Presidential inaugurations date back to the beginnings of the republic, and yet every inauguration has been unique.
Inaugural ceremonies have taken place indoors and outdoors, in private and in public, in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. The president-elect has arrived at the inauguration site on foot, in a horse-drawn carriage, or an armored limousine. New presidents have given lengthy inaugural addresses or a few terse remarks, and in their speeches have professed sunny optimism for the future of the United States or challenged Americans to confront difficult circumstances.
A newly updated teacher resource from the Library of Congress, Inaugurations: Stepping into History, provides teachers and students with an opportunity to investigate inaugurations past using rich primary sources from the Library’s online collections. Each section of the presentation takes a look at different aspects of these key moments of transition, from the inaugural oath, site, and address to the issues and expectations that each president faced.
As students examine these inaugural primary sources, they can explore the different moments in the nation’s history, and the very different presidents, that these unique artifacts illuminate. They might also reflect upon the ways in which they underscore the nation’s long history of orderly transfers of presidential office.