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Engaging the Presidential Inauguration with Primary Sources

Published on Wed, 12/28/2016

Presidential inaugurations have historically provided a platform for some of the most dynamic moments in American History. Consider having students analyze some of the most important–for the significance of the inaugural speech as well as for the importance of events surrounding the inauguration. What made each of these moments so significant? What characteristics make for a great inaugural speech? Ask students to develop a list of things to watch for in Mr. Trump’s inaugural speech. How does he stack up? The Library of Congress digital collections contain a wide variety of materials documenting presidential inaugurations including:
  • Diaries and letters written by presidents
  • Inauguration witnesses
  • Handwritten drafts of inaugural addresses
  • Broadsides
  • Inaugural tickets and programs
  • Prints
  • Photographs
  • Sheet music
Check out the links below for further information and access to primary source documents!

Presidential Inaugurations to Consider:


George Washington:

First Inauguration - April 30, 1789 Second Inauguration - March 4, 1793     adams

John Adams:

Inauguration - March 4, 1797       lincoln

Abraham Lincoln:

First Inauguration - March 4, 1861 Second Inauguration - March 4, 1865     fdr

Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

First Inauguration - March 4, 1933 Second Inauguration - January 20, 1937     kennedy

John F. Kennedy:

Inauguration: January 20, 1961       reagan

Ronald Reagan:

First Inauguration: January 20, 1981 Second Inauguration: January 21, 1985

Karen Albano

former History eNews Editor, Emerging America
Karen Albano worked with Emerging America from 2015-2020, contributing to many facets of the program including developing curriculum, improving the accessibility of the website to educators, overseeing social media outreach, and editing the History eNews.