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Father of our country has a rival

George Washington is facing an opponent for office, even though his term has long expired.

The title of "first president" has always belonged to Washington, but in the southeastern Connecticut city of Norwich, there's a mounting effort to rewrite history.

The Norwich Historical Society believes the title rightfully belongs to Samuel Huntington, the Connecticut native and president of the Continental Congress when the Articles of Confederation were ratified in 1781.

"We don't do this in the spirit of anything except having history be historically correct," said Bill Stanley, the association's president. "The honor of first president is almost sacred. You don't play games with things like that."

Campaigning for Huntington's presidency will be no easy task, especially since Washington's portrait is an icon of American patriotism.

But society members say facts are on their side. Arguing that the Articles of Confederation established the United States as a country, they say that proves Huntington was the true first president.

"One of the ways you do it is you examine the Articles of Confederation and how they were implemented," said Norwich lawyer John Cotter, who is helping the society build its case. "I think in many ways, that holds the key. There's no question he was president of the Continental Congress, but what did that mean in the context of his time? That's the issue."

Stanley Klos, a collector of historical documents and historical building renovator from Upper Saint Clair, Pa., has been making the case for Huntington's recognition without success for years.

He has pleaded with Congress, written to the president and traveled the country with an exhibit of documents.

On a Web site, www.uspresidency.com, he explains why he believes Huntington and nine other men who led the Congress before Washington's election in 1789 were considered presidents. Sometimes, it gets confusing.

"I get these kids that say, "I just had a test on who was the first president, and I put down Samuel Huntington, and it got marked wrong," he said. "They say, "Can you call my teacher?' "

For documentation, Klos plans to offer the Norwich group journals of the Continental Congress that refer to Huntington as president. Also in his collection is a letter from France addressed to a "president" Samuel Huntington.

Born in Windham, Huntington was a state representative for Norwich who rose to lead the Continental Congress from 1779 to 1781. He was elected governor of Connecticut in 1786 and held the office until his death in 1796. During his term, he presided over the decision to erect a new state house in Hartford.

Theories on why he and nine other leaders of the Continental Congress aren't given presidential status vary. One reason might be because the Articles of Confederation failed, Klos said.

Up next:NOTEWORTHY

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