Presidential Inaugurations


Presidential Inaugurations: Historical Insights

George Washington, First Inauguration
April 30, 1789

Thomas Jefferson, First Inauguration
March 4, 1801

Andrew Jackson, First Inauguration
March 4, 1829

William Henry Harrison, Inauguration
March 4, 1841

James Buchanan, Inauguration
March 4, 1857

Abraham Lincoln, First Inauguration,
March 4, 1861

Abraham Lincoln, Second Inauguration,
March 4, 1865

Ulysses S. Grant, First Inauguration,
March 4, 1869

Ulysses S. Grant, Second Inauguration,
March 4, 1873

William McKinley, First Inauguration,
March 4, 1897

William McKinley, Second Inauguration,
March 4, 1901

Theodore Roosevelt, Inauguration,
March 4, 1905

Marvin Kranz, historical specialist in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, reviews nine inaugurations from George Washington's in 1789 to Theodore Roosevelt's in 1905. The ceremonial traditions associated with presidential inaugurations-using a Bible when taking the oath of office, reading an inaugural address, attending an inaugural ball-were all established by George Washington at his first inauguration and have been followed until the present day.

Marvin Kranz

Featured among the inaugural artifacts discussed here are: the handwritten inaugural addresses of Washington, 1789, and Jefferson, 1801; an aquatint of the rowdy crowd that attended Jackson's reception of 1829; a lithograph of William Henry Harrison's 1841 inauguration on the east portico of the U.S. Capitol, the earliest known print of an inauguration; a photograph of Buchanan's inauguration in 1857, the earliest known photograph of an inauguration; the Bible used at Lincoln's first inauguration in 1861, as well Lincoln's first inaugural address that ends with the famous last paragraph suggested by William H. Seward, "We are not enemies, but friends . . ."; a photograph of Lincoln's 1865 inauguration that purportedly includes an image of John Wilkes Booth; Grant's 1869 inaugural address, and an image of his inaugural ball in 1873, which took place in freezing weather; an 1897 inaugural ball program featuring an image of the Pension Building seen at night and a 1901 photograph of the atrium of the Pension Building, the site of the inaugural balls for McKinley's first and second inaugurations; and Theodore Roosevelt's 1905 inaugural address, in typescript, with his emendations, on narrow slips of paper, probably his reading copy.

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Presidential Inaugurations