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Five (or So) Facts About the U.S. Presidential Inauguration

This Friday the 58th U.S. Presidential Inauguration will take place at our nation’s capital when Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president. Here are some interesting facts about the history of the ceremony and related events that you may not know.

Inaugural Address:

In his second inaugural address in 1793, George Washington spoke just 135 words, the shortest inaugural address ever given. Juxtapose that with the speech William Henry Harrison gave in 1841. Harrison delivered an 8,495-word speech lasting one hour and forty five minutes in the middle of a snowstorm without a hat or coat. Harrison’s presidency also is known as the shortest. He died a month after the inauguration from complications of pneumonia. Many believed that the long exposure to the elements during his lengthy speech contributed to his death.

Inaugural Celebrations:

The first inaugural ball was held the night after James Madison was sworn into office. A ticket to the ball? It cost just $4, which today would be worth around $60. Tickets to Donald Trump’s inaugural ball are estimated to range from $25,000 to $1,000,000.

As part of Abraham Lincoln’s 1865 presidential inauguration, African Americans were allowed to participate in the inaugural parade for the first time ever.

Inauguration Attendance:

Even though much of this past election was downright rancorous, Barack Obama and Hillary and Bill Clinton are expected to be in attendance at Donald Trump’s inaugural swearing in. At Andrew Jackson‘s first inauguration in 1829, outgoing president John Quincy Adams did not attend. The bitter campaign for president left a bad taste in both men. Jackson blamed offensive verbal attacks by Adams and his supporters for the death of his wife.

The first inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009 smashed the record for attendance (estimated at 1.8 million) previously held by Lyndon B. Johnson’s second inauguration attendance of 1.2 million in 1965.

Official Day of Inauguration:

Most presidential inaugurations from 1797 to 1933 (John Adams to Franklin Delano Roosevelt) were held on March 4. Since 1933, with a few exceptions, the ceremony has been held on January 20. One reason the inaugurations were held on March 4, prior to 1933, was to give precincts and states time to hand count and deliver all the votes, all with little technological help. The extended period between the election and the day of inauguration also meant an extended lame-duck session in Congress. So in 1933, with a more modern communications and systems of voting, Congress passed the 20th Amendment to establish the new inauguration day of January 20.

When January 20 falls on a Sunday, the official oath is still given on that day, but the ceremony, and another ceremonial oath, takes place on Monday the following day.

Location of the Inauguration:

Thomas Jefferson was the first president inaugurated in Washington, D.C. Jefferson was also the first to be inaugurated at the Capitol building in Washington. Most of the inaugurations were held outside on the eastern front of the building until after Jimmy Carter‘s presidency. Since 1981, beginning with Ronald Reagan‘s presidency, most ceremonies have been held on the spacious west side to accommodate more spectators.

There have been some exceptions to the standard location over the years. For Franklin D. Roosevelt’s final inauguration the ceremony was held in the White House. Roosevelt would die three months later, and Harry Truman would be sworn into office in the Cabinet Room of the White House.

The weather during Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration was so cold (minus 7 degrees) the event had to be moved indoors to the Capitol Rotunda, which was very much unlike his first inauguration in 1981 when the temperature hit 55 degrees.

Lyndon Baines Johnson owns the infamous title of being the only president ever to been sworn into office on board an airplane. Following John F. Kennedy‘s assassination in 1963, Johnson, accompanied by Jackie Kennedy and over 25 other dignitaries, squeezed into the stateroom of Air Force One. As the jet powered up, the oath of office was administered and Johnson became the 36th president. This event also marked the first and only time a woman has administered the presidential oath of office (Federal Judge Sarah T. Hughes).

You can find out more about the U.S. presidential inaugurations by exploring eLibrary. Check out eLibrary’s Research Topics browse page or do a basic search of each president, and be sure to check out the page on Presidential Inaugurations.

Here are more resources:

ProQuest Research  Topics:
American Presidency
Presidential Inauguration
U.S. Congress
U.S. Constitution

Other Resources:
U.S. Capitol Overview (KRT Interactive, eLibrary)
U.S. Presidential Inaugurations: a Web Guide (Library of Congress)