1939 3¢ Inauguration of Washington
Issue Date: April 30, 1939
First City: New York, New York
Quantity Issued: 72,764,550
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Flat Plate
Color: Bright red violet
U.S. #854 commemorates the 150th anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration as the first President of the United States. Washington was inaugurated on April 30, 1789, on the balcony of the Senate Chamber at Federal Hall on Wall Street. Robert Livingston, the Chancellor of New York, administered the oath of office. New York City would serve as the nation’s capital for a year, before moving to Philadelphia.
America’s First Presidential Inauguration
On April 30, 1789, George Washington was inaugurated as America’s first president.
Earlier in the year, on February 4, 69 members of Congress unanimously voted to elect Washington the first president of the United States. While Washington was initially reluctant to take the position, he eventually agreed to out of a sense of duty.
Washington borrowed $600 to travel from his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia, to New York City for his inauguration. (New York City was the nation’s capital at the time.) Washington’s journey from Mount Vernon was much like a parade honoring a national hero. Every city and town along the way held a celebration.
Inauguration day began with a military salute at Fort George at sunrise. Then beginning at 9 am, church bells throughout New York City rang for a half an hour. At 12:30, Washington left Franklin House for Federal Hall. A military escort that included 500 men including a horse troop, artillery, Grenadiers, light infantry, and Scottish Highlanders accompanied him. The 57-year-old president-elect rode in a cream-colored coach to Federal Hall at Broad and Wall Streets.
After arriving at Federal Hall, Washington went to the Senate chamber and met with the two houses of Congress. Then at 2 pm, Washington was brought our onto the balcony outside of the Senate chamber for his inauguration, so “that the greatest number of the people of the United States, and without distinction, may be witnesses to the solemnity.”
There was no Supreme Court or Chief Justice at the time, so New York’s highest-ranking judge, Chancellor Robert Livingstone, gave the Oath of Office. There was a brief moment of confusion as Livingstone discovered there wasn’t a Bible available. A runner found one at a nearby Masonic Lodge, and Washington’s inauguration was able to continue.
Washington took his oath of office with his hand on a Bible and pronounced “So help me God” at its conclusion, a tradition that has been followed by all but two US Presidents. After he finished his oath, he kissed the Bible and a 13-gun salute followed. Livingston then announced the crowd, “Long live George Washington, President of the United States!”
President Washington then delivered his inaugural address in the Senate Chamber. After the ceremony, the President’s carriage couldn’t be found in the sea of spectators jamming Wall Street. Washington suggested that the Vice President and members of Congress walk with him as he traveled seven blocks to a previously arranged church service. Fireworks, paid for by private citizens, concluded the inaugural celebration that evening.
FDR – A President’s Stamp Collection
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was an avid stamp collector. While President, he took a very active hand in the development and design of U.S. stamps. He proposed themes, suggested colors and designs, and even made sketches for new stamps. Roosevelt had a hand in about 200 new stamps. On the morning of the day he died (April 12, 1945), Roosevelt approved the design for “Towards United Nations” (U.S. #928).
After his death, Roosevelt’s personal collection was offered in four auctions in New York City in 1946. While President, he had received items such as U.S. essays and die proofs of 20th century stamps. This raised a controversy, as some philatelists argued that such items actually belonged to the U.S. government. Still, many people wanted to own an “FDR stamp” and even common, modern stamps from his collection brought high prices far beyond normal value.