Year
1877
Month Day
March 03

Rutherford B. Hayes is inaugurated in a private ceremony

On March 3, 1877, Rutherford B. Hayes is sworn in as the 19th president of the United States in the Red Room of the White House. Two days later, Hayes was again inaugurated in a public ceremony.

Some historical accounts claim that Hayes’ first swearing-in ceremony had occurred in secret due to threats made on the new president’s life. Other accounts say that since inaugural day fell on a Sunday, Congress decided to perform a private ceremony the Saturday before the official inauguration date and repeat the performance in public the following Monday.

It is not beyond the realm of possibility that Hayes’ life had been threatened, as his 1876 election had been hotly contested. For four months, competing factions in Congress as well as their like-minded countrymen argued over the election results. Hayes had lost the popular vote by a slim margin of 250,000 votes, yet appeared to have won a majority in the Electoral College. Accusations of fraudulent Electoral College vote counts in three southern states (including Florida, which would again play a major role in a contested election in 2000) led Congress to form an electoral commission to make the final decision. On March 2, the commission voted along party lines and put the Republican, Hayes, in office.

Hayes, a devout, honest and principled man, had earned the nickname “Old Granny” for his attention to manners and his teetotaling lifestyle. He and his family were ardent abolitionists and temperance reformers. (It was assumed that his wife Lucy insisted that he ban all alcohol from the White House–an act that appalled visiting dignitaries and earned her the nickname “Lemonade Lucy.” However, it was originally Hayes’ idea to force temperance on White House visitors.)

Advisors and cabinet members would often join Hayes and his family in twice-daily prayer and singing hymns. As his presidency followed the notoriously corrupt terms of Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant, supporters appreciated Hayes’ sense of fairness and willingness to please both parties. Detractors and cynics, jaded by years of dishonest administrations, meanwhile, derided him as a fraud.

Hayes’ presidency was notable for his role in presiding over the end of post-Civil War Reconstruction. In an effort to please southern Democrats, he agreed to pull the last federal troops out of the former Confederate States, mistakenly believing that southern Democrats would enforce civil rights for black Americans. Hayes resisted partisan pressure in making federal appointments and fought legislation to prevent Chinese immigration into the United States. After campaigning on a pro-labor platform, Hayes disappointed workers when he used federal troops to quell the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, a move many saw as an abandonment of his reformist principles. He kept his promise to serve only one term and quietly left office in 1881.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

LAPD officers beat Rodney King on camera

At 12:45 a.m. on March 3, 1991, robbery parolee Rodney G. King stops his car after leading police on a nearly 8-mile pursuit through the streets of Los Angeles, California. The chase began after King, who was intoxicated, was caught speeding on a freeway by a California Highway ...read more

"The Star-Spangled Banner" becomes official U.S. national anthem

President Herbert Hoover signs a congressional act making “The Star-Spangled Banner” the official national anthem of the United States. On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key composed the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner” after witnessing the massive overnight British ...read more

Congress passes the Missouri Compromise

After months of bitter debate, Congress passes the Missouri Compromise, a bill that temporarily resolves the first serious political clash between slavery and antislavery interests in U.S. history. In February 1819, Representative James Tallmadge of New York introduced a bill ...read more

Congress passes Civil War conscription act

During the Civil War, the U.S. Congress passes a conscription act that produces the first wartime draft of U.S. citizens in American history. The act called for registration of all males between the ages of 20 and 45, including aliens with the intention of becoming citizens, by ...read more

Helen Keller meets Anne Sullivan, her teacher and “miracle worker”

On March 3, 1887, Anne Sullivan begins teaching six-year-old Helen Keller, who lost her sight and hearing after a severe illness at the age of 19 months. Under Sullivan’s tutelage, including her pioneering “touch teaching” techniques, the previously uncontrollable Keller ...read more

Finland declares war on Germany

Finland, under increasing pressure from both the United States and the Soviet Union, finally declares war on its former partner, Germany. After the German invasion of Poland, the USSR, wanting to protect Leningrad more than ever from encroachment by the West—even its dubious ...read more

Ho Chi Minh Trail

The Ho Chi Minh Trail was a military supply route running from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia to South Vietnam. The route sent weapons, manpower, ammunition and other supplies from communist-led North Vietnam to their supporters in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. ...read more

First indoor game of ice hockey

On March 3, 1875, indoor ice hockey makes its public debut in Montreal, Quebec. After weeks of training at the Victoria Skating Rink with his friends, Montreal resident James Creighton advertised in the March 3 edition of the Montreal Gazette that “A game of hockey will be played ...read more

Congress overrides presidential veto for first time

On March 3, 1845, Congress reins in President John Tyler’s zealous use of the presidential veto, overriding it with the necessary two-thirds vote. This marked Congress’ first use of the Constitutional provision allowing Congressional veto overrides and represented Congress’ ...read more

United States Geological Survey created

Congress establishes the United States Geological Survey, an organization that played a pivotal role in the exploration and development of the West. Although the rough geographical outlines of much of the American West were known by 1879, the government still had astonishingly ...read more

“Birth of a Nation” opens in New York

Director D.W. Griffith’s controversial Civil War epic The Birth of a Nation opens in New York City on March 3, 1915, a few weeks after its West Coast premiere in Los Angeles. A 40-piece orchestra accompanied the silent film. The movie, at 2 hours and 40 minutes, was unusually ...read more

Faulty door dooms plane

A DC-10 jet crashes into a forest outside of Paris, France, killing all 346 people on board, on March 3, 1974. The poor design of the plane, as well as negligent maintenance, contributed to the disaster. Nearly two years earlier, on June 6, 1972, an American Airlines DC-10 was ...read more

Supreme Court rules on communist teachers

In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds a New York state law that prohibits communists from teaching in public schools. Coming at the height of the Red Scare in the United States, the Supreme Court decision was additional evidence that many Americans were concerned ...read more

Freedman’s Bureau created

On March 3, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln signs a bill creating the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, this federal agency oversaw the difficult transition of African Americans from slavery to freedom. The Freedmen’s Bureau, born ...read more

Treaty of Brest-Litovsk concluded

On March 3, 1918, in the city of Brest-Litovsk, located in modern-day Belarus near the Polish border, Russia signs a treaty with the Central Powers ending its participation in World War I. Russia’s involvement in World War I alongside its allies, France and Britain, had resulted ...read more