1877 Rutherford B. Hayes is inaugurated in a private ceremony On this day in 1877, Rutherford B. Hayes is sworn in as the 19th president of the United States in the Red Room of the White House. Two days later, Hayes was again inaugurated in a public ceremony. Some historical accounts claim that Hayes’ first swearing-in ceremony had occurred in secret due to threats made on the new president’s life. Other accounts say that since inaugural day fell on a Sunday, Congress decided to perform a private ceremony the Saturday before the official inauguration date and repeat the performance in public the following Monday. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that Hayes’ life had been threatened, as his 1876 election had been hotly contested. For four months, competing factions in Congress as well as their like-minded countrymen argued over the election results. Hayes had lost the popular vote by a slim margin of 250,000 votes, yet appeared to have won a majority in the Electoral College. Accusations of fraudulent Electoral College vote counts in three southern states (including Florida, which would again play a major role in a contested election in 2000) led Congress to form an electoral commission to make the final decision. On March 2, the commission voted along party lines and put the Republican, Hayes, in office. Hayes, a devout, honest and principled man, had earned the nickname “Old Granny” for his attention to manners and his teetotaling lifestyle. He and his family were ardent abolitionists and temperance reformers. (It was assumed that his wife Lucy insisted that he ban all alcohol from the White House–an act that appalled visiting dignitaries and earned her the nickname “Lemonade Lucy.” However, it was originally Hayes’ idea to force temperance on White House visitors.) Advisors and cabinet members would often join Hayes and his family in twice-daily prayer and signing hymns. As his presidency followed the notoriously corrupt terms of Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant, supporters appreciated Hayes’ sense of fairness and willingness to please both parties. Detractors and cynics, jaded by years of dishonest administrations, meanwhile, derided him as a fraud. Hayes’ presidency was notable for his role in presiding over the end of post-Civil War Reconstruction. In an effort to please southern Democrats, he agreed to pull the last federal troops out of the former Confederate States, mistakenly believing that southern Democrats would enforce civil rights for black Americans. Hayes resisted partisan pressure in making federal appointments and fought legislation to prevent Chinese immigration into the United States. After campaigning on a pro-labor platform, Hayes disappointed workers when he used federal troops to quell the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, a move many saw as an abandonment of his reformist principles. He kept his promise to serve only one term and quietly left office in 1881. 1879 United States Geological Survey created Congress establishes the United States Geological Survey, an organization that played a pivotal role in the exploration and development of the West. Although the rough geographical outlines of much of the American West were known by 1879, the government still had astonishingly little detailed knowledge of the land. Earlier federal exploratory missions under men like Ferdinand Hayden and John Wesley Powell had begun to fill in the map, yet much remained to be done. Congress decided to transform the earlier system of sporadic federal geological explorations into a permanent government agency, the United States Geological Survey (USGS). From the beginning, the USGS focused its efforts on practical geographical and geological investigations that might spur western economic development. Since the vast majority of the nation’s public land was in the West, the USGS became one of the federal government’s most important tools for encouraging the exploitation of western natural resources. Congress appointed Clarence King, a brilliant young mining engineer and geologist, as the first director. King, who had previously done considerable work for western mining companies, viewed the USGS as a tool for aiding further mineral exploitation. As a result, the first major reports produced under King’s tenure concerned the economic geology of two important mining districts, Nevada’s Comstock Lode and Colorado’s Leadville silver district. King’s attempts to aid western mining won him praise from both mining companies and western congressmen, but King was eager to make his own fortune in the mining business. He resigned as director in 1881 to pursue what he hoped would be more lucrative opportunities. John Wesley Powell, a bold geologist-explorer who had led the first American explorations of the Grand Canyon, succeeded King as director. Powell extended the work of the survey into new areas like paleontology and soon became controversial for his bold assertion that much of the arid West would remain unsettled without large-scale irrigation projects. The direct and plainspoken Powell was so closely associated with the USGS during his 14-year term as director that many people have mistakenly believed he was the first director of the agency. Despite his expansion of the survey’s mission, though, Powell never abandoned the practical economic emphasis established by King. Subsequent directors of the USGS also remained true to King’s early focus on aiding the economic development of the West, providing topographical and geological maps that have continued to prove essential to the mineral, agricultural, and hydraulic development of the region to this day. 1845 Congress overrides presidential veto for first time On this day in 1845, Congress reins in President John Tyler’s zealous use of the presidential veto, overriding it with the necessary two-thirds vote. This marked Congress’ first use of the Consitutional provision allowing Congressional veto overrides and represented Congress’ parting gift to Tyler as he left office. About two weeks earlier, Tyler had vetoed a Congressional bill that would have denied him the power to appropriate federal funds to build revenue-cutter ships without Congress’ approval. With the override, Congress insisted that the executive branch get the legislature’s approval before commissioning any new military craft. Tyler used the presidential veto 10 times on a variety of legislation during his administration; the frequency of his use of the veto was second only to that of Andrew Jackson, who employed it 12 times during his tenure.