Grant's second inauguration (3/4/1872) was the coldest day on which inauguration had occurred up to that time. Great preparations had been made, but the occasion was shorn of its splendor by the intense cold and raging storm. Some idea of the severity of that day may be gained by the fact that the temperature of the air in the morning was only four degrees above zero; at mid-day sixteen above, and the highest reached during the day was but twenty degrees above zero. A strong northwest wind blew throughout the day, reaching a maximum velocity of 28 miles per hour at noon, and at no time during the day falling below 20 miles per hour. The New York Times reported the following day that the sky was cloudless. The website of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies reports that 3/4/1873 remains the coldest inauguration day.
Congress remained in session over the night of 3/3/1873, trying to finish its business before noon on 3/4/1873. Among the bills passed was one granting the daughter of Zachary Taylor a federal pension of $50 per month. Pres. Grant stayed up until midnight signing the bills; he then retired for the night and decided that remaining bills would have to wait. The Senate broke from 5:00 a.m. until 9:15 a.m. to allow the Senators a brief time to sleep. When they re-convened, Sen. Roscoe Conkling recommended that two Senators be sent to receive Pres. Grant; VP Colfax appointed him and Lyman Trumbull as that committee. During their absence, the Senate resumed last-minute items of business. [NYT 3/5/1873].
Procession from the White House to the Capitol Building
Early on inauguration day, the streets were lined with people wanting to observe the oath, parade, and festivities. Shortly before 10 o'clock, the carriages containing Sens. Logan, Bayard, and Cragin dashed up under the cover of the doorway leading to the White House. Alighting, they were warmly greeted by the President, and after a cordial hand shaking the party again entered the carriage, the President occupying the right hand side of the rear seat. Meanwhile, the procession, under the direction of Brevet Major W.F. Barry ...composed of various national and state military organizations, ... political clubs, four companies and bands of music, prominent among which were the first troop of Philadelphia City Cavalry, the oldest cavalry organization in the United States, having a continued history for 99 years, having been formed on 11/17/1774, carrying its historic flag bearing 13 stripes ... presented to the troop in 1775. During the Revolution it was the body guard of General Washington, and has been the personal escort of the President ... when visiting Philadelphia... At the signal given by the Chief Marshal, the procession moved off by way of the Avenue towards the Capitol. The Battalion of West Point cadets and another of midshipmen from the Annapolis naval school, appearing in the procession, without overcoats, suffered intensely from the cold. The New York Times reported that it was the largest military escort a President had taken with him on the procession to the Capitol for the oath ceremonies.
Grant arrived at the Capitol building around 10:00 to read additional bills passed by Congress and either sign or veto them. His carriage had departed from the procession early, but few in the crowd noticed this and expected him to be part of the procession to the East front of the Capitol.
Vice Presidential Inauguration
At 11:30 a.m., the doors of the Senate were opened, and Gens. Sherman, Sheridan, Howard and others, including Admirals Porter, Sands, Goldsborough, with Commodores Case and Reynolds, and others of distinction, were accommodated with seats. The members of the Senate were provided with chairs on the Republican side, the opposite side being left for the diplomatic corps and other dignitaries. VP-Elect Wilson arrived at 11:45 withthe Supreme Court justices. Grant arrived at 11:57, having finished signing the bills; he was accompanied by the Cabinet. Grant sat in front of the Clerk's desk. Vice President Colfax gave a short farewell address, followed by a brief address by incoming VP Henry Wilson. Colfax swore Wilson into office and declared the Senate of the 42d Congress to have been adjourned sine die. Wilson took possession of the broken gavel that Colfax had used as VP, swore the newly elected Senators into office, after which the Senate adjourned for the Presidential inauguration [NYT 3/5/1873]. The procession to the platform formed outside the main entrance and marched through the rotunda to the east portico, under the direction of the Marshal of the Supreme Court ... and the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate.
President Grant's Second Inaugural
The New York Times reported [3/5/1873] that the eastern front of the Capitol building was "black with a solid mass of people" waiting in front of the temporary inaugural platform. The committee on arrangements had constructed special stands for people to sit and observe the inaugural, but these stands with the best views were empty because they were open to the strong winds.The NYT wrote "it was certainly much larger than any assemblage ever before gathered in Washington." The wives of the officials gathered in the marshal's room. Pres. Grant stopped there, gave his arm to the First Lady, and they proceeded onto the platform to their seats. When Grant removed his hat, the crowd recognized him and cheered. The President was seated in the identical chair occupied by General Washington at his first inauguration in New York City, the chair having been sent for this occasion.
At 12:30 the Chief Justice rose, and with him President Grant and all persons on the platform, every gentleman removing his hat. Observers at the time commented on the gaunt appearance of CJ Chase, who had aspired to take the oath on several occasions. The oath of office was administered, the President repeating after the Chief Justice, sentence by sentence. The Sergeant at Arms of the Senate opened the Bible and handed it to Chief Justice Chase, who, with great dignity and solemnity, held it to the lips of the President, and upon these verses from the 11th chapter of Isaiah (2d and 3d verses), he pressed his lips: "And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him; the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears." The howitzer battery at the Naval School and the Light Artillery both issued a salute of 21 guns.
After the military salute was completed, President Grant, in a clear and deliberate voice, read his inaugural address. The wind blew so hard that only those nearest the stand could hear him. At the conclusion of the address, cheers again rent the air, the procession was re-formed and escorted the President back to the Executive Mansion. The crowd broke through the police lines at one point, running up to the presidential carriage to shake Grant's hand and congratulate him. At first, Grant was inclined to shake their hands - but the police realized that the parade had completely stopped and forced the people back to the sidewalks. Pres. Grant observed the parade from a special reviewing stand while the White House was open for tours.
Afternoon and Evening Events
In the evening, a grand pyrotechnical display was given south of the Treasury building and east of the Capitol. The area from 14th to 15th Streets "was literally jammed with people who stood for near two hours in the cold to witness the scene," reported the New York Times on 3/5/1873. The fireworks lasted from 7 to 9 p.m.
The inaugural ball was held in a temporary building erected in Judiciary Square and measuring 350x150 feet. It was a frame building that was painted to appear to be built of marble; the interior was lit with gas. Altoghether, the building cost $40,000 to build [NYT 3/3/1873]. The building was not supplied with heating apparatus except for the steam heaters in the ladies' dressing rooms; consequently, ladies were compelled to wear their wraps, and gentlemen their overcoats and hats. Over 3,000 people dancers and spectators made their way to the building. The supper, which had been prepared at large expense, was a cold repast beginning at 9:00 p.m. The ornamental devices in ice cream were frozen solid; champagne and punch were forsaken for hot coffee, which with the oysters comprised the only heated offerings. The ball room was divided into six spaces, each with a dance manager. Twenty dollars was the price of tickets. Grant and the Cabinet arrived at 11:30 p.m. Those assembled were frozen out before midnight.
On the following day, the weather improved from inauguration day. A military parade was held for the Secretary of War (with VP Wilson also in attendance). The temporary ball building was used for a masquerade ball in an attempt to recoup part of its expense [NYT 3/6/1873].
Adapted from Thomas H. McKee, Presidential Inaugurations from George Washington 1789 to Grover Cleveland 1893 (Washington DC: Statistical Publishing Co., 1893), pp. 127-129.
- Grant was only the fifth President to serve a full two terms.
- Grant's 1873 inaugural was the coldest on record.
Popular Vote of 1872
Electoral Vote of 1872
24th Presidential Inauguration (Grant, 1869)
26th Presidential Inauguration (Hayes, 1877)