The disputed centennial Presidential election was resolved just two days before the scheduled inauguration when the congressional challenges had all been voted down. Gov. Rutherford B. Hayes travelled to Washington City by train, receiving word en route that he had been declared the president-elect. The inaugural festivities were scaled back from earlier years. Inauguration day falling on the first day of the week, Hayes took the oath privately late on 3/3/1877 and then publicly at the scheduled time on 3/5/1877.
Hayes Arrives in Washington City
As Congress and the Electoral Commission worked their way through the Certificates of Vote of the Presidential Electors, inauguration day approached. Gov. Hayes and his wife boarded a train in Columbus at 1 p.m. on 3/1/1877, headed for Washington City, not knowing what the final decision would be. They received news by telegraph during the trip that he had been declared the president-elect. The train was heading into Baltimore when the news arrived. Hayes, who had been given a private car for security, went into an adjacent train car reserved for members of the Ohio legislature who were accompanying him. Gov. Tilden received the news in New York City and thought it best to remain at home.
The train arrived in Washington at 10 a.m. on 3/2/1877 amidst a pouring rain. A large gathering of people welcomed him at the station, including John Sherman and William T. Sherman, who conducted Hayes to John Sherman's residence on K Street. The two Hayes children were taken to Ebbitt House, the family's temporary lodging before moving into the White House. Hayes had breakfast with the Shermans and drafted a letter resigning the Governorship of Ohio (which was telegraphed to Ohio). His Lieutenant Governor, Thomas L. Young, was inaugurated as Governor of Ohio and immediately took the next train for Washington DC to attend the inauguration.
Hayes spent the remainder of the day meeting with Grant, Congress, and other Washington dignitaries. After breakfast, Hayes went to the White House with the two Shermans to meet with Grant. He took them into his private office, where they chatted until the Cabinet arrived. After a brief meeting with them, Hayes was taken to the VP's office in the Capitol building, where most Senators (including most Democrats) came to greet him. The meeting lasted two hours, prolonged by the arrival of members of the U.S. House when they heard that Hayes was present. Hayes decided to stay at Sen. Sherman's lodgings until the inauguration, where he could receive politicians including VP-elect Wheeler and former Gov. Morgan of New York. Hayes told a news reporter that he had not completed his inaugural address but that he expected it would be shorter than the usual address on these occasions. [NYT 3/3/1877]
The following day (3/3/1877), Hayes received callers at the Sherman residence. At 5:00 p.m., the Shermans closed the doors to further callers so that Hayes could prepare for a state dinner at the White House. Grant gave a farewell address to the Cabinet and announced that he was finished packing the family belongings. While there, Hayes spoke with Chief Justice Morrison Waite about the issue of when to hold the inauguration. Waite believed due to the day of the week on which the inauguration would fall, there was no reason why Hayes could not take the oath the day after or even the day before. At 7:00 p.m., during the dinner, the two of them went into the Red Parlor with Pres. Grant, and Waite administered the oath to Hayes as the 19th President.
The usual preparations were made for the inaugural event. A large platform was constructed on the east side of the Capitol building to accommodate the centerpiece of the day as well as the members of Congress and distinguished guests.
The Hayes family accompanied the Shermans to the Church of the Epiphany (Episcopal) on the morning of 3/4/1877 and maintained a minimal schedule in keeping with Lucy Hayes's religious inclinations.
Procession to the Capitol
Inauguration day (3/5/1877) began a little colder than the preceding day. There was no wind, but it was cloudy with an occasional snowflake falling during the day. By 8:00 a.m., parade marshals were making sure that the streets were cleared for the procession from the White House to the Capitol, though before the procession took place, the throngs had filled the streets again.
Hayes arrived at the White House just before 11 a.m. in a carriage with Rep. James A. Garfield and two DC Constables. Their carriage was not marked, and the crowd did not appear to notice Hayes entering the White House. VP Wheeler and Sen. McCreary arrived five minutes later. Half of the crowd gathered outside the White House to see the new President were black. Just after 11 a.m., Grant and Hayes entered into a carriage with Sen. Morrill, chairman of the Senate Committee on Arrangements, to join the procession to the Capitol. It was at this time that the marshals went to work again clearing people from Pennsylvania Avenue to allow the presidential carriage to proceed, made more difficult by the cheering of the crowds. The official procession from the White House to the Capitol was smaller than Grant's had been in 1869 and 1873. A salute of 100 guns was fired as Grant and Hayes arrived at the Capitol.
Vice President Wheeler Inaugurated
The Senate chamber was opened at 11 a.m. for people to enter for the VP inaugural. An area was reserved near the diplomatic corps where Lucy Hayes sat with the two children with the Ohio delegation (including the wife of John Sherman). The Senators sat to the left of the incoming VP, and the House members sat in the rear of the room. The chairs to the right of the incoming VP were reserved for the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices. The New York Times reporter noted that few Democratic House members attended, though most Democratic Senators did. One of those seated with the Civil War generals was future President Chester Arthur.
Just before noon, the diplomats arrived, followed by CJ Waite and six Associate Justices. The justices wore their judicial robes except for Davis, who later that day resigned from the Court to become a Senator from Illinois. Hayes, Grant, and Sen. Morrill arrived at noon, followed by the Cabinet. The entire gathering stood and applauded as soon as they had identified Hayes. After the chaplain's prayer, PPT Ferry, having been re-elected to the Senate, was inaugurated to preside from the VP's chair. The other Senators were then inaugurated except for those whose election was being contested. VP-elect Wheeler then entered the room with Sen. McCreery and took his seat among the applause of those gathered. Wheeler took the prescribed oath and gave a short address. Lucy Hayes and her party were conducted to the inaugural platform while Wheeler and the Senators formed the official procession.
Inauguration of President Hayes
A crowd of 30,000 people awaited President-elect Hayes on the East Portico of the Capitol building. Lucy Hayes came through the doors at the beginning of the procession, followed by the Supreme Court and then the diplomatic corps in their characteristically colorful uniforms. Next were the Senators and Representatives. The clerk of the Supreme Court came out, holding the Bible to be used in the inaugural, followed by Grant and Hayes. The crowd cheered for several minutes when they identified Hayes walking onto the platform.
Hayes waited for the cheering to end, then gave his inaugural address. Half of the address concerned his new policy towards the South, including the need to withdraw troops and end Reconstruction. Among other things, he called for a six-year presidential term and civil service reform. Regarding the Electoral Commission, Hayes said that "opinion will widely vary as to the wisdom of the several conclusions," but "there is entire unanimity in public sentiment that conflicting claims to the Presidency must be amicably and peaceably adjusted." His most memorable line was that the President "should strive to be always mindful of the fact that he serves his party best who serves the country best." The address was interrupted several times by cheering. After the inaugural address, Waite administered the oath to Hayes. The Bible was opened to Psalm 118:11-13. Hayes and his party then went by carriage to the White House as cannon were fired and bells pealed.
Afternoon and Evening Events
After the inaugural ceremonies, Pres. Grant had a last state dinner. The Hayes family, the Sherman family, and part of the Cabinet joined him in the Blue Room before heading to the dining room. At the end of the meal, the Grants entered into a carriage and departed to spend the night at the residence of SOS Hamilton Fish, leaving the White House to the Hayes family.
Pres. Hayes spent a leisurely afternoon in the White House. An aide brought a printed version of his inaugural speech to him. Just before 5:00 p.m., about 1,500 men came to the White House. Hayes had agreed to meet the Ohio delegation to the inaugural at that time, but many other people joined when they heard they might have an opportunity to shake the President's hand. The delegation was headed by Gov. Young and State House Speaker Grosvenor. Hayes received the group in the Blue Room and shook hands with each of them, regardless of what state they lived in. By 7:00, with people still lined up to meet the President, his aides closed the doors so that Hayes could prepare for the next round of inaugural activities.
Hayes's evening was taken with two events. He first met with congressional leaders, most of whom were headed home until Congress convened nine months later. Afterward, William T. Sherman took Hayes to a reception by the Columbus Cadets at Willard Hall. This reception was a substitute for the inaugural ball, which did not suit Lucy Hayes's tastes. The event was not publicized, and much to Hayes's relief, the event was not packed with people. He spent just over an hour there, meeting with the men and women who had been invited by the sponsors. A band provided music, and some of the couples danced after Hayes left the hall.
After night fell, the last round of festivities took place. Bands played in various locations throughout the city, cannons were fired, and houses along Pennsylvania Avenue were lit with Chinese lanterns. The DC Republicans, mostly African American, led a torchlight procession from City Hall to the White House as the only specifically partisan event of the day. [NYT 3/6/1877].
Major source: Thomas H. McKee, Presidential Inaugurations from George Washington 1789 to Grover Cleveland 1893 (Washington DC: Statistical Publishing Co., 1893), pp. 132-133.
- Hayes and Wheeler were the sixth P&VP team out of ten to be limited to one full term in office.
- Hayes was the third of only three Presidents who did not seek a second term (the others being Polk and Buchanan).
- Inauguration Day fell on the first day of the week for the third of six times in American history. Previous occasions had been 1821 and 1849; future occasions would be 1917, 1957, and 1985. The next scheduled occurrence is 2013.
Popular Vote of 1876
Electoral Vote of 1876
25th Presidential Inauguration (Grant, 1873)
27th Presidential Inauguration (Garfield, 1881)