On this day in 1789, the Electoral College named George Washington the first president of the United States under its new Constitution. The actual voting took place from 15 December 1788 to 10 January 1789. Washington ran unopposed and won all of the Electoral votes, the only president ever to win 100% of the votes. John Adams was elected Vice President.
Washington was sworn-in upon the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City.
Quite aware that he would be setting precedent for future administrations, Washington made decisions carefully—not wanting to emulate European court pageantry. For example, Washington insisted on being addressed simply as “Mr. President” rather than by any grander honorific. And because he was already a wealthy man, Washington initially refused the $25,000 annual salary, quite a large sum, preferring instead to hold office as an act of public service. Eventually, however, he accepted the payment—not wanting to initiate a precedent whereby only the wealthy could afford to aspire to the office. And, after reluctantly serving a second term, George Washington retired, thus relinquishing the power of the office to his successor-to-be.
The bookends, shown above, capture the profile of a young George Washington.