United States presidential inaugural balls

United States presidential inaugural balls are large social gatherings, both white tie and black tie, held to celebrate the commencement of a new term of the President of the United States. Planned and sanctioned by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, the official inaugural balls occur throughout the evening of Inauguration Day in the Washington D.C. area and are invitation-only, attended by guests who are issued pre-paid tickets. The President, First Lady, Vice-President and Second Lady, all make personal appearances at each of the inaugural balls held in their honor. Catered food, beverages, and live entertainment performed by national and globally acclaimed musicians are provided at the inaugural balls.

Other inaugural balls, unofficial and often less formal that occur before and on Inauguration Day, are given by state societies, businesses, and private organizations.


The tradition of presidential inaugural balls in the United States has evolved over time. The first inaugural ball was held by sponsors on May 7, 1789 in New York City, one week after the first inauguration of George Washington. In 1809, Dolley Madison hosted a gala at Long's Hotel in Washington D.C. after the first inauguration of James Madison was held earlier in the day at the United States Capitol. A total of 400 tickets were sold for $4 a piece. In 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).

Other presidents have cancelled inaugural balls for various reasons. Franklin Pierce, who was mourning the recent death of his son in 1853, Woodrow Wilson, who in 1913 felt that inaugural balls were too expensive, and Warren G. Harding, who in 1921 wanted to set an example of simplicity, all opted to end the custom of inaugural balls. Private parties known as "charity balls", were held during the second inauguration of Calvin Coolidge in 1925, for Herbert Hoover in 1929, and especially during the depression and World War II era inaugurations of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, 1937, 1941, and 1945.

Official inaugural balls were not reinstated until the Second inauguration of Harry S. Truman in 1949. Due to their growing popularity, the number of inaugural balls grew starting in the 1950s. During the 1953 inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower, there were two balls and by 1957, there were a total of four balls held for Eisenhower's second inauguration. A fifth was added for the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy in 1961.

Reflecting the mood of previous presidents in the early 20th century, Jimmy Carter stripped his 1977 inaugural balls of their frivolity and glamor, charging no more than $25 per ticket. By 1997, the number of inaugural balls reached a peak of fourteen during the second inauguration of Bill Clinton. However, the number was reduced to eight for the first inauguration of George W. Bush in 2001 and nine for his second inauguration in 2005.[1]

For the most recent inaugural balls held during the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama, 10 official and 121 unofficial inaugural balls were given.[2]

See also


  1. "Inaugural Ball". Committee on Rules & Administration.
  2. "Inaugural Balls". Presidential Inauguration.com.
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