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Today in History-March 4

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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

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.

Learn More

  • The resource guide

    U.S. Presidential Inaugurations: “I Do Solemnly Swear…”

    presents information about presidential inaugurations and digitized primary source materials, including photographs, manuscripts, campaign posters, letters, broadsides, and inaugural speeches.

  • View the videos in the

    Presidential Inauguration Series

    including one on the

    Presidential Inauguration Date Change

    .

  • Read the Headlines & Heroes blog post to learn

    Intriguing Facts About Presidential Inaugurations Past

    Search other

    Library of Congress Blogs

    to find more compelling stories and fascinating facts.

  • The Performing Arts blog, In the Muse, highlighted musical compositions celebrating inaugurations in the post

    Inauguration Music of Yesteryear

    . Search the

    Notated Music Collections

    on inauguration to identify additional

    compositions

    .

  • Visit the

    Inaugurations

    feature presentation on the

    Teachers Page

    . This feature is designed for teachers and students.

  • Read the

    inaugural address

    President Washington delivered in New York’s Federal Hall.

  • Be sure to see the online exhibition

    American Treasures of the Library of Congress

    . This collection includes

    Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address

    and a

    banner

    from Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 presidential campaign.

  • Search

    Today in History

    for the name of your favorite chief executive.

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