Highlights of Past InauguralsHistorians/History
"And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man." -- John Kennedy (1961)
Longest Inaugural Addresses (Over 3,500 words)
- James Monroe's second (4,467)
- Martin Van Buren (3,838)
- William Henry Harrison (8,445)
- Abraham Lincoln's first (3,634)
- Benjamin Harrison (4,388)
- William McKinley's first (3,967)
- Calvin Coolidge (4,059)
- Herbert Hoover (3,801)
Shortest Inaugural Addresses (Under 1,500 words)
- George Washington's second (135 words)
- Zachary Taylor (996)
- Abraham Lincoln's second (698)
- U.S. Grant (1,128 for the first, and 1,337 for the second)
- Teddy Roosevelt (985)
- Franklin Roosevelt's fourth (559)
- John Kennedy (1,355)
Q & A
The most expensive inaugurals in history were ... ?The most expensive inauguration in the 20th century by far was Bill Clinton's 1993 inauguration, which came in at a whopping $25 million. Eight years later George W. Bush's inauguration cost $40 million.
Have inaugural balls ever been suspended?
Abraham Lincoln held a ball to celebrate his re-election during the Civil War. Woodrow Wilson dropped inaugural balls during both of his inaugurations and the three presidents who followed--Harding, Coolidge and Hoover--did as well (though they held charity balls). The wheel-chair bound FDR held concerts instead of balls at his first three inaugurals. At his fourth, held during World War II, he dispensed with ceremony altogether. After the end of the war inaugural balls were in fashion again. In 1961 there were 5 balls. JFK attended them all. In 1981 the first overseas ball was held in honor of Ronald Reagan and satellite balls dotted the country. In 1989 there were 9 balls. In 1993 Bill Clinton had 11, in 1997 14.
Have inaugurals always been held outdoors?
The first swearing-in--George Washington's--was held outside the Federal Building in New York City; he gave his speech inside the Senate. Subsequently he and other presidents for more than a generation took the oath indoors, in either the House of the Senate, where they delivered their inaugural addresses as well. In 1817, at the first Monroe inaugural, the ceremony was moved outside after Speaker of the House Henry Clay refused to allow senators to bring over their gilt-edged chairs. Monroe's next inaugural was held indoors, but beginning with Andrew Jackson inaugurals were almost always held outdoors. In the nineteenth century presidents normally gave their address first and then took the oath. In the twentieth century the practice was usually reversed. In 1945 FDR broke with tradition and took the oath on the second floor of the South portico at the White House. There have been several explanations offered for his decision. Some say it was owing to World War II, which was in its final stages. Others say it was because FDR was ill and unable to make the trip up to the Capitol without difficulty (he died some three months later). And then there's the explanation offered by Senator Harry Byrd, Jr. He explained that FDR took the oath at the White House because of a dispute between FDR and Byrd's father, who was also a senator.
Have presidential transitions always gone smoothly?
While most transitions have been handled with grace by both winners and losers, a few stand out as notable exceptions. In 1801 John Adams slipped out of the city before Jefferson was sworn in, which many Jeffersonians considered offensive (Adams claimed he intended no slight and may not have; at the time it was not expected that presidents would appear at the inaugural of their successor. Adams and Jefferson had exchanged pleasant letters a short time earlier). In 1825 at the swearing-in ceremony Jackson graciously shook hands with John Quincy Adams after losing to Adams. But four years later feelings had become so bitter that Jackson, now the winner, refused to pay a courtesy call on President Adams. Adams, in turn, declined to attend the inauguration. In 1861 Lincoln had to sneak into the capital to avoid the risk of assassination. In 1869 outgoing President Andrew Johnson refused to attend U.S. Grant's inauguration (Johnson had been impeached by Republicans allied with Grant). In 1877 Republicans feared that disappointed supporters of losing candidate Samuel Tilden were planning to march on the Capitol and resort to violence to prevent the swearing-in of Rutherford B. Hayes. In 1933 FDR and Hoover refused to exchange pleasantries on the ride to the Capitol. In 1969 protesters threw rocks at Nixon's motorcade. In 1974 Nixon was not present when Gerald Ford was sworn-in to replace him.
What inaugurals occurred during times of trouble?
Five inaugurations took place during stormy times. Martin Van Buren took office the same day the Panic of 1837 began. (The Panic was triggered by the decision of the trading firm owned by Philip Hone to suspend payments after others had defaulted on payments owed to Hone.) In 1857 the Supreme Court rendered the Dred Scott decision shortly after Buchanan's inauguration. In 1933 FDR took office amidst the worst banking crisis in American history. In 1981 the American hostages held by Iran were released just as Reagan took office.
Most embarrassing statements made in a presidential inaugural?
Madison, in his second address, delivered shortly after the onset of the War of 1812, said (referring to the British): "They have not, it is true, taken into their own hands the hatchet and the knife, devoted to indiscriminate massacre, but they have let loose the savages armed with these cruel instruments; have allured them into their service, and carried them to battle by their sides, eager to glut their savage thirst with the blood of the vanquished and to finish the work of torture and death on maimed and defenseless captives."
William Howard Taft said that the federal government was powerless to intervene in the South to protect black voting rights"so long as the statutes of the States meet the test of [the Fifteenth] amendment and are not otherwise in conflict with the Constitution and laws of the United States." Bluntly he announced:"it is not the disposition or within the province of the Federal Government to interfere with the regulation by Southern States of their domestic affairs." At the time he spoke blacks were being lynched weekly and sometimes daily. Yet Taft claimed that great progress was being made.
Have vice presidents always appeared at the inauguration of the president?
In 1821 Monroe's vice president, Daniel Tompkins, took the oath in New York instead of traveling to Washington as he had four years earlier. In 1853 Pierce's vice president, William Rufus King, ailing, was in Cuba trying to recover his health and could not attend the inauguration. He took the oath in Cuba several days later. He returned to his home in Alabama a short time later and died before making it to Washington. Andrew Johnson had asked Lincoln for permission to delay taking the oath until mid-April so he could stay in Tennessee and provide for the transition to a new government that had pledged loyalty to the Union. Lincoln, advised by the cabinet, refused. (What if Lincoln had said yes? Then when Lincoln was shot, president pro tempore of the senate, Lafayette S. Foster, would have been next in line of succession and become acting president under the terms of the presidential succession act.) Johnson, a member of the Senate, gave a speech when he took the oath as vice president. It was a disaster and so incoherent that many suspected he was drunk (he was actually suffering from the effect of strong medication.). Most vice presidents gave brief remarks upon taking the oath until the vice presidential swearing-in ceremony was moved outdoors in 1937, when Jack Nance Garner, FDR's veep, took the oath on the same platform as the president. From then on vice presidents spoke little or said nothing at their swearing-in.
What inaugurals were marked by sadness?
Andrew Jackson's wife died shortly after his first election as president. William Henry Harrison died after catching a cold at his inauguration. Franklin Pierce's inaugural was shadowed by the death of his young son Bennie. Abigail Fillmore, the outgoing president's wife, caught cold at the ceremony and died a month later. Pierce's vice president, William Rufus King, was in Cuba and ill and could not attend the inauguration. He took his own oath in Cuba several days later and died a short time later after he had returned to his home in Alabama. Wilson was so ill in 1921 that he was unable to participate in the swearing-in of his successor Warren Harding. FDR appeared so ill at his fourth inaugural in 1945 that Woodrow Wilson's widow, Edith, commented that he looked like her husband shortly before his death.
Was Jefferson's statement in his first inaugural that we are all Republicans and all Federalists really an appeal to bipartisanship?
Much as Americans like to quote Jefferson's seemingly impartial appeal, there was a political purpose behind it. First, he had been elected as president in the House of Representatives with the votes of Federalists and wanted to assuage them. Second, as he explained in a letter to a friend, he hoped to bring back into the fold straying Republicans who had left the party because of the anti-French hysteria in 1798.
What have been the outstanding sights at an inaugural ball?
- weaving mill (1857)
- hot air balloon (1857)
- Buffalo Bill performed (1889)
- Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders on horses (1905)
- replica of PT 109 on parade (1961)
- Ike lassoed by a cowboy (1953)
- Jimmy Carter walking hand-in-hand with Rosalynn Carter down Pennsylvania Avenue (1977)
"Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."--Franklin Roosevelt (1933)
Has the weather ever affected an inaugural?
In 1873 it was so cold that the guests at the second-term inaugural ball for President Grant shivered and the champagne turned to ice. His was the coldest inauguration in history--near zero degrees. The wettest inauguration was probably Benjamin Harrison's. It rained so hard that outgoing President Cleveland held an umbrella over Harrison's head. By the time Harrison had finished only 4,000 spectators remained. Because of a snowstorm at William Howard Taft's 1909 inaugural the swearing-in had to be moved inside the Senate chamber, the first time the ceremony was held indoors in 76 years. (Taft was concerned about the health of the ageing chief justice.) At Woodrow Wilson's second inaugural it was so cold the president was forced midway through his address to pause to put on a coat; the crowd roared in approval. It snowed so hard the night before JFK's inaugural that many dignitaries found it difficult to make it, including former President Herbert Hoover, who circled the city in an airplane for an hour before being forced to return to Florida. The temperature the day of the inaugural was 22 degrees. In 1985 Ronald Reagan's inaugural was moved indoors to the Rotunda when weather reports predicted (falsely, as it turned out) that the temperature would drop to zero; his parade was cancelled.
"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem."--Ronald Reagan (1981)
"We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it." -- Thomas Jefferson (1801)
Different Ways Presidents Have Referred to God
- Great Parent of the Human Race (George Washington)
- That Being who is supreme over all of us (John Adams)
- Infinite Power (Thomas Jefferson)
- God (James Monroe and most modern presidents)
- His Favor (John Quincy Adams)
- That Power (Andrew Jackson)
- Providence (Franklin Pierce)
- Divine Providence (James Buchanan)
- Him (Abraham Lincoln)
- Giver of Good (Teddy Roosevelt)
- Almighty God (FDR)
Most celebrated Inaugural Addresses
- Thomas Jefferson's in 1801
- Abraham Lincoln's in 1861 and 1865
- Woodrow Wilson's in 1913 and 1917
- Franklin Roosevelt's in 1933 and 1937
- John Kennedy's in 1961
The First ...
- president to add, at the end of his oath, "so help me God," was George Washington.
- primitive inaugural parade took place in 1805 when Jefferson was accompanied to the White House by a group of mechanics.
- inaugural ball was organized by Dolley Madison in 1809 at Long's Hotel. There were 400 guests.
- swearing-in ceremony held outdoors was Monroe's in 1821.
- major inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue was in 1889 for Benjamin Harrison.
- photograph of an inauguration was Buchanan's in 1857.
- parade featuring major floats was Buchanan's; one depicted the Constitution.
- inaugural ball lighted by electric bulbs was Grover Cleveland's second, in 1893.
- swearing-in recorded on film and a record was William McKinley's.
- First Lady to ride with the president back to the White House following the swearing-in was Helen Taft.
- First Lady to participate in the swearing-in ceremony was Lady Bird Johnson in 1965. She held the Bible for LBJ as he took the oath of office.
- women to participate in an inaugural parade was in 1917 for Wilson's second inaugural. Women won the vote during his second term.
- president to arrive by train for his inauguration was William Henry Harrison.
- president to catch a death-killing cold was William Henry Harrison in 1841, who died a month after taking office.
- president to have his mother in attendance at his swearing in was James Garfield. (George Washington visited his mother on his way to his first inaugural in New York.)
- inaugural parade to feature representatives of an American dependency was in 1901 when a contingent of Puerto Ricans marched in McKinley's parade.
- president to arrive at the Capitol from the White House in a car was Warren Harding.
- inaugural address carried by radio was Calvin Coolidge's in 1925.
- inaugural address filmed by a newsreel camera with sound was Herbert Hoover's in 1929.
- inaugural to be held on January 20 was FDR's second, in 1937.
- incoming vice president sworn in on the outdoor platform used by the president was John Nance Garner in 1937. (Before this most veeps were sworn in in the Senate.)
- inaugural address carried on live television was Harry Truman's in 1949.
- fully integrated ball was held by John Kennedy, who involved thousands of blacks in his festivities. (FDR had a colored people's ball, Truman had a few token blacks at his, Ike had minority dinners where ethnic groups celebrated.)
- inaugural parade to feature black participants was in 1865 when black soldiers marched.
- swearing-in for a president to take place on the West front of the Capitol was in 1981 for Ronald Reagan.
"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." --Abraham Lincoln (1865)
- Washington's inauguration was delayed two months. The House of Representatives needed that time to assemble a quorum.
- Washington carried a dress sword and wore a brown suit made in Hartford, Ct.
- At his first inaugural. Martha did not attend, though she had wanted to and the ceremony was delayed for a time in the expectation she would show up.
- Washington's first inaugural was held at Federal Hall in New York City. He arrived in a carriage drawn by four horses. At night there were fireworks.
- Washington's second inaugural was simple. Washington's address was a mere 135 words long. He dressed in a black velvet suit with gold shoe buckles.
- Vice President John Adams stayed home to care for his sick wife.
- Abigail Adams did not attend John's inauguration. She was home taking care of her ill mother, who died a month later.
- Jefferson was the first president to take the oath in Washington, DC. His election had been settled by the House of Representatives only two weeks earlier. He walked to his inaugural. So little was known about inaugurals that Jefferson asked the chief justice if he had to take an oath other than what was in the Constitution. (The answer was no.)
- 1,000 people attended his inaugural. he spoke so quietly few were able to hear him.
- John Adams slipped out of the city quietly and did not attend the ceremony of his successor.
- The British secretary sniffed that at Jefferson's second inaugural levee at the White House blacks and dirty boys had been present.
- Madison invited Jefferson to ride with him in his carriage to the Capitol for his swearing-in. Jefferson declined, saying he did not want to draw attention from Madison. Jefferson was present when Madison took the oath, but sat with the people and not on stage.
- Inauguration day in 1821 fell on a Sunday. Monroe postponed taking the oath until Monday, leaving the country without a prescient technically for one day, according to some scholars. Three other inaugurations in history have fallen on a Sunday: 1849, 1877, and 1917.
- Monroe held his first inaugural outdoors before a crowd of between 5,000 and 8,000 people. The inaugural committee wanted it held inside the renovated House of Representatives, but Speaker of the House Henry Clay wouldn't allow it after the Senators insisted on bringing in their gold painted chairs.
- In 1821 Vice President Daniel Tompkins took the oath in New York instead of traveling to Washington.
John Quincy Adams
- His father John Adams was still alive but at age 90 too old to attend the inauguration.
- J.Q. Adams's wife was ill and did not attend the inauguration. That night he went to the ball without her.
- Adams refused to attend Jackson's inaugural because Jackson had declined to call on him, as was customary.
- Jackson's wife Rachel died after the election shortly after discovering the ugly statements that had been made about her and her family. Enemies had claimed that she and Jackson had married before her divorce to another man had gone through, implying that their marriage was illegal.
- 30,000 people came out to see Jackson inaugurated--the largest crowd by far to watch up to that time. (Only two other inaugurations had been held outdoors: Washington's first and Monroe's first.)
- Jackson was the first president to open the White House to the people. A mob of 20,000 ransacked the place, destroying furniture and rugs. Jackson had to flee by a window. The guests were finally encouraged to leave when buckets of spiked drinks were placed on the White House lawn.
- Jackson's second inaugural was held inside the House of Representatives. It was a quiet affair. Jackson was so ill he did not attend either of the two balls held in his honor.
William Henry Harrison
- Harrison's wife was ill and did not attend the inauguration, staying at home in Ohio.
- Whigs erected a log cabin in honor of Harrison, who claimed to have been born in one during the campaign though he actually had been born in a red brick mansion on the James River in Virginia.
- Harrison delivered his inaugural outdoors. He gave the longest inaugural address in history and served the shortest term, having come down with a bad cold owing to inclement weather and his age (he was 68). There were more than 50,000 people in attendance. The ceremonies surrounding the inauguration were, according to John Quincy Adams, the grandest since Washington's. Harrison attended several balls. Tickets to the pricey ball cost $10, to the peoples' ball, $5.
- Tyler was the first president to assume the office upon the death of the incumbent. He was notified of Harrison's death by Daniel Webster's son and took the oath the next day.
- He insisted on being called president and not acting president, establishing a precedent followed thereafter when vice presidents suddenly inherited the office of president.
- He took the salary of president even though some, including John Quincy Adams, thought Congress needed to give its approval.
James K. Polk
- Polk delivered his address under a pouring rain and before a sea of umbrellas.
- Samuel Morse tapped out the events in morse code to a receiver in Baltimore--a first.
- Tickets to the fashionable ball cost $10, to the peoples' ball, $2.
- Officials had forgotten to provide tickets for the diplomatic corps to the fashionable ball, so they went instead to the peoples' ball. One foreign minister's wife was seen dancing with her gardener.
- The balls produced a surplus; the profits went to an orphanage.
- On their ride to the Capitol Taylor told outgoing President Polk that Arizona and California were too distant to be run by the United States and should be allowed to establish independent governments. Polk was shocked.
- Taylor shook hands with throngs of people at the White House following the swearing-in.
- Lincoln, an outgoing Whig congressman, lost his hat and spent an hour searching for it. He never found it.
- After Taylor died--he had eaten a bowl of cherries and cream on a hot summer day--Fillmore was notified and took the oath the following day from the same judge who administered the oath to Tyler when harrison had died suddenly. The White House was literally covered in black.
- Fillmore wrote out a message to the people upon his ascension to the presidency; he declined to read it.
- Pierce was the only president to affirm rather than swear an oath to the Constitution.
- He came into the White House under the most unfortunate personal circumstances of any president. His 11 year old son Bennie had died just a short time earlier before his parents eyes when their train car jumped the tracks.
- His wife refused to attend the inauguration after learning that Pierce had lied to her about the presidency falling into his lap. he had actually campaigned for the party nomination in secret. She regarded Bennie's death as God's punishment for lying.
- Pierce's vice president, William Rufus King, was in Cuba and ill and could not attend the inauguration. He took his own oath in Cuba several days later and died a short time later after he had returned to his home in Alabama.
- Abigail Fillmore, the outgoing president's wife, caught cold at the ceremony and died a month later.
- Pierce delivered his address from memory.
- Because the Pierce family was in mourning for Bennie, no balls were held.
- When Pierce finally walked upstairs in the White House to go to bed the night of his inaugural he discovered the Fillmore's had left the house in a mess and there weren't any servants. So he made up his own bed and went to sleep.
- A small inaugural parade consisting of several floats--a first--marked Buchanan's inauguration as president.
- 50,000 people were in attendance.
- The Pierces remained as guests of Buchanan at the White House for several days.
- A man in a hot air balloon took off from the White House and floated to Maryland as part of the festivities.
- The ball was the biggest ever held. It took place in a temporary structure at Judiciary Square.The ball lasted until dawn. buchanan left at midnight.
- Buchanan was barely able to attend his own inauguration because of a stomach disorder; he was accompanied at all times by his physician. He came down with an intestinal infection contracted by many people staying at the National Hotel. His nephew died from the disorder 3 weeks later.
- Lincoln is the only president-elect to sneak into the capital for his inauguration. Security officials had warned him to do so because of threats on his life. But he and Buchanan rode in an open carriage to the ceremony (surrounded by armed soldiers).
- Lincoln warned friends not to bring their wives to the ceremony on account of the possibility of violence.
- Lincoln took the oath before a half-finished Capitol. He wore steel-rimmed glasses as he read his speech. Senator Stephen Douglas famously helped by taking lincoln's silk hat from him. In the audience of 30,000 were 4 future presidents: Hayes, Garfield, Arthur and Harrison.
- At a White House reception following his second inaugural, Lincoln intervened with a guard to let in Frederick Douglass.
- At Lincoln's second inaugural it rained all morning, leaving the streets full of mud. The dome of the Capitol behind him, however, was now finished.That night he and Mary attended an inaugural ball at the Pension Building; proceeds from the $10 tickets went to widows and orphans.
- Andrew Johnson delivered an embarrassing speech after he was sworn in as vice president, raising questions about his fitness for office.
- His father, a tanner, was present at the inauguration.
- Grant refused to ride with his predecessor, Andrew Johnson, to the Capitol. Johnson refused therefore to attend the ceremony.
- Shortly after Grant began his address his daughter ran up to him and tugged at his arm. She was quickly escorted to her seat.
- The first inaugural ball was a disaster. The throngs mobbed the kitchen and wrecked havoc.
- It was so cold at Grant's second inaugural--near zero --that during the parade afterward some soldiers fell to the ground. Musical instruments didn't work. That night the the crowd at the ball, held in a temporary structure, froze. They kept their coats on in a failed effort to get warm.
Rutherford B. Hayes
- Hayes was selected as president by a special commission set up by Congress just two days before his inauguration at 4am by an electoral vote of 185 to 184. Inauguration day fell on a Sunday. Hayes was sworn in a day early on Saturday. Grant recommended not waiting until Monday because of rumors the defeated candidate's supporters might take to the streets and try to prevent Hayes's swearing-in. Grant did not want there to be a day when we didn't have a president. Hayes was sworn in at a private ceremony.
- On Monday March 5, 1877 Hayes was sworn in at the Capitol. But there was no grand parade. There hadn't been time to organize one.
- After he took the oath, Garfield kissed his mother, a widow who had raised him alone in a log cabin. Then he kissed his wife.
- The inaugural ball was held at the Smithsonian's castle. No alcohol was served, in keeping with the custom of Lemonade Lucy, the outgoing president's wife.
- Arthur took the oath at 2:15 in the morning on September 20, 1881 at a brownstone in New York City, just hors after learning from a newspaper reporter that Garfield had died. The next day he traveled to Washington and took the oath a second time at the Capitol from the chief justice so that the ceremony would be recorded in the annals of the Supreme Court. Grant and Hayes were present at the swearing-in.
- Cleveland was the first Democratic president since Buchanan a quarter century earlier. 150,000 came out to watch his inaugural.
- The ball was held in the Pension Building, though it was unfinished. Souza performed. Notably, outgoing President Arthur attended.
- Cleveland won more popular votes than Benjamin Harrison in the follow-up election of 1888, but Harrison won more electoral votes. On their way out of the White House Cleveland's wife told the servants to be sure to keep everything just as it was--they'd be back. Four years later they were.
- Cleveland's second inaugural took place in a snowstorm. Baby in tow, his young wife Frances, whom he had married in his first term, "stole the show."
- The inaugural parade the second time around lasted 5 hours.
- Harrison's inaugural was so rainy that some soldiers from his old Civil War regiment, marching in the parade, caught cold and died afterward.
- 12,000 people attended his inaugural ball at the now-finished Pension building.
- McKinley took the oath on a Bible presented by the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
- His 84 year old mother attended and so did his epileptic wife, Ida.
- At his 2nd inaugural Ida had to leave early on account of the pouring rain.
- 8 days after McKinley was shot in Buffalo Teddy Roosevelt took the oath as the youngest man ever to become president. He was 42. He had been out hiking in the Adirondacks when he got the news that McKinley had died. To reach a railroad station for his trip to Buffalo he had to travel through the night on rough dirt roads in an old wagon.
- He took the oath in front of members of the cabinet. When he noticed only three reporters were present, he invited more.
- TR did not use a bible. He did swear an oath to defend the Constitution.
- At his second swearing-in in 1905 TR wore a ring containing a lock of Lincoln's hair, given him by Lincoln's secretary, John Hay, who served as TR's secretary of state.
- Officials let people stand on the roof of the Capitol to watch TR be sworn in, as can be seen from pictures of the event.
- TR was protected at the inaugural in 1905 by a group of Rough Riders surrounding him on horses.
- Before the inaugural ball TR ate dinner with his niece Eleanor and fiance Franklin at the Pension Building.
- Following his 1905 inauguration TR promptly went on a six week hunting trip.
William Howard Taft
- Taft was nervous as he began his address and fumbled for his glasses.
- Both Tafts, Mr. and Mrs., wore large oversize hats. But TR stole the show when he made his exit following the swearing-in ceremony.
- The day before Wilson was inaugurated 5,000 suffragettes paraded through the capital in demand of voting rights.
- Wilson was the first Southerner to serve as president since Andrew Johnson.
- Among the West Point cadets who participated in the inaugural parade was Dwight Eisenhower.
- Wilson's second inauguration fell on a Sunday; he took the oath on Sunday at a private ceremony at the Capitol and then again on Monday. The most elaborate security precautions since the Civil War were taken at the inaugural, which took place at a time when war was raging in Europe; machine guns were manned around the Capitol.
- Wilson rode with Harding to the Capitol but was too tired to attend the ceremony when they arrived. He signed some bills and left, limping on a cane. He was the only president to remain a resident of the capital after leaving office.
- A PA system carried Harding's voice to the crowd.
- After his address Harding went to the Senate to present the credentials of his nominees for the cabinet, reviving a custom dormant since Jefferson.
- Harding's parade was small and consisted of a dozen cars and cavalry troops. Harding wanted things kept simple. There was no inaugural ball. That night he and First Lady Florence attended a private party.
- Coolidge took the oath on August 3rd at 2:47 am at his home in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. His father, a notary public, administered the oath. Using a phone at the General Store, the only phone in town, they phoned the attorney general to get the precise wording of the oath. The ceremony took place in the family sitting room by the light of a kerosene lamp. Coolidge did not use a bible; it was not the custom to do so in Vermont when public officials swore an oath. At 3am employees of the phone company arrived to install a phone. Coolidge used it at 3:30 to phone Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes. That morning Coolidge's father used the phone and then ordered it removed. At 7am Coolidge left the house by car to catch a train to Washington.
- Coolidge's inauguration in 1925 was spare. His young son John had recently died. His inaugural parade lasted an hour.
- Hoover was sworn in by Chief Justice William Howard Taft. Taft got the oath wrong, saying "preserve, maintain and protect" instead of "preserve, protect and defend."
- Hoover's inauguration was the first broadcast to foreign countries, including Japan.
- 50,000 attended Hoover's inauguration, which was the most elaborate since Taft's 20 years earlier. It was pouring rain. Instead of an inaugural ball, the Tafts attended a charity ball.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
- On the morning of his first inauguration Roosevelt went to church on Lafayette Square. Presiding at the service was Endicott Peabody, who had married he and Eleanor 28 years earlier. He then went to the White House for a silent ride to the Capitol with Herbert Hoover. Jack Nance Garner, the incoming veep, skipped the traditional ride as "all that formality and tom-foolery stuff" and delivered a farewell address as speaker of the House of Representatives.
- FDR used a Dutch bible that had been in his family for 250 years. He chose the 13th chapter of the first epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, which includes the passage about love.
- 100.000 attended FDR's first inauguration. MIllions listened on the radio.
- FDR's widowed mother attended the ceremony.
- After watching the long parade, FDR huddled with aides to address the banking crisis.
- FDR's son John, a student at Harvard, drove up to the White House in a jalopy but was blocked from coming in until he was able to convince guards of his identity.
- FDR held no balls at any of his inaugurals. Instead of balls the Democrats held concerts and an opera. FDR attended concerts in 1933 and 1937 but not in 1941.
- At FDR's second inaugural it rained. Commenting on the crowd, FDR said, "If they can take it, I can." He delivered his address without an umbrella. The parade lasted just an hour and a half.
- Fala tried to catch a ride to the 3rd inaugural. When he was discovered sitting in the car at the White House he was removed.
- In 1945 FDR was sworn in on the back porch of the White House overlooking the South lawn. In attendance was Woodrow Wilson's widow, who observed that FDR looked as Wilson did just before he died. After the brief ceremony guests ate a cold lunch.
- Truman was meeting with Sam Rayburn and friends at Capitol when he took a call telling him to return to the White House on April 12, 1945. Two hours after arriving at the White House he was sworn in. The ceremony took place in the cabinet room. The chief justice said mistakenly, "I, Harry Shippe Truman ...." Truman responded, "I, Harry S. Truman ...."
- Truman's election in 1948 came as such a surprise that the Democrats celebrated with the biggest celebration in history, with more than a million people in attendance. On the morning of his inauguration he ate breakfast with veterans from Battery D, his old World War I unit, telling them to call him "Harry."
- After Truman took the oath in 1949 B-36's flew overhead. Then he personally led the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, reviving an old tradition.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
- Truman, to Ike's chagrin, called Ike's son home from the Korean War to watch the inauguration. Hoover was invited to watch from the inaugural platform.
- Ike began his inaugural address with a prayer. It was a first. He had cooked this idea up earlier after discussing it with Mamie. It came as a surprise.
- Ike had wanted a simple parade. All he was able to block was fireworks. His parade, celebrating the return of the Republicans to power after a 20 year hiatus, was the grandest in history. 26,000 people participated in the parade itself. 62 bands marched. Ike led the parade from an open air convertible Cadillac. The parade lasted more than four hours. A cowboy lassoed Ike, to his irritation. There were 2 balls and 6 orchestras.
- In 1953 there were 21 million TV sets. Four years later there were three times as many. Some 60 million people watched the inauguration on television. 200,000 attended in person.
- 700 soldiers worked all night to clear the roads prior to JFK's inaugural. Ike invited the Kennedy's over to the White House for coffee before the inaugural. They then rode in a car with a bubbletop to the Capitol. Robert Frost had prepared a special poem for the occasion but found he couldn't read it because the sun was too bright. Instead, he recited a poem from memory. Smoke at one point appeared at the podium. Richard Cardinal Cushing, thinking it was a bomb, stalled long enough for technicians to discover the problem was a short.
- The platform erected to hold news cameras was larger than the platform used by the president.
- The parade featured a PT 109 model. The parade lasted 3 hours. There were 5 inaugural balls. JFK attended them all.
- LBJ took the oath inside Air Force One in 1963 just hours after President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. The oath was administered by a female judge--a first.
- LBJ rode to his inaugural in a bulletproof limousine. He delivered his address standing behind bullet-proof glass.
- Lady Bird held the bible for LBJ--a first.
- As LBJ drove back to the White House he jumped out of the car to shake hands with people from his alma mater, Southeast Texas State College, alarming his Secret Service agents.
- Nixon in 1969 put his hand on the bible passage from Isaiah: "They will beat their swords into ploughshares."
- Nixon delivered an inaugural address promising to bring the country together. But during his ride back to the White House, in a first for an inaugural, protesters threw rocks and cursed him.
- Nixon had 6 inaugural balls.
- Eisenhower, ill and in the hospital, could not attend the 1969 inauguration and died shortly thereafter.
- After Nixon resigned from office Ford took the oath in the East Room of the White House. He then delivered a brief inaugural address. The most famous line was: "My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over."
- After thanking Gerald Ford for healing the country after Watergate, Carter delivered an address that mixed politics and revivalism, according to columnist James Reston.
- In a surprise move, Carter walked from the Capitol to the White House, cheering Americans eager for a presidency that broke with the imperial traditions of Richard Nixon and others.
- Minutes after Reagan officially became president Iran released the hostages it had been holding for more than a year, in a final humiliation of Jimmy Carter, who had worked for their release during his term.
- Reagan moved the inaugural from the East front of the Capitol to the West front, establishing a new tradition. From the West front more people could watch. Reagan, a westerner, said he wanted to face west.
- In 1985 Reagan's inaugural was moved indoors to the Rotunda on account of cold. Only a thousand people watched in person.
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