Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

The 1949 Inauguration of President Harry S. Truman Historical Facts At-A-Glance

  • A Time to Celebrate - Although Harry Truman had been President for nearly four years, this was his first Inaugural celebration. Truman missed the pomp and circumstance that normally accompanies the rise to that office on April 12, 1945, when he took the oath of office during a somber ceremony at the White House following the death of Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

  • The Ceremony and Other Events- The oath of office and President's speech began at Noon on Thursday, January 20, 1949 on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. The Inaugural parade began at 1 p.m., and the Inaugural ball was held at the National Guard Armory at 10 p.m. the same night.

  • Kansas City Friends - Thousands of Kansas Citians flocked to Washington, DC to support their friend, and hometown hero. Several attended the Inaugural celebrations as special guests of the Trumans. Miss Elaine Bourke (Lally) of Kansas City, then 26, rode in the Inaugural parade as a special guest of Dr. and Mrs. Wallace Graham, friends of the Trumans. In 1996 she donated her gown Inaugural Ball to the Truman Library. Mrs. Mary Shaw Branton, a friend of Margaret Truman, also attended the festivities. On Jan. 20, 1999, Mrs. Branton will act as an honorary chairman of 50th Anniversary Inaugural Committee's gala fund raising event to benefit the Harry S. Truman Library Learning Center.

Inaugural "Firsts" - This Inauguration introduced several "firsts":
  • The debut of the current Presidential Seal of the United States of America at an Inauguration
  • The first openly integrated Presidential Inauguration; Harry and Bess Truman ensured that minorities were welcome to attend all events and stay in Washington hotels
  • Harry Truman was the first President to be sworn in using two Bibles
  • Presidential Seal - This Inauguration featured the debut of the current Presidential Seal of the United States of America. In October, 1945 President Truman signed an executive order which, for the first time, made a legal definition of the President's Coat of Arms, Seal and Flag. The new seal featured an eagle facing to it's right - the direction of honor - and toward olive branches in its right talon - symbolizing peace. The former design, first used in 1880 by President Rutherford B. Hayes, featured the eagle facing toward arrows in its left talon - symbolizing war.
  • Television - The 1949 Inauguration was the first to be nationally televised, and was estimated to have been viewed by 10 million Americans. More persons watched President Truman's Inauguration than ever before had seen a single event. It also was more than the total of all persons witnessing all previous Presidential Inaugurations.
  • Budget - The 1949 Inauguration was the most expensive and elaborate Inauguration to that date. Republicans in Congress, predicting a Dewey (Republican) victory, allocated a record budget of $80,000, which at that time was the largest amount ever allocated for an Inauguration. Following is a sample of how the funds (supplemented by general government funds) were spent by the Inaugural Committee:
  • Grandstand for Inaugural parade $189,000
  • Inaugural gala (ball) $ 29,000
  • Fireworks $ 3,950
  • Commemorative medals (souvenirs) $ 7,600
  • The Crowd - More than 600,000 visitors were expected in Washington, DC for the Inaugural celebration. The Inaugural parade was seven miles long. Trains arrived in Washington, DC every two minutes with visitors for the Inauguration. More than 5,000 persons were expected to sleep in Pullman cars in the railroad yard.

The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum is one of twelve presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. Since its dedication in 1957, the Truman Library has welcomed more than 8 million visitors and attracts approximately 100,000 people annually.

The Museum is open Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Regular admission fees: $8 for adults, $7 for seniors (65+), $3 ages 6-15, and under 6, free. Call 268-8200 or visit TrumanLibrary.org.

(Select information taken from The Kansas City Star, January 17-20 editions, 1949)