On April 23, 1789, president-elect George Washington was escorted by a joint congressional committee onto a specially-prepared barge for the trip to New York City. The vessel, with a keel of 47 feet, sported a mast and sail festooned with red curtains, an awning and 13 oars on both sides. The oarsmen, all New York pilots, wore identical white smocks and black caps. Directed by coxswain Thomas Randall. the barge shoved out about noon, moving across Newark Bay and up the New York Bay towards the city.
With a wide assortment of decorated crafts following the presidential barge, an impromptu maritime procession was formed. Upon passing the Battery in Staten Island, 13 guns fired their smoking salutes, directing all the vessels to display their flags. As Washington sailed closer to his destination at the foot of Wall Street, he encountered not only American ships but also a Spanish sloop of war, the Galveston, and a British packet. The packet fired a 13-gun salute which was answered by an American battery. The Galveston then fired 15 cannons, the first of these was "so powerful in its detonation " that it inspired five cheers instead of the customary three huzzahs.
Washington himself noted that:
The display of boats which attended and joined us on this occasion, some with vocal and some with instrumental music on board; the decorations of the ships, the roar of cannon, and the loud acclamations of the people which rent the skies, as I passed along the wharves, filled my mind with sensations as painful (considering the reverse of this scene, which may be the case after all my labors to do good) as they are pleasing.
As the barge landed at Murray's wharf sometime between 2 and 3 o'clock, Washington was greeted by his old acquaintance Governor George Clinton and thousands of cheering New Yorkers. Escorted by military guard to Franklin House at No. 3 Cherry Street, Washington barely had the opportunity to catch his breath when he was whisked away to Governor Clinton's mansion for an elaborate and extended dinner.
By the time the exhausted guest of honor retired to his new home, visions of this magnificent trip must have raced across his mind. Despite the gushing adulation bestowed upon him almost every step of the way, Washington was, in fact, humbled and concerned.
I greatly apprehend ... that my countrymen will expect too much from me. I fear, if the issue of public measures should not correspond with their sanguine expectations, they will turn the extravagant (and I may say undue) praises which they are heaping upon me at this moment, into equally extravagant (though I will fondly hope, unmerited) censures.'