Top 10 Most Influential Presidents

Of the 44 men who have been President of the United States, there are some truly clear choices of who were the most important and influential presidents. There were also many who would never have made the list. The following picks for the top 10 influential presidents were based solely on their historical influence and their actions while in office. This was a tough list to create. If one more president could be added it would be Ronald Reagan. He helped bring the Cold War to an end after years of struggle. He definitely gets an honorable mention for this list of influential Presidents.

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Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, Most Influential American President. Rischgitz/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Abraham Lincoln (March 4, 1861 – April 15, 1865) saved the Union during the American Civil War. His leadership during the war was one of no compromise but at the same time understanding that he would eventually have to unite the states once the North won the war. His actions eventually led to the abolition of slavery across the United States.

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1928: American statesman Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882 - 1945) smiling when he heard that he was leading the contest for Governor of New York State on June 1, 1928.

Having won four terms as President, Franklin Roosevelt (March 4, 1933 – April 12, 1945) was sure to have a huge impact on the United States. FDR's leadership throughout World War II was key to our victory. Further, he worked tirelessly to end the Great Depression including the creation of numerous programs through his New Deal to help Americans get back on their feet.

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Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, 1851
Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, 1851. Metropolitan Museum of Art

As the first President, George Washington (April 30, 1789 – March 4, 1797) couldn't help but set precedents that were followed by later Presidents. His lack of a desire to be seen as a 'monarch' was an extremely important part of creating a citizen President. Also, the fact that he retired after two terms set a precedent only broken by Franklin Roosevelt. After Roosevelt's death, the two-term limit was added as the 22nd amendment to the Constitution.

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Portrait of President Thomas Jefferson. Getty Images

Through Thomas Jefferson's (March 4, 1801 – March 4, 1809) Louisiana Purchase, the size of the United States doubled overnight. Jefferson was a strong states' rightest who also realized the need for consolidating power in the federal government in certain instances.

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Andrew Jackson. Getty Images

Andrew Jackson's (March 4, 1829 – March 4, 1837) election showed the rise of the common man. He was the first president elected from humble beginnings. His popularity was huge. Further, he was a strong nationalist who often made controversial decisions such as the removal of Native Americans east of the Mississippi. He was President during the 'Trail of Tears'. He also fought against the national bank.

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Theodore Roosevelt
Underwood Archives/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Theodore Roosevelt (September 14, 1901 – March 4, 1909) was an extremely influential President. Not only did TR earn the title of 'Trust Buster' as President by fighting against corrupt businesses, but he also was deeply committed to conservation. He established numerous national parks to preserve the wildlife that was quickly being overtaken through industrialization.

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28th President Woodrow Wilson and wife Edith in 1918. Getty Images

Woodrow Wilson (March 4, 1913 – March 4, 1921) piloted the ship that brought America onto the world stage. He made the first steps of leading us out of isolationism, violating Washington's tenet of avoiding foreign entanglements. He led America during World War I. His fervent hope was for the US to join a League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations.

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Harry Truman Receiving a Turkey for Thanksgiving
Harry Truman Receiving a Turkey for Thanksgiving. Harry S. Truman Library

Harry S Truman (April 12, 1945 – January 20, 1953) took over after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He made one of the hardest decisions in American History by deciding to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He presided over the end of World War II and set precedents for leadership during the beginning of the Cold War.

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James K. Polk
James K. Polk. Library of Congress

After Thomas Jefferson, James K. Polk (March 4, 1845 – March 4, 1849) increased the size of the United States more than any other president through the acquisition of California and New Mexico as a result of the Mexican-American War. He also claimed Oregon Territory after a treaty with England. He was a key figure in manifest destiny. He was also an extremely effective leader during the Mexican War. He is considered to be the best one-term president.

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Dwight Eisenhower takes the Oath of Office as the President during his Inauguration
Dwight D. Eisenhower takes the Oath of Office as the President of the United States during his Inauguration January 20, 1953 in Washington D.C. Also pictured is former president Harry S. Truman and Richard M. Nixon. National Archive/Newsmakers. National Archive/Newsmakers

During Dwight Eisenhower's (January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961) time in office, America experienced a great amount of economic prosperity. Eisenhower also provided crucial leadership during the Cold War.