From 1802 until 1933 it was the tradition at the White House to hold an open reception at which anyone could come in and shake hands with the President. Here is a description of the 1865 reception that appeared in the New York Times:
The gala event of our New Year’s celebration was the annual reception of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln. The White House was thrown open at 12 o’clock, and the Cabinet Ministers, the Diplomatic Corps, the Judges of the Supreme Court and the Court of Claims, and the army and navy officers, paid, in the order of precedence, the compliments of the season to the President and his wife.
At 1 o’clock the citizens at large were presented. The Marine Band during the hours of reception discoursed excellent music, and the whole affair passed off with brilliancy, no less than five thousand people having gained admittance to the reception.
The President was in the best of spirits, and received the greetings of his friends in the most genial manner. (more…)