On this day in 1789, George Washington took the oath as the first president of the United States. The oath was administered by Robert R. Livingston, the Chancellor of New York, on a second floor balcony of Federal Hall, above a crowd assembled in the streets to witness this historic event. President Washington and the members of Congress then retired to the Senate Chamber, where Washington delivered the first inaugural address to a joint session of Congress. Washington humbly noted the power of the nations’ call for him to serve as president and the shared responsibility of the president and Congress to preserve “the sacred fire of liberty” and a republican form of government.
In 1788, the Confederation Congress scheduled the first presidential inauguration for the first Wednesday in March of the following year. However, the early months of 1789 proved to be unseasonably cold and snowy and bad weather delayed many members of the First Federal Congress from arriving promptly in New York City, the temporary seat of government. Until a quorum could be established in both the House and the Senate, no official business could be conducted. Finally, on April 6, 1789 – over a month late – enough members had reached New York to tally the electoral ballots. The ballots were counted on April 6 and George Washington won unanimously with 69 electoral votes. Washington was then notified of his victory and traveled to New York City from his home in Virginia.
On April 30, 1789, the inaugural ceremony took place on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City, then the first U.S. Capitol and the first site where the 1st United States Congress met. Since nearly first light a crowd of people had begun to gather around Washington’s home, and at noon they made their way to Federal Hall by way of Queen Street and Great Dock (both now Pearl Street) and Broad Street. Washington dressed in an American-made dark brown suit with white silk stockings and silver shoe buckles; he also wore a steel-hilted sword and dark red overcoat
Upon his arrival at Federal Hall, Washington was formally introduced to the House and Senate in the then-Senate chamber, after which already sworn-in Vice President John Adams announced it was time for the inauguration. Washington moved to the second-floor balcony where he took the presidential oath of office, administered by Chancellor of New York Robert Livingston in view of throngs of people gathered on the streets. The Bible used in the ceremony was from St. John’s Masonic Lodge No.1, and due to haste, it was opened at random to Genesis 49:13 (“Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon”). Afterwards, Livingston shouted “Long live George Washington, President of the United States!” to the crowd, which was replied to with cheers and a 13-gun salute. The first inaugural address was subsequently delivered by Washington in the Senate chamber, running 1419 words in length. There were no inaugural balls at this time, however, a week later, on May 7, a ball was held in New York City to honor the first President.
Sources: Wikipedia, USPresidency.com