The Inauguration of 1917
Wilson took his second Oath of Office on March 4, 1917, as stipulated in the Constitution. Because the date fell on a Sunday in 1917, the oath took place in quiet obscurity, while Wilson was working at his desk and was witnessed by only family and a few members of his administration.
The following day, the city hosted the formal Inaugural Parade and ceremonies. Following the precedent of his former inauguration, Wilson opted not to hold an Inaugural Ball, but did attend and fully support the parade festivities.
The Inaugural Parade of 1917 was remarkable in several ways. As chairman of the one hundred and sixty member Inaugural Committee, Colonel Robert Newton Harper (photo at right) introduced several innovations in the ceremonies. One of his first innovations was the appointment of Mrs. James S. Boggs, former president of the Women's Wilson League (a Democratic campaign organization during the 1916 election) to the main steering committee for the festivities. This was the first time a woman had received the honor of Inaugural Committee membership. Eventually, Harper appointed another woman, Mrs. James H. Boggs, to this committee. He also appointed a committee entirely composed of women and welcomed women to march in the parade.
Harper's innovation did not stop with the inclusion of women in the parade planning. Avidly interested in technology and progress, Harper had the parade route wired with telegram cables so that the parade could be run more smoothly. With Wilson's hearty approval, he also had Wilson's inaugural speech transmitted by telephone to several cities across the nation. Following the counsel of Dr. Phillip S. Roy, chairman of the medical committee, Harper had first aid stations constructed periodically along the parade route to deal with medical emergencies, the first time anything of this nature had been attempted.
In addition to these innovations with the parade, Harper created a week long film exhibit, displayed in the Court of Honor in the District for the week previous to the parade. One of Harper's long-running civic projects in D.C. was a set of educational movies about the city. Film, a new medium, was just coming into the public mainstream at this time; Harper had previously chaired a committee and aided in fundraising to film several “movies” displaying the city, intending to distribute them across the country by train, so that people unable to travel to the Capital could experience the city. The Inaugural Festivities provided a venue to display these novelties to the District itself.