There have been 19 Republican presidents in the United States since the party was founded in March 1854, and the first Republican to win the presidency was Abraham Lincoln in 1861. Even though the Democratic Party has been around longer than the Republican party, there have only been 14 Democratic presidents. Here are the first 19 Republican presidents in chronological order, along with a few highlights of each president’s time in office.
Republican Presidents of the 19th Century
- Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President from 1861–1865: Considered by many to be the greatest of U.S. presidents, Lincoln led the country through its only civil war, ultimately preserving the union of the United States of America. His Emancipation Proclamation declared that enslaved people in rebel states were forever free; this did not free enslaved people but rather changed the face of the conflict to include the fight for human freedom.
- Ulysses S. Grant, 18th, 1869–1877: Grant was the commander of the Union forces during the Civil War and won the presidency in 1869 and 1873. Grant’s presidency oversaw the Reconstruction of the South following the Civil War and the passage of the 15th Amendment, which ensured the right to vote to citizens of all races.
- Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th, 1877–1893: Hayes’ one-term presidency is most often associated with the end of Reconstruction. In fact, many believe that his agreement to pull federal troops out of the South (effectively ending Reconstruction) led to his victory for the presidency.
- James A. Garfield, 20th, 1881: Garfield died in office from a gunshot wound only four months into his term. His investigation of the Star Route Scandal, which implicated members of his own party, led to several important civil service reforms.
- Chester A. Arthur, 21st, 1881–1885: Arthur was vice president under James Garfield and stepped in as president after Garfield’s death. He had a history of fighting for anti-slavery causes as a New York lawyer. As president, he is remembered for the Pendleton Civil Service Act, which mandated that government jobs be awarded on merit, not political connections.
- Benjamin Harrison, 23rd, 1889–1893: The grandson of the 9th U.S. President William Henry Harrison, Benjamin Harrison had one term in office. His administration is noted for civil service reform and anti-trust initiatives. On the lighter side of things, the White House was fitted for electrical service under Harrison, who didn’t trust electric lights enough to use them.
- William McKinley, 25th, 1897–1901: McKinley’s presidency was noted for the Spanish-American War and the annexation of Hawaii. He won reelection in 1880 but was assassinated shortly into his second term, adding the cases of Tecumseh’s curse.
Republican Presidents of the 20th Century
- Theodore Roosevelt, 26th, 1901–1909: The “Trust Buster” is considered one of America’s greatest presidents. He was charismatic and larger than life. He was also the youngest of all the presidents, entering office at age 42. In contrast to later Republican presidents, Roosevelt fought hard to limit the powers of large oil and railroad companies.
- William H. Taft, 27th, 1909–1913: Taft may be best known for supporting “Dollar Diplomacy,” the idea that US foreign policy should provide stability with the ultimate goal of promoting American commercial ventures. He was the only president who served as a justice of the Supreme Court (and chief justice at that).
- Warren G. Harding, 29th, 1921–1923: Harding served just one day shy of three years, dying of a heart attack while in office. His presidency saw the end of World War I but was marked by scandals involving bribery, fraud, and conspiracy.
- Calvin Coolidge, 30th, 1923–1929: Coolidge was vice president under Warren Harding and succeeded to the presidency after Harding’s death. His administration is noted for the Immigration Act, cuts of taxes imposed during World War I, and opposition to Congress’ farm relief bill on the belief that the government should not be involved in setting market prices.
- Herbert Hoover, 31st, 1929–1933: The stock market crashed just seven months into Hoover’s presidency, leaving him in charge during the worst years of the Great Depression. He won 444 electoral votes to become president, but four years later lost his bid for reelection by a wide margin.
- Dwight Eisenhower, 34th, 1953–1961: A military hero, Eisenhower was the commander in charge of the D-Day invasion and subsequently became a five-star general. He was a staunch anti-communist who supported the expansion of nuclear arms following World War II. Major civil rights advancements occurred during his presidency, as well as the creation of the interstate highway system and NASA.
- Richard M. Nixon, 37th, 1969–1974: Nixon is most famous for, of course, the Watergate scandal, which led to his resignation during his second term as president. His administration saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the ratification of the 26th Amendment, giving 18-year-olds the right to vote.
- Gerald Ford, 38th, 1974–1977: Ford holds the unique distinction of being the only president who never won an election for president or vice president. He was appointed vice president by Nixon after Spiro Agnew resigned that post. Later, he stepped in as president after Nixon resigned.
- Ronald Reagan, 40th, 1981–1989: Reagan was the oldest president to serve (until Donald Trump) but is remembered for many more distinctions, including ending the Cold War, appointing the first woman to the Supreme Court, surviving an assassination attempt, and the Iran-Contra scandal.
- George H.W. Bush, 41st, 1989–1993: Perhaps remembered as an unremarkable president, the senior Bush presided over some undeniably remarkable events, including the invasion of Panama and deposing of Manuel Noriega, the Savings and Loan Bailout, the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the breakup of the Soviet Union, and the Persian Gulf War.
Republican Presidents of the 21st Century
- George W. Bush, 43rd, 2001–2009: Bush’s election in 2000 remains clouded by controversy, but he may be remembered most for his reactions to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, not least of which include two wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq.
- Donald J. Trump, 45th, 2017-2021: Businessman and television personality Donald J. Trump reached the White House after a controversial election in which he decidedly won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote. He had firm stances against immigration and nationalist policies that saw him sever many international alliances and treaties. Trump lost his reelection bid to Democrat Joe Biden in November 2020.