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Engaging the Presidential Inauguration with Primary Sources

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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




John Adams:

Inauguration - March 4, 1797





Abraham Lincoln:

First Inauguration - March 4, 1861

Second Inauguration - March 4, 1865




Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

First Inauguration - March 4, 1933

Second Inauguration - January 20, 1937




John F. Kennedy:

Inauguration: January 20, 1961





Ronald Reagan:

First Inauguration: January 20, 1981

Second Inauguration: January 21, 1985

Karen Albano

History eNews Editor, Emerging America
Karen Albano began working with the Emerging America program in 2015. She is currently the editor of the weekly History eNews, and has contributed to many facets of the Emerging America program, including developing curriculum, improving the accessibility of the website to educators, and overseeing social media outreach.