When James Buchanan was sworn into office on March 4, 1857, John Wood made history by making the first known photograph of a US Presidential inauguration. 

Wood was hired by Montgomery C. Meigs, an engineer managing the expansion of the US Capitol which added wings for the Senate and House. According to Robert O'Harrow's The Quartermaster, Meigs was an early days photography enthusiast. As prints became easier and more affordable to produce, he saw the value in using photography to make copies of architectural plans and hired Wood.

For the inaugural photo, Meigs constructed a small stage so that Wood could capture the scene. The crowd of more than 20,000 mostly stood on a platform Meigs had built to hide construction debris. His journal mentions that Wood was able to make the inauguration exposure in 4 seconds, as he had been experimenting with a 'photography process of great speed,' referring to the wet collodion process that was being widely adopted at the time. The image that resulted is an albumen print, resulting from a method of making prints that used a substance found in egg whites and table salt to bind photographic chemicals to paper.