A more than 200-year old piece of history is on display today at the LBJ Presidential Library. George Washington’s presidential Bible, which was famously used in his inauguration on April 30, 1789, will be on display for one day only.
Washington placed his hand on this Bible when he took the very first presidential oath of office in the very young United States of America. The book is on loan from the St. John's Lodge No. 1, Ancient York Masons, Free & Accepted Masons. The Lodge, which is based in New York City, was founded in 1757 and is the oldest Free Masons’ Lodge in New York State.
On the day of Washington’s inauguration, preparations were complete for the ceremony when it was suddenly discovered that there was no Bible available for the swearing-in. A Freemason, who was standing nearby, quickly ran to his lodge where he got the Bible from the Lodge. The rest, as they say, is history.
Eugene Lindlau, a mason and member of St. John’s Lodge in New York City, says that his group strives to share the Bible with groups around the country.
“We like to display the Bible to schools and today it’s at the LBJ Library where the public can get to see it,” says Lindlau. “It really is one of history’s most important documents.”
The Bible, which is a King James Bible, is visiting Austin as a fundraising effort for the North Texas Masonic Historical Museum and Library in Plano, Texas. The Bible was on display at a public library and at fundraising events in Plano before it was carefully transported to Austin.
Lindlau says that, for security and educational purposes, at least three members of the Freemason group travel with the Bible when it goes on tour. It has taken more than two years of careful coordination, scheduling, and planning to bring the Bible to Texas. Every travel precaution is taken to ensure the Bible’s safety.
“It’s packed in a box, and then put in a secure box made of the material that the black box on airplanes are made of,” says Lindlau. He adds that the Bible rests in a climate-controlled setting at its home in New York.
In addition to serving as Washington’s Inauguration Bible, Presidents Harding (1921), Eisenhower (1953), Carter (1977), and George H.W. Bush (1989) each used this Bible for their inaugurations. The Bible has also been used at a number of presidential historical events, including Washington’s funeral procession (1799) and the dedication of the Washington Monument (1885).
The Bible is on display today until 5:00 p.m. Ticket prices for the event range from $3 for children and college students to $8 for adults. Free parking is available at the LBJ Library.