New York City and the Inauguration of George Washington

PODCAST Part One of our two-part series on New York City in the years following the Revolutionary War.

The story of New York City’s role in the birth of American government is sometimes forgotten. Most of the buildings important to the first U.S. Congress, which met here from the spring of 1789 to the late summer of 1790, have long been demolished. There’s little to remind us that our modern form of government was, in part, invented here on these city streets.

Related: Listen to Part Two of the series here.

Riding high on the victories of the Revolutionary War, the Founding Fathers organized a makeshift Congress under the Articles of Confederation.  After an unfortunate crisis in Philadelphia, that early group of politicians from the 13 states eventually drifted up to New York (specifically to New York’s City Hall, to be called Federal Hall) to meet. But they were an organization without much power or respect.

The fate of the young nation lay on the shoulders of George Washington who arrived in New York in the spring of 1789 to be inaugurated as the first president of the United States. His swearing-in would finally unite Americans around their government and would imbue the port city of New York with a new urgency.

This is Part One of a two part celebration of these years, featuring cantankerous vice presidents, festive cannonades, and burning plumage! (Part Two arrives in two weeks.)

FEATURING Washington, Adams, Madison, Livingston and, of course, HAMILTON!

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services or listen by clicking above.

You can also listen to the show on Google MusicStitcher streaming radio and TuneIn streaming radio from your mobile devices.

___________________________________________________________________________

The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

We are now producing a new Bowery Boys podcast every two weeks.  We’re also looking to improve the show in other ways and expand in other ways as well — through publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media.  But we can only do this with your help!

We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.

Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans.  If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!

________________________________________________________________________

The signing of the Constitution, September 17, 1787.

George traveling to his inauguration, as depicted in the 1896 book “The Century book of famous Americans : the story of a young people’s pilgrimage to historic homes” 

Internet Archive Book Images

And from an 1889 illustration:

Courtesy NYPL

 

President-Elect Washington crosses floating bridge (Gray’s Ferry) — and through one of many triumphal arches — on his inaugural journey, Philadelphia, April 20, 1789

NYPL

 

Washington’s reception on the bridge of Trenton in 1789 on his way to be inaugurated 1st president of the U. S.

NYPL

 

An illustration from 1855 depicts Old City Hall before it was renovated to house the new federal government.

Another view, with Washington’s six-horse coach in the foreground.

NYPL

 

A depiction of Broad Street and Federal Hall as it looked in 1797, but you can easily picture how filled the streets would have been on Washington’s inauguration just eight years earlier.

NYPL

 

Here’s how it looked on the 2008 HBO mini-series John Adams:

From an 1899 oil painting (artist unknown)

 

The presidential mansion on Cherry Street:

NYPL

 

The lovely Richmond Hill, the vice presidential mansion home of John and Abigail Adams

 

St. Paul’s Chapel, where Washington worshipped in New York.  More information at Trinity’s website.

  • Mark

    “from the spring of 1789 to the late summer of 1780”

    Perhaps to 1790?

    • Bowery Boys

      Thanks!

  • Keren

    Some links go to previous episode.

    Great episode, btw! Thanks!

  • Mark

    Thanks for keeping NYC history alive and interesting! In this episode, it’s mentioned around 4:40-4:50 that the Continental Army delivered a crushing defeat to the British in the “Battle of Yorkville” in 1782. This should be the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. I think it would also be appropriate to mention that the French played a very significant role (on land and by sea) in this victory against the British that helped lead to the treaty negotiations to end the war. Perhaps a quick correction can be mentioned in Part 2 of this episode for this important detail?