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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lincoln's First Inauguration

President Lincoln's first Inauguration was held on March 4, 1861 with the oath of office taking place on the steps of the capitol. Shown here is an artist's drawing made at the event from the collections of Georgetown University.

Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, felt it was important for the new First Family to put their best foot forward. She worried that Washington, D.C. society would look down their noses at the Illinoisians. Mrs. Lincoln's efforts which included wearing the most fashionable clothes and re-decorating the White House were highly criticized.

Mary wore an elegant gown to the Inaugural Ball, as shown here in a photograph by Matthew Brady and held in the collections of the Library of Congress. Brady was famous for his portraits of the most celebrated people of the day, and later for his Civil War battlefield photographs.

A dress worn at the first Inaugural Ball is in the collections of the Lake County Discovery Museum. The wearer's name is unknown, but she was related to a woman who lived in Waukegan. The gown is shown here without undergarments.

Though the dress is in need of conservation, its former beauty is still evident in the details. Shown here is one of the lovely purple florettes that embellish the dress.

The donor, Adaline Roemer Banta, was the granddaughter of Union General Louis Blenker. The dress and the General's papers were donated to the Museum in 1961.

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