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The First Inauguration: George Washington’s 1789 Ceremony at Federal Hall

January 09, 2017
February 26, 2017

On April 30, 1789, George Washington was sworn in as president of the United States on the balcony of Federal Hall in lower Manhattan, uttering for the first time the words that every succeeding president would recite: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” 

To mark the 2017 inauguration and as part of the The Presidency Project, the New-York Historical Society presents artifacts and documents linked to the nation's first presidential inauguration. At its center, the installation showcases an original section of the wrought-iron railing from Federal Hall, a municipal building that was transformed by French architect Pierre-Charles L’Enfant into a suitable headquarters for the national government. L’Enfant adorned the facade with classical and patriotic motifs, including the railing’s thirteen arrows—one for each state in the republic.

This special installation also features an armchair used by George Washington in the Senate chamber of Federal Hall just after his swearing in. The storied armchair, designed in the latest neoclassical fashion, was later used for the inaugurations of Ulysses S. Grant and James A. Garfield. A printed broadside of Washington’s inaugural address is also on view.

Creative: Tronvig Group