This rare print is the only known representation of the inauguration on April 30th, 1789 of the United States’ first president, George Washington.

Administering the president’s oath of office was Robert R. Livingston, chancellor of the state of New York, in the company of John Adams and numerous senators and other representatives. The historic occasion drew crowds of out-of-towners, who complained that no accommodations could be found in New York “for love, money, or the most persuasive speeches.”

Federal Hall etching

Federal Hall etching

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Federal Hall etching
Courtesy of the NYPL

Lavishing more attention on the splendor of Federal Hall’s design than on the prominence of the event, however, the engraver renders Washington and his officials as a gathering of diminutive figures huddled on the balcony of the imposing structure, one of the first architectural examples of the “federal” style of the new republic.

No longer extant today, Federal Hall stood on Wall Street at the head of Broad and was designated the seat of government when New York City was selected as the new nation’s capital.

Amos Doolittle (1754-1832) after Peter Lacour (fl. 1755-1795), Federal Hall, The Seat of Congress. Engraving, 1790.

Federal Hall in New York City, George Washington's first inauguration, April 30, 1789, where Chancellor of the State of New York, Robert Livingston, administered the oath of office to Washington on the balcony.

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Federal Hall in New York City, George Washington's first inauguration, April 30, 1789, where Chancellor of the State of New York, Robert Livingston, administered the oath of office to Washington on the balcony.
Amos Doolittle, Courtesy of NYPL


As part of our month-long Dear NYC series, we're looking at New York City gems hidden away at the New York Public Library. The NYPL’s four research centers offer the public access to over 55 million items, including rare books, manuscripts, letters, diaries, photographs, prints, maps, ephemera, and more. Integral to these robust collections is the Library’s extensive material related to New York City, and as NY works to come together, cope, heal and recover from the 2020 pandemic, economic uncertainty, and the many issues that divide us, it is important to look at that history and remember: New York is resilient. New York is strong. New York has seen its share of hard times. And, as always, with Patience and Fortitude (the names given to the Library’s beloved lions in 1933 by Mayor LaGuardia for the virtues New Yorkers needed to get through the Great Depression) we will get through it, together.