Imagine yourself reading The Washington Post 100 years ago this morning.
The main headline that March 5, in big print but only one column wide, reported one of the major political events of the post-Civil War era: the prior day's inauguration of Grover Cleveland, the first Democratic president since James C. Buchanan was succeeded by Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, in 1861.
To measure that event in more recent terms, the combined administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S Truman, which caused so much pain to out-of-power Republicans, lasted 20 years (1933-1953).
Cleveland, a bachelor at the time who had been governor of New York state, arrived in Washington from Albany on a special train the day before the inauguration. He stayed overnight at the Arlington Hotel, where the Veterans Administration headquarters now stands. Outgoing President Chester A. Arthur strolled across Lafayette Square to pay his respects.
According to the next day's Post, Cleveland's inaugural address was no great shakes oratorically. But it warmed Democrats who, politically speaking, had finally come in from the cold. The weather, incidentally, smiled on Cleveland: the event took place on the first springlike day of the season.
"No president in all our previous history," The Post commented editorially, "has been inaugurated with a parade approaching this. In magnitude of numbers it more than doubled all precedent. In the diversity of its features of interest it far transcended all that has ever gone before . . . ."
The Post went on to do editorially what it called "a political inventory" upon Cleveland's accession. If you didn't know we were talking about 1885, you might think we were in the present tense. Excerpts:
"It is the proper time to take an inventory . . . .
"First of all we have a civil service that is universally conceded to be in urgent need of reform. It is not only too cumbersome and costly, but it is in many respects deficient in organization.
"The distribution of duties is such as does not insure either the amount or the quality of work that should be expended. Responsibility is very indefinitely located . . . ."