The Library is highlighting presidential inauguration history in a temporary display on view through Saturday, Feb. 4 in the rooms known as Mahogany Row, LJ-110 to LJ-113, on the first floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building. Presidential treasures like the handwritten speeches of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln are featured along with collections on the lighter side: menus, dance cards and souvenirs. The display also includes newspapers, film clips, a demonstration of online resources and a challenging presidential history quiz.
The first stop for visitors is in room 113, where Lincoln’s famous First Inaugural Address (“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection …”) is on display, along with the Bible that Lincoln used at his first inauguration and the pearl necklace worn by Mary Todd Lincoln. Also on view is the handwritten inaugural speeches delivered by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and a letter written by Washington voicing trepidation about becoming president.
In the connecting rooms, visitors will find inaugural souvenirs from incoming presidents’ parties and parades. An early newspaper report on an inauguration will be on view, and Library staff will demonstrate Chronicling America, a website providing access to historic newspapers that is maintained by the Library of Congress. Film clips will portray the speeches and parades and there will be demonstrations of the Library’s presidential inaugurations website. The quiz will challenge visitors’ knowledge of inaugural firsts. Sample question: Who was the first president to ride to his inauguration in an automobile?
This guide to presidential inaugurations offers a wide variety of primary source materials documenting presidential inaugurations, including diaries and letters written by presidents and those who witnessed the inaugurations, handwritten drafts of inaugural addresses, broadsides, inaugural tickets and programs, prints, photographs and sheet music.