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Presidential Inaugurations: Words and Images

Woodrow Wilson, First Inauguration, March 4, 1913

Image: Caption Follows

[President-elect Wilson and President Taft standing side by side, laughing, at White House prior to Wilson's inauguration ceremonies, March 4, 1913]. Library of Congress. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction number: LC-USZ62-34095 (b&w film copy neg.).

Irwin H. Hoover (1871-1933), known as Ike Hoover, was a White House usher for forty-two years. This poignant, at times humorous, behind-the-scenes description of President Taft's last day in office and President-elect Wilson's first inauguration day probably served, along with Hoover's other memoirs, as the basis for the chapter "Taft Out--Wilson In: A Typical Inauguration Day" in Hoover's published memoir, Forty-two Years in the White House (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin & Co., 1933; reprint, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1974), pp. 49-59.

This memoir consists of sixty-one loose, unnumbered pages, each about five by seven inches, of fairly heavy cream paper, many with a printed heading in blue (The White House, Washington), some pages unlined, some lined in blue. It is written in a clear handwriting in a mix of black ink and pencil. Dated March 4, 1913, it begins: "The day dawned cloudy but cleared up during the early morning. . . ." and is almost a minute-by-minute recording of every detail of that day's activities in the White House: the morning breakfast for President and Mrs. Taft, the newly inaugurated President Wilson's return to a White House luncheon after the ceremonies at the Capitol, and ex-President Taft's delayed meeting with Mrs. Taft at the train station.

Included in Mr. Hoover's memoir of the day's events is his recounting of a session with photographers on pages [9-10] that seems to describe exactly the moment depicted in this photograph in which President Taft and President-elect Wilson are seen standing side by side, laughing together, before a window on the south porch of the White House. Woodrow Wilson had just arrived at the White House from the Shoreham Hotel and after a formal greeting from President Taft, Wilson was invited by the president

to have their picture taken, together. The President took Mr. Wilson by the arm and they both moved through the red room to the South porch where a score of photographers who had been granted permission had arranged their machines. These were both the photograph and moving picture variety.

As Mr. Taft walked through the red room he was stopped to don his overcoat & hat as Mr. Wilson still had his on and some little conversation was taking place between them.President Taft remarked that it was just four years ago that he and Roosevelt had had their pictures taken in the same identical place. Mr. Wilson made no reply to this more than to see [sic] "is that so"--So the two men stood on the same spot as it were that had been used by others under like circumstances for the purpose of being photographed. A very large number of pictures were made and the antics of the operators in their haste was really amusing. The two men were asked to toe a line that had been made on the porch by face powder taken from a vanity box of one of the operators who was a female of the interesting type. They were asked to shake hands which was readily granted, to face each other which was done by both without a flinch, asked to look this way and that and finally asked to look away from the cameras and operators entirely that a side view might be taken. It was at this time when about the first word was spoken by either during this picture taking performance.

The two men had moved mechanically in response to all the former requests but to this last request, coming as it did from the lady member of the party, Mr. Wilson turned toward her instead of looking away and remarked that they would much prefer to look toward the lady.

This brought a broad smile from all present and the picture taking episode ended with good feeling all around.


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