Since March 4, 1801, when Thomas Jefferson walked the short distance from his boardinghouse to the nearby Capitol to take his oath of office as president of the United States, the building has served as the grand stage for almost all presidential inaugurations. While early inaugurations were small, local affairs, by Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration the crowds had swelled from thousands to tens of thousands, lining the parade route and packing the Capitol grounds. The entire nation shared in the excitement thanks to illustrated weekly newspapers, which delivered images within days of the event to homes across the country. With the nation on the brink of civil war, Abraham Lincoln feared that violence would mar his inauguration day. For the first time during an American presidential inauguration, the primary duty of the military units escorting the president was to protect him rather than to serve a ceremonial role. The inauguration was held on the east front of the Capitol, with the unfinished dome providing a symbolic image of the fragmented nation.