Inauguration Fact: The inaugural ball tradition began with the first inauguration, held in New York.
It was unofficial, and President Washington attended alone—his wife had not yet arrived in New York.
Dolley Madison planned the first official ball, held for her husband President James Madison in Long’s Hotel in Washington, DC. Guests paid four dollars to attend.
During Woodrow Wilson’s Presidency, the inaugural balls were canceled to preserve the solemnity of the day. Franklin D. Roosevelt brought back the tradition with an official inauguration ball in 1933, but the war would make the following balls more subdued. In 1949, President Truman began the tradition of multiple balls so that more people could participate and see the President and First Lady.
Image: President William Jefferson Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton Dancing at the Tennessee Inaugural Ball in Washington, DC, 01/20/1997, ARC 5950246, Clinton Presidential Library.