Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin was there, and so was the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, S. Dillon Ripley. The party at the National Archives was thrown by James B. Rhoads, archivist of the United States, to celebrate the inauguration of Jimmy Carter.
Many of the men there look backward for a living, but yesterday, like most Americans, they were looking forward to a new administration. One of their number, however, assistant archivist Albert Miesel, spent some time recently learning about past inaugurations. Here are some of the stories he turned up:
Gen. William Henry (Tippecance) Harrison, dressed in a black frock coat, and mounted on a white charger, rode through the cold to the Capitol on March 4, 1841, and delivered the longest of all inaugural addresses. It was 9,000 words and took 1 hour and 45 minutes. When it was over, he mounted up and rode back to the White House. Exactly one month later he died of pneumonia.
The first ball in connection with a presidential transition was a farewell affair for outgoing President George Washington. No one thought to invite the new President, John Adams.
Mrs. Grover Cleveland told the White House staff when the Clevelands left the executive mansion in 1889, to take good care of the furniture because, "We will be back in four years." They were. Cleveland was reelected and inaugurated during a snowstorm on March 4, 1893.
On March 4, 1897, when William McKinley was inaugurated, Cleveland was suffering so badly with gout that he had to lean on McKinley to hold himself up. Cleveland wore only one shoe because of the painful condition.
Andrew Jackson, who was inaugurated in 1829, walked to the Capitol from Gadsby's Hotel at 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. He returned to the White House on horseback and that night opened the mansion to the public for a people's inaugural to end all people's inaugurals. The silk and damask coverings of the elegant White House chairs and settees became doormats for backwoodmen's boots, and punch drenched the rugs. Finally tubs of cider and punch were carted out onto the south lawn to lure the throng outside Jackson excaped out a window and returning to Gadsby's.
Abraham Lincoln, who was elected President with only 40 per cent of the popular vote virtually on the eve of the Civil War, slipped into Washington by an unannounced route because of a suspected plot to attack his train. Lincoln warned a friend: "Don't let your wife come to my inauguration. It is best for our women to remain indoors on that day as the bullets may be flying."
Lincoln rode in an open carriage, but he was surrounded by mounted guards and the streets were lined with soldiers so that it was almost impossible to see him. Four years later, when the military arrived at the White House to pick him up, Lincoln was already at the Capitol working. Six weeks after that, he was shot to death by John Wilkes Booth.
Ulysses S. Grant's second inauguration was the coldest on record, with temperatures around zero, sleet, snow and bitter winds. The inaugural ball was held in a temporary wooden building on Juciciary Square. Canaries imported for the occasion are said to have frozen in their cages, but according to another version they were asphyxiated by gas escaping from lamps.
Martin Van Buren was the first President to hold more than one inaugural ball. There was an expensive ball and a cheap ball. According to reports of the time, many of those invited to the cheap ball felt insulted.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not attend an inaugural ball in 1933. He spent the evening discussing business with his close personal aide, Louis Howe.
The wind was so strong during Woodrow Wilson's second inauguration that on one could hear his speech. The only applause came when he finished and stepped down from the speaker's platform.
William Howard Taft was the first President-elect to arrive at the Capitol for his inauguration with his wife.