Clinton went from 11 balls in 1993 to a record 14 in 1997.
The tradition has its roots with the country’s first inauguration in 1789, when sponsors held a ball in George Washington’s honor a week after he was sworn into office in New York City. The first official inaugural ball was 20 years later, when James Madison’s wife, Dolley, hosted a $4-per-ticket hotel gala for 400 guests.
President Jimmy Carter attempted to strip the balls of their glitz and glamour post-Watergate in 1977, calling his seven “parties” and charging no more than $25 each. And there is earlier precedent for avoiding an elaborate celebration, with Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Pierce and Warren Harding requesting no balls at all.
President Harry Truman revived the official ball in 1949, and organizers for President Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration in 1953 added a second event due to great demand for tickets. Eisenhower doubled the celebration to four balls in 1957.
According to the Senate historian, no president since Eisenhower has had as few as two official inaugural parties.