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Reading 4: The Inauguration Ball; New York Times, March 8, 1865

“The Washington ‘season’ is past, and there certainly could not have been a more magnificent nor graceful finale; not alone to the Winter’s gaiety, but to the ceremonies which have made Abraham Lincoln our President again for the next four years, than the time-honored National Inauguration Ball which came off last night; and it is entirely appropriate that not alone with the firing of cannon and waving of banners, in which men alone participate, but with music and dancing should we meet and celebrate this signal occasion, when the gentlemen are expected to be as gallant, and the ladies as lovely as possible.

The marble halls of the Patent-office were selected as the most commodious and best adapted in the city. The hall appropriated to dancing is two hundred and eighty feet long, by about sixty feet in width; and the floor is laid in large blocks of blue and white marble. Its decorations were really beautiful—emblems, banners, and devices being tastefully disposed on the walls, while the elaborately frescoed ceiling imparted an air of decided grandeur. Among the decorations the American flag was most prominent, while the various flags of the different army corps formed an appropriate accompaniment. A gallery at the east end was occupied by a fine brass band, which gave music for the promenade, while in the centre, on the south side, a splendid string band furnished music for the dance.

Beside this spacious hall, a wing, three hundred feet in length, was appropriated for the promenade, and a corresponding one on the opposite side for the supper-room. The music was excellent, and had several halls and the entire building been thoroughly lighted, which they were not, the effect would have been much finer. But gas is certainly not good in Washington, though said to be very abundant. On a dais, at the northern side, were sofas and chairs in blue and gold for the President and family...

As early as 9 o’clock the carriages began to arrive, and soon the ball-room was thronged. The excellent bands of music soon set the lovers Terpsichore into the graceful mazes of the dance. At about 10:30 o’clock an avant courier cleared the way from the main entrance, when his Excellency, accompanied by Speaker Colfax, entered the hall. Following was Mrs. Lincoln upon the arm of Senator Sumner. They walked down the centre of the long hall, and turning at the upper end returned mid-way to the dais, when they became seated. Mr. Lincoln was evidently trying to throw off care for the time; but with rather ill success, and looked very old; yet he seemed pleased and gratified, as he was greeted by the people. He wore a plain black suit and white gloves.

Mrs. Lincoln looked extremely well, and was attired in the most elegant manner; her dress was made of white satin, very ample and rich, but almost entirely covered by a tunic or rather skirt of the finest point applique. Her corsage, which was low, and the short sleeves, were ornamented richly by a berthe made of the same material, and the shawl, also of the same rich lace, were exquisite. Passementerie of narrow fluted satin ribbon and nouds completed the dress. Her jewels were of the rarest pearls, necklace, ear-rings, brooch and bracelets. Her hair, which was put plainly back from her face, was ornamented with trailing Jessamine and clustering violets most gracefully. She looked exceedingly well with her soft, white complexion, and her toilet was faultless. Her manners are very easy and affable.

Mr. Robert Lincoln, a fine-looking young man, wearing the uniform of a Captain in the regular army, was also present.

About 11 o’clock Secretaries Seward, Welles, Attorney-General Speed and a large number of diplomats, accompanied by their wives and daughters, made their appearance. Mrs. Secretary Welles, a lady of rather petite figure, was dressed in a mode-colored silk, with black lace shawl. Mrs. Secretary Usher, of about the same stature, wore a rich dress of garnet satin, very plainly but richly made. Mrs. Postmaster-General Dennison, who is a very fine-looking lady, wore a most becoming dress of heavy black velvet, brilliant jewels and hair plainly dressed. Her daughter was in white muslin, embroidered in black. Mrs. Fred. Seward, wife of the Assistant Secretary of State, was attired in a pretty rose-colored silk handsomely trimmed. Mrs. Senator Harris, who has the appearance of a well-preserved English lady, wore a most elegant dress of corn-colored silk, trimmed with pointe applique. Mrs. Senator McDougall was also richly attired. The wife of our artist Carpenter was dressed in light silk, with a fuchu of tulle. One of the most elaborate and rich dresses in the room was worn by Mrs. George Francis Train; it was very finely plaided blue silk, trimmed with a flounce of thread lace, almost as deep as her skirt, and other laces to match. Her hair was powdered with gold. Mr. Train was also present.”

Questions for Reading 4

1. What aspects of the Inauguration Ball of March 6, 1865 did the New York Times correspondent feel were important to share with readers?

2. Who did the correspondent specifically mention in the article about the National Inauguration Ball (select four people)? What information do you know about these people based on the correspondent’s account? Why was it important to let readers know about these particular people?

3. What atmosphere is conveyed by this article? In your own words, how would you describe this event reported by the New York Times newspaper in 1865?

Reading 4 was adapted from "The Inauguration Ball," New York Times, March 8, 1865.


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