Grateful American® Foundation

Where was the first US Presidential Inaugural Ball held?

May 7th

Lady-Washington-s-Reception-3May 7, 1792— The first Presidential Inaugural Ball was hosted by sponsors today in New York City, one week after the swearing in of George Washington.

Such an event did not become tradition until 1809, when Dolley Madison hosted a gala at Long’s Hotel in Washington DC, after the first inauguration of her husband, James Madison, the 4th US president. A total of 400 tickets were sold for $4 each.

By 1833, two balls were held for the second inauguration of Andrew Jackson and in 1841, a third ball was added for the inauguration of William Henry Harrison. For the inaugurations of Zachary Taylor in 1849, James Buchanan in 1857, and the second inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant in 1873, temporary buildings were constructed at Judiciary Square.

In 1865, a ball was held for Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration in the Model Room at the United States Patent Office, the first ball held in a government building, while in 1869, Grant during his first inauguration, was honored with an inaugural ball held at the Treasury Building. Between 1885 and 1909, inaugural balls were held at the National Museum Building (now the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building) and the Pension Building (now the National Building Museum).

Image: This 1861 painting by Daniel Huntington is a romanticized depiction of the receptions that Martha Washington hosted when her husband served as president. Although less stately, the event on May 7, 1789 honoring the first president may have looked similar.  (Brooklyn Museum)

Sources: inaugural.senatewikipedianps

Words of Wisdom

Discarding the somber Quaker dress after her second marriage, Dolley chose the finest of fashions. A chronicler wrote: She looked a Queen ... It would be absolutely impossible for any one to behave with more perfect propriety than she did.

— Dolley Payne Todd Madison, known as "the first first lady,' was wife of James Madison, 4th President of the US from 1809-1817. She was noted for her social gifts, which boosted her husband’s popularity as President (May 20, 1768 – July 12, 1849)

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