Every four years since 1801 a presidential inauguration has been held in Washington, D.C. Many of these ceremonies marked a change of president and even a change of the political party in power, while others were second inaugurations for incumbent presidents. There have also been a few in between – when eight presidents died in office and one resigned. More than a celebration of one person’s rise to power, modern inaugurations validate our nation’s tradition of the peaceful transfer of executive leadership.
To honor this tradition, White House History, our semi-annual journal, looks at presidential inaugurations and the three key features that have come to characterize nearly every presidential inauguration: the oath of office taken by the president at the Capitol, the inaugural parade and the inaugural ball.
Historian Donald R. Kennon writes in his opening article, Taking the Oath of Office: The Capitol Connection, “It is probably safe to say that the presidential inauguration is the transcendent public ritual of American representative government. Unlike the coronation of a monarch or any ritual associated with the rise to power of a dictator or autocrat, the inauguration of a president is a cyclical, regularly scheduled event held every four years.”
Not a Ragged Mob: The Inauguration of 1829 by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler, describes the hordes of adoring people who had “come to the capital to revel in the installation of a popular champion, Andrew Jackson, as chief executive.” James M. Goode looks at the “temporary pavilions built in front of the White House for an afternoon’s use” in Afternoon Accolades: A Cultural History of White House Reviewing Stands and Paul F. Boller, Jr. talks about the highlights of inauguration day in Presidential Inaugurations: Solemnities and Festivities. Finally Katie E. Marage’s Inaugural Balls: From Their Beginnings focuses on the evolution of this most popular of inaugural events.
A documentary section features the transcript of the first meeting of the John F. Kennedy inaugural committee after the election of 1960. The challenges it reveals are common to all inaugural planning.
White House History is available for $6.95 per copy (plus packing and delivery).
To order please call toll free 1-800-555-2451 or visit our web site www.whitehousehistory.org.
The White House Historical Association, established in 1961, is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to enhance the understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the White House. All proceeds from the association’s trusts, publications and other items are used to fund acquisitions of historic furnishings and artwork for the permanent collection, assist in the preservation of the public rooms, and further its educational mission.