, catching runaways and returning them to their masters.
15. James Buchanan (1856-1860). The only President ever from Pennsylvania. The only President who never married. And the southern states seceded from the Union on his watch.
16. Abraham Lincoln (1860-1865). Resisted secession, accepting the war made necessary by that resistance. Saw it through to the end, adopting the cause of emancipation along the way. Killed in Ford’s Theater.
17. Andrew Johnson (1865-1868). Finished out what would have been Lincoln’s second term. First President in history impeached by the House of Representatives, though he was narrowly acquitted by the Senate.
18. Ulysses S. Grant (1868-1876). Famous as the victorious general of the civil war, elected on the hope he could remove the vestiges of Confederate nationalism. Administration marked by scandal, due to certain corrupt cronies he brought into the office.
19. Rutherford B. Hayes (1876-1880). Lost the popular vote, but won the office anyhow through the wonders of Electoral College arithmetic. Arbitrated a territorial dispute between Argentina and Paraguay.
20. James Garfield (1880-1881). The Republican nominating convention deadlocked in 1880; Garfield was eventually accepted as a compromise candidate on the 36th ballot. Assassinated by Charles J. Guiteau.
21. Chester Arthur (1881-1884). Finished Garfield’s term. Credited with the re-birth of the US Navy, which had been allowed to fall into dilapidated condition since the end of its use as a blockading force in the civil war.
22. Grover Cleveland (1884-1888). Only president ever to serve two non-successive terms. Favored the identification of gold as money, raising the ire of the silverites and the growing prairie populist movement that took on silver as its signature cause.
23. Benjamin Harrison (1888-1892). The grandson of president #9 on this list. Presided over the increase of the protective tariff to historically high levels, and signed the Sherman Antitrust Act.
24. Grover Cleveland (1892-1896), yes, him again. During this term he lost control of the Democratic Party, and it fell into the hands of Bryan and the silverites.
25. William McKinley (1896-1901). Served one full term and started another, dying only a few months into the second. Associated with the Spanish-American War of 1898. Killed by Leon Czolgosz.
26. Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1908). Served out McKinley’s second term and a full term of his own. Associated with the seizure of the Canal Zone in Panama (1903) and the start of construction there. Arbitrated an end to the Russo-Japanese War in 1906.
27. William Howard Taft (1908-1912). Seen at first as Teddy Roosevelt’s protégé, he easily defeated Bryan, in Bryan’s third and last campaign for the presidency. Roosevelt and Taft then had a falling out, and their enmity in 1912 made things easy for the election of …
28. Woodrow Wilson (1912-1920). Created the Federal Reserve Board, essentially America’s third National Bank. Presided over strenuous efforts to preserve US neutrality while the First World War raged. But US participation became necessary before it was all over.
29. Warren G. Harding (1920-1923). Ran on the theme “return to normalcy.” Died of cerebral hemorrhage , succeeded by his vice president …
30. Calvin Coolidge (1923 – 1928). Finished Harding’s term and served one of his own. Left office with considerable popularity. Flappers and bond traders were dancing on Gatsby’s lawn. What could go wrong?
31. Herbert Hoover (1928-1932). The president who had the misfortune to sit in the Oval Office when the stock market crashed in 1929. Signed a disastrous tariff bill in response: it made things worse, and the Great Depression was upon us.
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1932-1945). First President to run and win a third term, and then a fourth term, in office. Served through the Depression and most of the Second World War.
33. Harry S Truman (1945-52). The middle initial “S” doesn’t stand for any actual middle name. Truman took over upon FDR’s death, made the decision to use nuclear weapons on Japan, and saw through the earliest confrontations of the Cold War with the USSR.
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1952-1960). Famous as the Supreme Allied Commander in the European Theatre in World War Two. As President, remembered for the national highway system and for putting Earl Warren in the post of Chief Justice.
35. John F. Kennedy (1960 – 1963). Associated with the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the commitment for a program that would put a man on the moon.
36. Lyndon Baines Johnson (1963-1968). Completed Kennedy’s term and served a full term of his own. Associated with the key civil and voting rights acts, Medicare/Medicaid, and repeated escalations of the war in Vietnam.
37. Richard Nixon (1968-1974). Cut off the final connection between the value of gold and the value of the US dollar. Engaged in “dirty tricks” in his reelection campaign in 1972. These were extensively investigated, the “Watergate scandal,” and Nixon in time resigned as his support on Capitol Hill was crumbling and removal seemed inevitable.
38. Gerald Ford (1974-1976). Completed the term of, and pardoned, Richard Nixon. Fought inflation by creating buttons that said “WIN” which supposedly stood for “Whip Inflation Now.”
39. Jimmy Carter (1976-1980). Peanut farmer turned politician. In an era marked by revulsion from the Nixon-administration scandals, his outsider status was very appealing. Remembered for his ineffectuality during the Iran Hostage Crisis.
40. Ronald Reagan (1980-88). Survived an assassination attempt, pressed for a space-based (“Star Wars”) nuclear defense system, and left office with an approval rating of 68%.
41. George H.W. Bush (1988-1992). Promised to veto any tax increases that came to his desk. Broke the promise, signed a tax increase, put his own re-election out of reach.
42. William Jefferson Clinton (1992-2000). Signed into law various trade agreements and some important deregulatory measures. Impeached over a sex scandal, acquittal in the Senate allowed him to finish out his term.
43. George W. Bush (2000-2008). President at the time of the 9/11 attack, and best remembered for his responses thereto, which included invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
44. Barack H. Obama (2008 – 2016). Came into office during a global financial crisis, spent the first two years on economic stimulus efforts. His administration later cut an important deal with Trans-Pacific trade partners, most importantly Japan, and another with the Republic of Iran over the latter’s nuclear program.
45. Donald Trump (2016 - ) Those Obama era deals became objects of the especial ire of the Trump campaign of 2015-16, along with a Clinton era trade agreement, NAFTA.