Inauguration of James A. Garfield

The inauguration of James A. Garfield as the 20th president of the United States was held on Friday, March 4, 1881, at the East Portico of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. This was the 24th inauguration and marked the commencement of the only four-year term of James A. Garfield as president and Chester A. Arthur as vice president. Garfield was assassinated 199 days into this term, and Arthur ascended to the presidency. Chief Justice Morrison Waite administered the presidential oath of office.[1]

Presidential inauguration of
James A. Garfield
Flickr - USCapitol - President James Garfield Inauguration.jpg
DateMarch 4, 1881; 141 years ago (1881-03-04)
LocationUnited States Capitol,
Washington, D.C.
ParticipantsJames A. Garfield
20th President of the United States
— Assuming office

Morrison Waite
Chief Justice of the United States
— Administering oath

Chester A. Arthur
20th Vice President of the United States
— Assuming office

William A. Wheeler
19th Vice President of the United States
— Administering oath


Garfield left his home in Mentor, Ohio for Washington, D.C. on Monday, February 28, 1881.

In his address, Garfield denounced attempts to impede African-American suffrage, expressed his confidence in the gold standard, warned against the dangers of high rates of illiteracy, and admonished the practice of polygamy by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[2] Garfield was recognized as an extremely competent public speaker, but faced difficulty when composing his inaugural address. Three days before his inauguration, he scrapped his speech and feverishly began work on a new one. Exhausted by several sleepless nights of writing, he delivered his rushed oration on March 4, but it failed to live up to the high expectations of many of those present.[3]

The "Statue of America" in the rotunda of the Arts and Industries Building.
Rutherford B. Hayes was one of the only presidents to attend his successor's parade

Inaugural ballEdit

Garfield's inaugural ball was hosted the night of the inauguration in the Smithsonian Institution's Arts and Industries Building, completed earlier that year. The centerpiece of the celebration was a large "Statue of America" in the museum's rotunda, who held an electric light in her raised right hand.[4] The music at the event was directed by conductor John Philip Sousa, and performed by the Germania Orchestra of Philadelphia and the U.S. Marine Band.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The 24th Presidential Inauguration: James A. Garfield, March 04, 1881". United States Senate. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
  2. ^ Garfield, James A. James Abram Garfield's Inaugural Address.
  3. ^ Rutkow, Ira (2006). James A. Garfield: The American Presidents Series: The 20th President, 1881. New York, NY: Times Books. p. 70. ISBN 9780805069501 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Bisceglio, Paul (January 15, 2013). "Party Like It's 1881: President Garfield's Inaugural Ball". Smithsonian. Retrieved December 22, 2016.
  5. ^ Inaugural Ball Program, March 4, 1881. p. 9 – via Library of Congress.

External linksEdit