Taking the Oath: The First Presidential Inauguration

January 16, 2009
May 25, 2009

In honor of the forthcoming presidential inauguration on January 20, 2009, Taking the Oath will revisit the United States’ momentous first presidential inauguration and exhibit significant artifacts from that day, including Washington’s inaugural chair and the Federal Hall balustrade.

On April 30, 1789, George Washington was sworn in as the country's first president in New York City, the nation's capital from 1785 to 1790. Standing on the balcony of New York's Federal Hall to overlooking crowds gathered on Wall Street, Chancellor Robert R. Livingston delivered the oath of office to Washington in a precedent-setting ceremony. The day began with cannon blasts and church bells tolling across the city, and at noon, Washington was ceremoniously conveyed to Federal Hall in a horse-drawn coach, escorted by militia, members of Congress, other eminent citizens, and a chorus of cheering crowds. Washington's inauguration was the only one celebrated in New York City, but the proceedings gave rise to many traditions that survive to this day, including the formal inaugural procession, a swearing-in ceremony held outdoors and a celebratory ball.

Creative: Tronvig Group