Garfield's Inaugural Ball at Smithsonian

Usage Conditions Apply
The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. For commercial uses, please contact


The reception and ball to celebrate the inauguration of President James Abram Garfield is held in the as yet unfinished National Museum building. The Board of Regents authorized use of the building with the stipulation that no precedent is to be given for the use of the building for other purposes. Under the direction of a citizens' committee, a temporary wooden floor is laid in each of the ground-level rooms, ten thousand bins for hats, coats, and wraps are erected, and some three thousand gas burners are introduced. For the occasion, two electric lights are suspended in the rotunda and several are erected outside along with calcium lights in different parts of the grounds. About seven thousands people attend the celebration.


  • Garfield, James A (James Abram) 1831-1881
  • Arts and Industries Building)
  • Board of Regents
  • United States National Museum
  • United States President


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Goode, George Brown, ed. The Smithsonian Institution, 1846-1896, The History of Its First Half Century. Washington, D.C.: De Vinne Press, 1897, p. 839.
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1881. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1883, p. 1-3.
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1880. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1881, p. 164-165.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


March 4, 1881


  • Policies
  • Electricity
  • Inaugurations
  • Special events

Full Record

View Full Record