News Article

George Washington’s First Inaugural Address and Inaugural Bible to be Featured at National Archives Thanks to Gift by Ford Motor Company Fund

January 5, 2017

The Ford Motor Company Fund will sponsor the public display of one-of-a-kind documents at the National Archives from January to July 2017. As the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States approaches, the National Archives’ Featured Document exhibition presents rarely seen items from our country’s first presidential inauguration, including George Washington’s handwritten inaugural address and the Bible upon which he swore his presidential oath.

The inaugural address will be on display from January 5 – 25 in the Archives’ East Rotunda Gallery. The Washington Inaugural Bible – on loan from the St. John’s Lodge No.1, Ancient York Masons – will join the exhibit on January 7.

“Ford’s generous support will allow us to put one-of-a-kind historic documents on display for much of 2017,” said National Archives Foundation Executive Director Patrick M. Madden. “We are proud to partner with the Ford Motor Company Fund, which has a history of investing in opportunities to bring history to life.”

On April 30, 1789, George Washington placed his hand upon a Bible and took the oath as the first president of the United States. The oath was administered on a second-floor balcony of Federal Hall, above a crowd assembled in the streets to witness this historic event. The Bible used for the occasion was provided by St. John’s Lodge No. 1, Ancient York Masons. President Washington and members of Congress then retired to the Senate Chamber, where Washington delivered the first inaugural address to a joint session of Congress. Washington humbly noted the power of the nation’s call for him to serve as president and the shared responsibility of the president and Congress to preserve “the sacred fire of liberty” and a republican form of government.

After concluding his remarks, the President and Congress proceeded through crowds lined up on Broadway to St. Paul’s Church, where a service was conducted. Social gatherings and festivities closed the nation’s first inaugural day. Subsequent presidential inaugurations took place on March 4 (or March 5 when the 4 fell on a Sunday), until the 20th Amendment changed the date to January 20, beginning in 1937.

“Education is at the core of what we do at Ford Fund, and the lessons learned from American History remain relevant to each generation,” said Ziad Ojakli, group vice president, Ford Motor Company. “We’re proud to sponsor the Featured Documents display beginning with Washington’s handwritten address, a most appropriate choice as America prepares to welcome our new president.”

The National Archives’ rotating Featured Document exhibit is located adjacent to the original Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, which are seen by more than 1 million visitors each year. As each record is displayed, more information about its history and free access to high-resolution images of the document will be available through the National Archives Foundation’s website.

In addition to Washington’s address, additional documents include:

  • In honor of the 100th Anniversary of 1st Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin, Congresswoman Rankin’s 1916 Credentials (on display January 26 – April 3). On November 7, 1916, Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to Congress, 4 years before the 19th Amendment added women’s suffrage to the Constitution. Since Rankin took her oath of office on April 2, 1917, over 300 women have been elected to Congress.
  • In honor of the 100th Anniversary of the United States entering World War I, the Declaration of War against Germany signed by President Woodrow Wilson (on display April 4 – May 3). On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson delivered an address to a joint session of Congress and requested a declaration of war against Germany. The resulting congressional vote brought the United States into World War I on April 6, 1917. The United States later declared war against German ally Austria-Hungary on December 7, 1917.
  • In honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Selective Service Act and the First Draft Registration, a Selection of Notable Individuals Draft Registration Cards (on display May 4 – June 7). On May 18, 1917, the Selective Service Act was passed authorizing the President to adopt a draft to temporarily increase U.S. military forces during WWI. During the war there were three registrations, the first of which was on June 5, 1917 for all men age 21-31.  The Selective Service System was responsible for selecting men for induction into the military service and delivering them to military training camps.
  • In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Thurgood Marshall’s Appointment to the Supreme Court,  a selection of records from Marshall’s tenure as a Supreme Court Justice (on display June 8 – July 26). The first African American Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was nominated by President Lyndon B. Johnson on June 13, 1967. His nomination followed a long and distinguished career as a prominent civil rights lawyer, and he argued more than 30 cases before the Supreme Court.

The National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, is located on Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, NW.  Museum hours are 10 am to 5:30 pm. The building is Metro accessible on the Yellow and Green lines, Archives/Navy Memorial/Penn Quarter station.


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About the National Archives Foundation

The National Archives Foundation is an independent nonprofit that increases public awareness of the National Archives, inspires a deeper appreciation of our country’s heritage, and encourages citizen engagement in our democracy. The Foundation generates financial and creative support for National Archives exhibitions, public programs, and educational initiatives, introducing America’s records to people around the U.S. and the world. Learn more at:

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company is a global automotive and mobility company based in Dearborn, Michigan. With about 203,000 employees and 62 plants worldwide, the company’s core business includes designing, manufacturing, marketing and servicing a full line of Ford cars, trucks and SUVs, as well as Lincoln luxury vehicles. To expand its business model, Ford is aggressively pursuing emerging opportunities with investments in electrification, autonomy and mobility. Ford provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company.  For more information regarding Ford and its products and services, please visit

About the National Archives

The National Archives and Records Administration is an independent Federal agency that serves American democracy by safeguarding and preserving the records of our Government, so people can discover, use, and learn from this documentary heritage. The National Archives ensures continuing access to the essential documentation of the rights of American citizens and the actions of their government. From the Declaration of Independence to accounts of ordinary Americans, the holdings of the National Archives directly touch the lives of millions of people. The agency supports democracy, promotes civic education, and facilitates historical understanding of our national experience. The National Archives carries out its mission through a nationwide network of archives, records centers, and Presidential Libraries, and on the Internet at:

About the National Archives Museum

The National Archives Museum, created by the National Archives in partnership with the Foundation for the National Archives, has transformed the visitor experience at the National Archives’ Washington, DC, building, and includes the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, the David M. Rubenstein Gallery and its Records of Rights permanent exhibition, the award-winning Public Vaults permanent gallery, the William G. McGowan Theater, the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery for special exhibits, the Boeing Learning Center, the Digital Vaults online exhibit, and the DocsTeach website. These components make the rich resources of the National Archives accessible to Americans nationwide.