Inauguration Day

Until the ratification of the Twentieth Amendment in 1933, the official day for presidential inaugurations was March 4. When the fourth fell on a Sunday, as it did in 1821, 1849, 1877, and 1917, the ceremonies were held on March 5.

President’s Levee, or All Creation Going to the White House. Robert Cruikshank, artist; Illus. in: The Playfair papers. London: Saunders & Otley, 1841, v. 2, frontispiece. Prints & Photographs Division

The first president of the United States, George Washington, was not inaugurated until April 30. Although Congress scheduled the first inauguration for March 4, 1789, they were unable to count the electoral ballots as early as anticipated. Consequently, the first inauguration was postponed to allow the president-elect time to make the long trip from his home in Virginia to the nation’s capital in New York City.

In celebration of his inauguration on March 4, 1829, President Andrew Jackson invited the American public to the White House. Overwhelming crowds ruined many White House furnishings and forced the new president to make a getaway through a window. Undeterred by the raucous reception, Jackson continued to host public parties at the residence.

Harding Inauguration, March 4th, 1921. Schutz Group Photographers; Harris & Ewing, c1921. Panoramic Photographs. Prints & Photographs Division

In 1921, President-elect Warren G. Harding set another inaugural first by traveling to the Capitol for his inauguration in an automobile. It was just one sign of the changing times. With modern advances in communication and transportation, election officials and newly-elected candidates no longer needed four months to gather election returns and travel to Washington. To minimize the transition period between Election Day and Inauguration Day, and curtail “Lame Duck” Congresses in which members defeated in November served until March, legislators introduced the Twentieth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It was ratified in 1933, and on January 20, 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first U.S. president sworn into office in January.

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Abraham Lincoln’s First Inauguration

On Monday, March 4, 1861, President James Buchanan and President-elect Abraham Lincoln left the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., in a horse-drawn carriage bound for the Capitol and Lincoln’s first inauguration. There, before hundreds of citizens, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney administered the presidential oath of office, swearing in Abraham Lincoln as the sixteenth president of the United States.

I am loth (sic) to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Abraham Lincoln. First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861. Top Treasures. American Treasures of the Library of Congress

Abraham Lincoln, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front. Alexander Gardner, photographer, November 8, 1863. Free to Use and Reuse: Presidential Portraits. Prints & Photographs Division

In a stirring inaugural address, delivered under the watchful guard of riflemen, Lincoln appealed for the preservation of the Union, threatened by the recent secession of seven Southern states opposed to the new leader’s policy against the expansion of slavery.

Attempting to retain his support in the North without further alienating the South, Lincoln called for compromise, promising he would not initiate force to maintain the Union or interfere with slavery in the states in which it existed. He did, however, vow to retain federal property. One month later, his refusal to surrender or evacuate Fort Sumter in South Carolina, prompted the Confederates to launch the first attack of the Civil War.

Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln – March 4, 1861. Original in Benjamin Brown French Album, LOT 12251, 1861; Print by N. Spindler, cFeb 23, 1935. Prints & Photographs Division

While composing his inaugural address, Lincoln turned to four historic documents for guidance and inspiration on the issue of states’ rights: Daniel Webster’s 1830 reply to Robert Y. Hayne; President Andrew Jackson’s Nullification Proclamation of 1832; Henry Clay’s compromise speech of 1850; and the United States Constitution. Lincoln’s initial effort was typeset and printed in Illinois, edited, and reprinted. The president-elect sent copies of the second strike to his closest political advisors for commentary. Several of the final passages, including the famous concluding paragraph, were based on suggestions made by William H. Seward, Secretary of State designee.

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  • Read Lincoln’s fan mail. A congratulatory letter from Abes Boys—a group of admiring college students who wrote Lincoln after the election of 1860—is available through the Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. This online presentation of the Abraham Lincoln Papers contains approximately 61,000 images and 10,000 transcriptions.
  • The Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana documents the life of Abraham Lincoln both through writings by and about Lincoln as well as a large body of publications concerning the issues of the times including slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and related topics. Search the collection on the term inauguration to locate additional items concerning Lincoln’s 1861 and 1865 inaugurations.
  • Abraham Lincoln: A Resource Guide compiles links to digital materials related to Lincoln such as manuscripts, letters, broadsides, government documents, and images that are available throughout the Library of Congress website. In addition, it provides links to external websites focusing on Lincoln and a selected bibliography.
  • With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition commemorates the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of the nation’s revered sixteenth president. More than a chronological account of the life of Abraham Lincoln, the exhibition reveals Lincoln the man, whose thoughts, words, and actions were deeply affected by personal experiences and pivotal historic events.
  • Today in History includes several features highlighting Abraham Lincoln’s life and presidency.


On March 4, 1863, President Lincoln signed an act creating Idaho Territory. (While the bill was passed on March 3, the enrolled bill was not signed by the speaker of the House and the presiding officer of the Senate until the early hours of March 4—after which Lincoln received the measure for his signature.) Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark crossed into Idaho at Lemhi Pass in 1805. At that time, approximately 8,000 Native Americans lived in the region. Originally part of the Oregon and Washington territories, fur trading and missionary work attracted the first settlers to the region. More than twenty thousand emigrants passed through southeastern Idaho during the California Gold Rush of 1849.

“Idaho”. Frank French, composer; Chicago: H.M. Higgins, 1864. Historic American Sheet MusicExternal. Duke University Libraries

They say, there is a land,
Where crystal waters flow,
O’er beds of quarts and purest gold,
Way out in Idaho
O! wait, Idaho!
W’ere coming Idaho.
Our four ‘hos’ team will soon be seen,
Way out in Idaho

Great Falls of Snake River, Idaho Territory. Thomas Moran, artist; L. Prang & Co., c1876. Popular Graphic Arts. Prints & Photographs Division

The political stability of the territorial period encouraged settlement. Almost immediately, a public school system was created, stage coach lines were established, and two newspapers, the Boise News(1863) and the Idaho Statesman (1864), began publication. In 1865, Boise replaced Lewiston as capital. The 1866 discovery of gold in Leesburg, Idaho, and the completion of the transcontinental railway in 1869 brought many new people to the territory, including Chinese laborers who came to work the mines. When President Benjamin Harrison signed the 1890 law admitting Idaho to the Union, the population was 88,548. The state still operates under its original (1889) state constitution.

As Idaho approached statehood, mining and other extractive industries became increasingly important to her economy. While Idaho’s dependence on mining has decreased, the state, which produces seventy-two types of precious and semi-precious stones, is still known as “The Gem State.” Today Idaho is a top national producer of potatoes, trout, Austrian winter peas, and lentils. Its major industries are manufacturing, agriculture, food processing, timber, and mining.

Idaho Falls, Idaho. Geo. R. Lawrence Co., photographer; Trowbridge & Nover Co., cNovember 11, 1909. Panoramic Photographs. Prints & Photographs Division

Tourism is another way that Idaho capitalizes on its natural resources. The same vast tracts of unspoiled wilderness that attracted Ernest Hemingway to the region in the early 1960s continue to provide outdoor enthusiasts with excellent camping, hunting, fishing, as well as whitewater kayaking and rafting, and skiing.

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