Grateful American® Foundation

When did the tradition of fabulous inaugural balls begin?

May 7th

GWMay 7, 1789 — The first US inaugural ball was held tonight for President George Washington in New York City. The event came one week after the inauguration. It was a modest affair, for it was not until 1809, however, after the Inauguration of James Madison at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., that the tradition of the inaugural ball began.

That night, First Lady Dolley Madison hosted the gala at Long’s Hotel. Four hundred tickets sold for $4 each.

In 1833 two balls were staged for President Andrew Jackson, one at Carusi’s Assembly Rooms and the other at Central Masonic Hall. William Henry Harrison attended all three of the 1841 inaugural balls held in his honor.

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