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Thomas Jefferson’s 1801 inaugural, the first held in the city of Washington, bore little resemblance to modern extravaganzas. Avoiding monarchical touches, Jefferson, after walking to the Capitol for his swearing-in, read his address, then returned to his boarding house. As time passed, simple civilian and militia escorts eventually evolved into fancy inaugural parades.

Grover Cleveland’s 1885 inaugural parade lasted three hours and showcased 25,000 marchers. Eighty years later, Lyndon Johnson’s parade included 52 select bands and was viewed by one million people. Indoor inaugural parties have also become elaborate.

During Andrew Jackson's 1829 public reception, 20,000 people created such a crush at the White House that Jackson had to escape through a window. Nevertheless, White House receptions continued until lengthy afternoon parades created scheduling problems. Reviving the idea in 1989, President George H.W. Bush invited the public to a "White House American Welcome" on the day after the inaugural.

The scope of inaugural balls has also broadened, reflecting a cross-section of the American population. By 1981, the Reagans attended eight balls, all broadcast via television to other regional inaugural parties. Today this national event invites Americans to celebrate a new president, the republic’s peaceful transfer of power, and the continuum of a democracy.

President and Mrs. Reagan travel the inaugural parade route in 1981.

Ronald Reagan Library

More than 20,000 well-wishers came to the White House to meet Andrew Jackson after the 1829 inaugural ceremony.

White House Historical Association

Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 inaugural parade lasted over two hours and included 15,000 participants.

National Archives and Records Administration

In 1897, William McKinley set a precedent by scheduling the start of the inaugural parade after lunch.

National Museum of American History

George H.W. Bush revived the custom of hosting a public reception after the 1989 inauguration.

George H.W. Bush Library

In 1993, the Clintons hosted a reception for the general public and another gathering for residents of Arkansas.

The White House

President George W. Bush and Laura Bush lead the Inaugural Parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in 2005.

Eric Draper, White House Photo Office

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