Online Exhibit

Lincoln's White House

The Lincolns would hold many balls and receptions during their tenure at the White House. However, according to friend Ward Hill Lamon, Lincoln was not always comfortable with the pomp and circumstance that came with holding such events. Lamon noted, “At the White House, [Lincoln] was compelled by custom and usage to have large receptions, to give dinners, and to adopt a life of conventional form and ceremony, to which it was not easy for him to conform, and which was far less agreeable than the simple and easy life he had led before."


Although Lincoln may have sometimes yearned for the quiet life he had left behind in Illinois, he was always a gracious host at these large events. But even Lincoln sometimes found it difficult to personally greet each guest.


According to newspaper reports over two thousand people attempted to crowd into the White House for the reception following the second inaugural, “At eight o'clock the gates were thrown open, when the grand rush was made by at least two thousand persons to gain entrance to the building, and the hustling and jolting was terrific. Some of the more unfortunate females who were caught in the surging mass, actually shrieked in pain, while several fainted and were carried away.”    


Lincoln and Mary greeting party guests at a ball, ca. 1865






Union Ball Invitation, 1861


Lincoln's Second Inaugural Ball Invitation, 1865