Sunday, January 19, 2014



Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) The National Armory was the site of the Inaugural Gala for President-elect John F. Kennedy 53 years ago tonight, January 19, 1961.

President and Mrs. Kennedy
Presidential Inaugural Ball
January 20, 1961
Photo by Abbie Rowe
National Park Service Image

The show was produced by Kennedy friend and political supporter, Frank Sinatra, who described his role as "the most exciting assignment of my life."

The President-elect had stayed at Mr. Sinatra's Palm Springs home after being declared the winner of the presidential election of 1960 the previous November.

Frank Sinatra was assisted in the production by JFK brother-in-law, actor Peter Lawford.

Carl Anthony says that the 1961 Inaugural Gala...

"featured not only a wide variety of types of entertainment but performers more diverse than ever before."

The cast included....

Laurence Olivier
Ethel Merman
Bette Davis
Frederic March 
Sidney Poitier
Anthony Quinn
Janet Leigh
Tony Curtis
Gene Kelly
Nat King Cole
Jimmy Durante
Harry Belafonte 
Milton Berle.

The Gala, which was delayed in starting because of a snowstorm that hit the Nation's Capitol that day, included the music of Leonard Bernstein's Orchestra.

The President-elect and Vice-President-elect entered the Armory to the strains of "Anchors Aweigh."  The great gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, sang the National Anthem.

Jacqueline Kennedy wore the unforgettable Oleg Cassini "ivory double-faced silk satin" gown with cockade trim.  The dress established Mrs. Kennedy's style on the eve of becoming First Lady.

The cockade expressed pride in her French ancestry and love of history. During the American Revolutionary War, General George Washington's soldiers wore black cockades and French General the Marquis de Lafayette wore a black and white cockade.

Jacqueline Kennedy
Inaugural Gala Gown
JFK Library Photo

After the show, the President-elect said...

"I am proud to be a Democrat has been identified with excellence, and we saw excellence tonight."

Twenty years later, in January 1981, Frank Sinatra would produce another Inaugural Gala.  That one was for President-elect Ronald Reagan.


"The Inaugural Gala That Was,", January 18, 2013.