Here’s a trick question:  Who was the first President of the United States. For most people the answer is obvious: George Washington. It may be obvious but it is in error.  George Washington was not the first President of the United States.  He was the first President of the United States under the United States Constitution but not the first President of the United States. Depending on how you want to define “United States,” below are a list of men who served as “president” before George Washington.

Prior to the convening of the First Continental Congress, two others took place. Their presidents were:

The following men served as the President of the First Continental Congress:

  • Peyton Randolph (September 5, 1774 – October 21, 1774) and
  • Henry Middleton (October 22, 1774 – October 26, 1774)

The following men served as the President of the Second Continental Congress:

  • Peyton Randolph (May 10, 1775 – May 23, 1775)
  • John Hancock (May 24, 1775 – October 31, 1777)
  • Henry Laurens (November 1, 1777 – December 9, 1778)
  • John Jay (December 10, 1778 – September 27, 1779)
  • Samuel Huntington (September 28, 1779 – March 1, 1781)

Under the Articles of Confederation, the following men served as President of the United States in Congress Assembled:

  • Samuel Huntington (March 1, 1781 – July 9, 1781)
  • Thomas McKean (July 10, 1781 – November 4, 1781)
  • John Hanson (November 5, 1781 – November 3, 1782)
  • Elias Boudinot (November 4, 1782 – November 2, 1783)
  • Thomas Mifflin (November 3, 1783 – October 31, 1784)
  • Richard Henry Lee (November 30, 1784 – November 6, 1785)
  • John Hancock (November 23, 1785 – June 5, 1786) Due to Hancock’s failing health the following two people acted as president in his stead:
    • David Ramsay (November 23, 1785 – May 12, 1786)
    • Nathaniel Gorham (May 15, 1786 – June 5, 1786)
  • Nathaniel Gorham (June 6, 1786 – November 5, 1786)
  • Arthur St. Clair (February 2, 1787 – November 4, 1787)
  • Cyrus Griffin (January 22, 1788 – March 4, 1789)

Historians generally credit John Hanson with being the first President of the United States because the first government of the United States was the Article of Confederation. The Articles were proposed on June 11, 1776 but not approved until March 1, 1781. The Articles established the office of President and John Hanson was elected unanimously by a Congress that included George Washington. Hanson served for one year, the term of office under the Articles, and in those 365 days he quelled a mutiny in an army that had not been paid, ordered all foreign troops off American soil, created the Great Seal of the United States we still use today, established the first Treasury Department and first State Department. He also declared the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day.

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At precisely 12:02 pm, a century ago this September 16th, a massive bomb exploded on Wall Street in New York.  Just before noon, a wagon, driven by person unknown, parked on the curb beside J. P. Morgan at 23 Wall Street. A fuse was lit and moments later 100 pounds of dynamite went off sending 500 pounds of cast-iron sash weights slicing into the lunch crowd. The blast was so powerful it derailed a streetcar a block away and sent shrapnel soaring to the 34th floor of the Equitable Building. Thirty-eight people were killed instantly and 143 sustained injuries. The only bit of good luck was the survival of Joseph P. Kennedy, father of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Theodore “Teddy” Kennedy. Joseph P. Kennedy was only lifted off his feet by the blast. Had the blast comes seconds later, American history would have been changed substantially. The case was never solved. BUT, it has been speculated by historians – and his own relatives – that the perpetrator was an Italian anarchist by the name of Mario Buda. Here is the composite of the bomber beside Buda.  Buda died in Italy in 1963.

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Every historical era has its acronyms, legends and heroes. If you are a millennial, it will take you a while to decipher this license plate holder. If you are over 50, it will come quickly. So will terms like carriage return, dimmer switch, “top end floor” and “hang ten.”  If you want a trip down memory lane, ask your grandparents what 52/20 meant, what a 78 was and what you needed to listen to a 45. And, if your great grandparents are still alive, ask them if this is a photograph of the great grandparent of Yahoo?

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The single, most important reason to read history – ANY HISTORY – is because things do not change. The human character is the same today as it was in the cave.  And, since the cave, the rich have controlled 85% of whatever was used as money and ‘the rest of us’ fought over the 15% that was left. I find this particular photograph – excuse the pun – a snapshot of history.  Taken in about 1890, it lists this man’s name “Has No Horses.”  Apparently he ‘got no horses’ over his lifetime and you can read the  ‘fiscal despair’ in his face. A century and a half after he was born in to a ‘poor Indian family’ we have the same problems today. The rich still control 85% of the money and the rest of us scramble for the remaining 15%.  Don’t believe me? As this is being written, the unemployment rate in the United States is staggering, millions of families are wondering if their parents will ever get another job – and the stock market is in record territory.www.authormasterminds.com/steve-levi; https://bit.ly/2WwBElt.

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François Rabelais, the great French writer of the 1500s, was a master of creative thinking. He had an unconventional view of the world and was thus able to wring fortunate outcomes from adverse circumstances. Once, for instance, far from his home in Paris, he found himself without cash and stranded in the countryside. Not one to let such trifles stand in his way, the clever French humorist booked himself into a convenient roadhouse and asked for the best room in the house. Alone in his room he sealed two small envelopes on which he wrote “Poison for the King” and “Poison for the Dauphin.” Then he went out for a sumptuous feast that, of course, he could not pay for.

But he was careful to leave the small packets in plain view because he was sure the landlady would pilfer his belongings while he was out.

He was correct in his presumption. As soon as the woman entered the room she spotted the apparent packets of poison on the table. Frightened she might be harboring an assassin; she immediately reported her findings to the local constabulary. The rural gendarme, not accustomed to handling high treason and not wanting to be considered part of any conspiracy, immediately arrested Rabelais and shipped him to Paris under heavy guard. Rabelais, who had many friends in court, was immediately released when it was discovered that the envelopes were full of a mixture of ash and tobacco. Everyone at the court of Francis I had a good laugh over his clever ruse.

But Rabelais never had to pay for his lodging and meal in that remote roadhouse.

He never had to pay for his trip home to Paris either.

www.authormasterminds.com/steve-levi; https://bit.ly/2WwBElt.

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It is easy to talk about ‘the good old days.’ Unfortunately those memories are only about the ‘good’ times. There’s not a lot of romance in ugly memories. During the Alaska Gold Rush, for instance, 95% of the stampeders arrived broke, lived broke and came home broke.  If you were in Nome and stayed the winter, your living conditions were unbelievable miserable.  Nome had no forests so you either paid an EXTREMELY high price for lumber brought in my steamship or scavenged driftwood for a hovel like the one on the left. Most, men and women, spent the winter in a tent, like those on the right. Don’t forget, in Nome during the winter the sun comes up around 10 am and sets at 2.  Days of 30 below zero with blasting winds are not uncommon and if you miss the last steamboat out around September 15th, you would not see another one until about June 10th. Little wonder most people spent their winters in Nome in saloons and it is from those saloons that the legends of the ‘good old days’ originated. www.authormasterminds.com/steve-levi

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This is a portrait of Bass Reeves. He was the first black Deputy United States Marshal west of the Mississippi.  During his career – ALONE – he arrested more than 3,000 felons and killed 14 people in self-defense. He died in 1910.  Because he was black, he never received the accolades he should have in his lifetime.  And to this day, few people know THE LONE RANGER, which ran on television in the 1950s, is based on the life of Bass Reeves. THE LONE RANGER could not be black then so, instead, he wore a black mask. www.authormasterminds.com/steve-levi.

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Money. We all want it. But, in fact, it does not exist. Don’t believe me? OK, go down to your bank and ask to see the $850 in your checking account. The teller will laugh. Because that money does not exist. Your money is just an electronic file. Money, as in cash, has always been a problem. In the days before checks and credit cards, you had to have the actual paper bills in your possession.  Without the paper bills, you had no money. And this was a problem because you could be owed millions but until you were paid – in cash – by those who owed you money, you were broke. It was also a problem because everyone wanted United States dollars. Dollars backed up by the United States government.  But those bills were not widespread until after the First World War.  This was a particularly difficult problem in Alaska during the Alaska Gold Rush because everyone had to spend money but there were not enough United States dollars to go around. So what did the businesses do?  They printed their own money. As long as you spent Nome money in Nome, it was accepted as real. But the moment you left Nome; the Nome money was just paper.  And today, that money is just, well, historical paper. www.authormasterminds.com/steve-levi

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One of the givens in the United States is the USPS, United States Postal Service.  It is not Democrat or Republican, rich or poor, liberal or conservative, city or farm, black or white, male or female.  It serves all of us and THE PROBLEM we have now is we have forgotten how IMPORTANT it is.  We just ASSUME it will continue to do the excellent job it has always done.  But, as they say, if you ‘assume’ you will make an ‘ass’ of ‘u’ and ‘me.’  The USPS is now under attack for a political reason. This will pass. The important thing to keep in mind is to learn from our mistakes.  We should never assume the USPS will be immune from political influence. The mail will be just as important in a decade as it was 100 years ago, as can be seen in this mail call during the Alaska Gold Rush.  History is not the story of the past; it is the study of the future. If you want the USPS in the future, you have to fight for it today. www.authormasterminds.com/steve-levi

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This Labor Day let’s remember – and thank – Francis Perkins. She was the longest serving United States Secretary of Labor, 12 years, 1933 to 1945, from the depths of the Depression through World War II. Because of her leadership America was blessed with the Civilian Conservation Corps, Public Works Administration, National Industrial Recovery Act and the Federal Works Agency.  She oversaw the formation of the Social Security Act which provides unemployment benefits, pensions to the elderly and welfare to the poorest Americans. She pushed through laws against child labor and established the FIRST minimum wage and overtime laws in American history with the Fair Labor Standards Act. Many of the economic and labor realities we take for granted today were originated by Perkins. Thus it is appropriate for us to honor her today.  www.authormasterminds.com/steve-levi

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