George Washington and the Inaugural Inauguration

George Washington delivered the country’s first inaugural address 225 years ago on April 30th, 1789.

Just as the legends pertaining to Washington have grown and persisted since his lifetime, so has the iconography. Throughout the years, artists have provided their own conceptions of the first presidential inauguration, as in this print published in 1849, which included the text of the address on the back.

Washington delivering his inaugural address April 1789, in the old city hall, New-York. Engraving by H.S. Sadd after a painting by T.H. Matteson, 1849. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pga.03236

Washington delivering his inaugural address April 1789, in the old city hall, New-York. Engraving by H.S. Sadd after a painting by T.H. Matteson, 1849. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pga.03236

A few years earlier, Nathaniel Currier (of Currier & Ives fame), focused on color in multiple senses of the word, depicting the inaugural procession and the women attending it.

 Washington's reception by the ladies, on passing the bridge at Trenton, N.J., April, 1789. On his way to be inaugurated first president of the United States. Lithograph by N. Currier, copyrighted 1845. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.07649

Washington’s reception by the ladies, on passing the bridge at Trenton, N.J., April, 1789. On his way to be inaugurated first president of the United States. Lithograph by N. Currier, copyrighted 1845. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.07649

Members of the public have also participated in celebrating the first inauguration and its significance. A full-scale parade marked the centennial in 1889, and photographers capitalized on the visuals, as in this image–one of a series of photos depicting the celebration.

23rd St. Arch, Washington Inaugural Centennial Celebration, New York City, April 29th & 30th, and May 1st, 1889. Photo by Purvience, copyrighted 1889. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b30413

23rd St. Arch, Washington Inaugural Centennial Celebration, New York City, April 29th & 30th, and May 1st, 1889. Photo by Purviance, copyrighted 1889. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b30413

Washington’s inauguration marked the beginning of many things in the United States, including a developing focus on the rich visual possibilities and symbolism of inaugural events.

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