Tag Archives: inaugurations

A Stormy Inauguration

Lyrics sung to the tune "Yankee Doodle" alluded to the pre-inauguration plot against Lincoln (SC 2264)

Lyrics sung to the tune “Yankee Doodle” alluded to the pre-inauguration plot against Lincoln (SC 2264)

Prior to 1937, Inauguration Day for U.S. presidents was March 4.  On that day in 1861, there was great excitement, but also grave uncertainty.  Abraham Lincoln took office at a time of national crisis, with the South in the midst of secession and Lincoln himself the recent subject of a rumored assassination plot.  Soon after his swearing-in, tensions only escalated with the attack on Fort Sumter and the secession of Virginia in April.

Collections in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives holdings of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections afford a glimpse at the mixed emotions the new president elicited from Americans.  In August, a letter to Barren County, Kentucky merchant Wade Veluzat from a Lincoln voter denied that either he or his candidate were abolitionists.  “But,” he wrote, “if the people of the South will make war on us because we vote for whom we please for President, then let it come.”  In September, a defiant secessionist in Russellville, Kentucky took up the challenge in a letter sent to Ohio.  “We are not afraid of the Lincoln Negro Party, we say whip us if you can.”

Four years later, Lincoln’s first-term record drew a similarly wide range of comment.  As we have previously seen, Bevie Cain of Breckinridge County had nothing but scorn for supporters of the President’s “wicked unwise rule.”  She dared a Unionist friend to “just tell me one item of good that his reign has accomplished or will accomplish.”  An Indiana man was on the other side of the fence, finding Lincoln to be, in fact, insufficiently radical.  He expected, nevertheless, to vote for the reelection of “old Abe,” observing presciently that he “is a good honest man, and has already said and done enough to make his name famous among the friends of universal Liberty everywhere and for all time.”

Click on the links to access finding aids for these collections.  For more on Lincoln, presidents and presidential inaugurations, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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“I do solemnly swear…”

Inaugural materials from the Pearl Carter Pace Collection

Inaugural materials from the Pearl Carter Pace Collection

Every fourth year, January 20 assumes special significance as Inauguration Day in the United States.  Not only does it signal the beginning of a new presidential term, it marks the culmination of months of planning for countless parties, receptions, dinners, balls, teas, concerts, luncheons and other assorted schmoozes as well as the inaugural ceremony itself, all of which the political elite flock to attend.

Monroe County native Pearl Carter Pace (1896-1970) participated in and helped to plan many such functions.  Before becoming the first woman in Kentucky elected to the office of sheriff for a 4-year term, she had taught school, worked in several family businesses, married and had 3 children.  After her husband died in 1940, Pace threw her energies into state Republican politics.  In 1953, she became a member of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s War Claims Commission, and her chairmanship of that body in 1959 made her the second-highest ranking woman in the Administration.  She worked tirelessly for many other political and civic causes in both Kentucky and Washington.

Preserved in the Pearl Carter Pace Collection at WKU’s Special Collections Library are invitations, programs and correspondence relating to presidential inaugurations from 1949-1969, but principally for Eisenhower in 1953 and 1957.  These materials provide a close-up view of the scramble to reserve accommodation and transportation to the inaugural events, create lists of invitees, arrange seating, and secure admission to the most-coveted Washington functions.  As Republican National Committee chairwoman for Kentucky at the time of Eisenhower’s first inauguration, Pace obtained tickets for a Middlesborough constituent, who responded with elation at the prospect of attending this historic event.  “It was the most wonderful Christmas gift a Kentucky woman could have been afforded,” she declared, and hoped that on the appointed day she would be near enough “to see our great President take his solemn oath of office.”

Download a finding aid for the Pearl Carter Pace Collection by clicking here.  For more of our political collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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