A Memorable Occasion

The ball itself was a lavish affair; 7,000 people attended, and the building’s interior was decorated in bunting and lit with 3,000 gas lights. A figure of “America” in the Rotunda holding aloft an arc-light was particularly well-received, and enthusiastic mention was made of it in newspapers the following day.

A New York Times article described the ball as “a complete success in every way… far [exceeding] anything of the kind ever witnessed before in Washington.” The Times article went on to praise the building’s design: “the central dome seemed to swing in mid-air, with all the delicate and graceful tracery of lines and arches and clinging garlands.”

Remarkably, photographs still exist of the interior’s decorative treatments, created specially for Garfield’s ball.

Inaugural Dance Card with view of the Arts and Industries Building, 1881View of the statue America holding an arc lamp during the Garfield inaugural.Magazine illustration showing the crowds that attended the Garfield inaugural.