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April 30: George Washington’s 1789 Inauguration

On April 30, 1789, George Washington stood on the portico at Federal Hall, placed his hand on a bible borrowed from the local Masonic lodge, and took the presidential oath of office. The oath was administered by Chancellor of the State of New York, Robert Livingston, who then turned to the crowd and shouted, “Long live George Washington, President of the United States!” As the crowd cheered, Washington turned and walked into the senate chamber to deliver his inaugural address.

After addressing Congress, a weary looking Washington walked up Broadway between rows of saluting militiamen to St. Paul’s Chapel. Martha Washington, as well as both houses of Congress accompanied the new President to the chapel, where the service was presided over by the Episcopal Bishop of New York, Samuel Provoost.

Washington continued to attend services at St. Paul’s until August 1790, when the capital of the United Sates was moved to Philadelphia. A canopied pew on the north side of the chapel was reserved for him and his family. On the wall beside the pew hung a painting of one of the earliest known representations of the Great Seal of the United States, commissioned by the Vestry in 1789 to commemorate Washington’s inauguration. Although the pew has been removed, the painting is currently displayed in its original location. 



Washington: Washington delivering his inaugural address April 1789, in the old city hall, New-York / painted by T.H. Matteson ; engraved on steel by H.S. Sadd; Date Created/Published: New York : Published by John Neale, 56 Carmine Street, 1849 ( printed by Neale & Pate)

Great Seal: Trinity’s image