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The online exhibit "Taking the Oath: 150 Years of Gubernatorial Inaugurations" looks at the inaugurations of West Virginia's thirty-five governors from 1863 to 2013. The first inauguration took place on statehood day, June 20, 1863, when Arthur Boreman became governor. For subsequent governors, the 1863 state constitution provided that the governor's term, then only two years long, would begin on March 4 following an election. With adoption of a new constitution in 1872, the governor's term became four years, but the starting date remained March 4 until the 1930s, when it was changed to "the first Monday after the second Wednesday of January."

With the exception of the first inauguration, which was as much a celebration of the state's creation as a swearing in of the governor, early inaugurations were simple events. In fact, there is no indication that either Arthur Boreman or John Jacob, the fourth governor, had any fanfare at the start of their subsequent terms. The inauguration for William Stevenson, the third governor, consisted solely of taking the oath of office. Over time, however, inaugurations have become more elaborate affairs. Within a few short years, inaugural balls and dinners had become part of the occasion. Processions grew into parades with bands and other groups, and as the twentieth century progressed, technology made the events accessible to more people. In more recent decades, they have become multi-day celebrations. Inaugurations have become more expensive, too, with fundraising components and sponsors being a more visible part of the activities. Although large committees do much of the planning, and some elements are traditional to the official ceremony, gubernatorial inaugurations also reflect the wishes of the governors themselves.

Table of Contents

Chapter One: The Wheeling Years, 1863-1885
Chapter Two: The Constested Election, 1889-1890
Chapter Three: Charleston Celebrates, 1893-1909
Chapter Four: An Era of Change, 1913-1929
Chapter Five: Through Depression and War, 1933-1949
Chapter Six: The Era of Television, 1953-1965
Chapter Seven: "Majestic Spendor," 1969-1997
Chapter Eight: A New Century, 2001-2013

Library Display, January 2013

West Virginia Archives and History