Inaugural Parades

William and Helen Taft leaving the Capitol to head the inaugural parade, March 4, 1909
Courtesy of Library of Congress

The manner in which a new president arrives at the Capitol to take the oath of office and then returns to the White House is decided with great care. Every gesture and decision will be analyzed by the public and the press.

Should the party follow traditions or set a new precedent? Should the carriage be fancy or plain? Should the dress be conservative or fashionable? Should the president ride back to the White House in regal splendor or walk as a man of the people? The impression made sets the tone for the next four years in office.

Ulysses S. Grant purchased this carriage from Meeks Carriage and Wagon Repository during his first term in the White House and rode in it to his second inauguration in 1873. Meeks bought back the carriage after Grant left office, and it was used in several parades and historic celebrations before being donated to the Smithsonian in 1968.
Gift of Fearson S. Meeks
View of Franklin Pierce's inauguration procession along Pennsylvania Avenue, March 4, 1853.
James Buchanan's inauguration procession, from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, March 21, 1857.
Courtesy of Library of Congress
James A. Garfield's inauguration viewed from the Capitol dome, from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, March 19, 1881.
Courtesy of Library of Congress
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter walking down Pennsylvania Avenue during the inaugural parade, January 20, 1977
Courtesy of Jimmy Carter Library
Inaugural license plate, 1949
Inaugural license plate, 1957
Carriage police pass, 1913