The president of the United States is elected every four years by way of the electoral college, a system devised by the creators of the Constitution that today requires a candidate to secure at least 270 electoral votes from the states to win. That means the history of presidential elections is one best told through maps.
On February 4, 1789, George Washington was unanimously chosen to be the first president of the United States.
In December 1792, electors from 15 states voted George Washington to his second term as president.
James Monroe had no opponents in 1820; he was thus elected to a second term.
In 1836 Martin Van Buren defeated several Whig candidates.
Abraham Lincoln defeated three other candidates in 1860; seven Southern states seceded between his election and his inauguration, in January 1861.