The Dawn of a New Era: View of Yosemite Valley featured at Inaugural Luncheon

 In Leadership, Public Lands

View of the Yosemite Valley, 1865
Artist: Thomas Hill (1829–1908)
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Harold W. Lovell, 1971 (1971.245)

A famous painting from California’s Sierra Nevada, “View of the Yosemite Valley” is the featured painting at the 2009 Inaugural Luncheon for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. After today’s historical swearing-in of the first African American President of the United States, the new Chief Executive and his family were escorted to Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol for the traditional inaugural luncheon.

President Obama dined in front of a painting on loan from the New York Historical Society: the panoramic “View of the Yosemite Valley” by Thomas Hill. In a tradition that started in 1985, Congress selects a painting to reflect the theme of the inaugural ceremony and to serve as the backdrop for the head table. According to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, this painting was chosen because it “reflects the majestic landscape of the American West and the dawn of a new era. The subject of the painting, Yosemite Valley, represents an important but often overlooked event from Lincoln’s presidency—his signing of the 1864 Yosemite Grant, which set aside Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias as a public reserve.”

For a historical description of all traditional inauguration day events, visit the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies Web site.

Inaugural Words: 1789 to the Present: The New York Times Web site features an interactive tool that allows you to slide a bar back in history to view key words of presidential inauguration addresses. Full text of the speeches and front pages from the newspaper are also free to download.

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