1789 – Although a ball was held to honor first President George Washington, it was not held until a week after the inauguration.
1809 – Dolly Madison hosted the very first Inaugural Ball, with 400 guests, after her husband, James Madison was inaugurated. The ball was held at Long’s Hotel and tickets were sold for $4 a piece.
1833 – By the time President Andrew Jackson was inaugurated, 2 balls were held in his honor.
1841 – William Henry Harrison attended all 3 balls held in his honor.
1849 – The inauguration of Zachary Taylor saw the growth of the balls into high society events. In fact, the guest count was so large, a temporary wooden building was erected in Judiciary Square for this occasion alone.
1853 – Franklin Pierce asked the ball to be cancelled due to the loss of his son.
1857 – Since the number of balls, and guests, were growing, it was thought that one big ball that could accommodate more guests should be held, rather than multiple balls. So, for the inauguration of James Buchanan, another temporary ballroom was built in Judiciary Square. The amount of food purchased for that event included $3000 worth of wine, 400 gallons of oysters, 500 quarts of chicken salad, 1200 quarts of ice cream, 60 saddles of mutton, 8 rounds of beef, 75 hams, 125 tongues (from the JCCIC website).
1865 – For Lincoln’s 2nd inauguration, the model room of the Patent Office was used, marking the first time a government building was used for such an occasion.
1893 – Grover Cleveland’s Inaugural Ball at the Pension Building was covered by the New York Times. In their article, published March 5, 1893, the reporter repeatedly notes the abundant use of flowers, bunting, and colored electric lights. From the article “Electricians had strung ten miles of wire to carry the current to the 10,000 lamps called for by the plans.” There were 2 regular bands performing that evening, the Marine Band, and a 120 piece orchestra. The caterer’s provisions included over 60,000 oysters, 10,000 chicken croquettes, 7,000 sandwiches, 150 gallons of lobster salad, 300 gallons of stewed terrapin, 150 boned turkeys, 300 gallons of chicken salad, 1,300 quarts of ice cream, and hundreds of pounds of pate de foie gras. The reporter also noted that, the offices of the building were designated as certain areas (coat checks, suites, etc.) and “as a finishing touch in the line of arrangements to meet all emergencies, ten barbers had set up a shop in one of the offices, where he who had missed trains or had suffered other delays might be made presentable.”
1913 – Woodrow Wilson asked for his inaugural ball to be cancelled due to expense.
1921 – Warren G Harding also asked for the ball to be cancelled to “set an example of thrift.” However, the chairman of the ball committee hosted a private event at his own home
1949 – Ball officially revived by Harry Truman after years of smaller gatherings and charity balls.
1953 – Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inauguration marked the comeback of multiple balls, as 2 balls were held due to demand for tickets
1957 – By the time of Eisenhower’s 2nd inauguration, demand was so high that 4 balls were held.
1961 – President Kennedy attended 5.
1989 – By the time of the inauguration of President George H. Bush, the number had grown to a staggering number of 11 inaugural balls.
1997 – For President William Clinton, 14 balls were held.