Beginning with the first Inauguration of George Washington on April 30, 1789, Inaugurals have been marked by many firsts and more than a few fun records. So let’s recount some of the Inaugural highlights beginning with its first photograph.
This is a photo of Buchanan's Inauguration in 1857, the first such photo on record.
Note that the Capitol was still under construction. Not only were the steps not finished, but the stones to be used for them were covered with boards to serve as a platform for the viewers.
Shortest Inaugural Speech
March 4, 1793
At just 135 words, George Washington's second inaugural address was the shortest in history.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered the second shortest speech at 557 words during the 1945 ceremony.
First Inauguration Held in Washington, D.C.
March 4, 1801
Thomas Jefferson was the first president to be inaugurated in Washington, D.C.
The Marine Band first performed at an inauguration when they played at Thomas Jefferson's inaugural ceremony, as they have at every inauguration since
First Inaugural Ball
March 5, 1809
The first Inaugural Ball was held the evening after the swearing-in ceremony (March 4, 1809). It took place at Long's Hotel and tickets cost $4 each, which would be about $65 today.
First Inauguration Held Outdoors … Because Congress Argued About What Chairs to Use
March 4, 1817
James Monroe was the first to deliver his inaugural address outdoors in 1817, but only thanks to a feud between the Senate and House of Representatives. Politicians were fighting over which chairs would be used for the ceremony, so Monroe moved it outdoors – and they all stood.
First President to Wear Pants to His Inauguration
March 4, 1825
John Quincy Adams in 1825 was the first U.S. president to wear pants to an inauguration. Before that, they all wore “knee breeches.”
First to Be Sworn In on the East Portico Steps of the Capitol
March 4, 1829
Andrew Jackson was the first president to be sworn in on the east front portico of the U.S. Capitol.
First to Be Sworn In on the West Portico Steps of the Capitol
Jan. 20, 1981
The inauguration ceremonies were moved to a platform on the west portico – the “back door” of the Capitol – for the first time with President Ronald W. Reagan. But the west steps adjoin the Mall, with the Lincoln Memorial anchoring the far left end, so it provided space for crowds.
First President NOT Born a British Subject ... AND First Time a President & President-Elect Rode to Capitol Together
March 4, 1837
Martin Van Buren was the first president who was not born a British subject. His inauguration was also the first time the president and the president-elect rode together to the Capitol for the ceremony.
First to Become President on Death of Predecessor
April 6, 1841
John Tyler was the first vice president to ascend to the presidency upon the death of his predecessor, William H. Harrison.
First Inaugurations Covered by Telegraph
March 4, 1845
James K. Polk's inauguration was the first covered by telegraph.
First and Only President to Recite His Inaugural Address Entirely from Memory
March 4, 1853
Franklin Pierce was the first President to recite his Inaugural speech entirely from memory. He also affirmed the oath of office rather than swear it. Herbert Hoover was the only other President who also chose to “affirm” rather than swear the Oath of Office.
First Inauguration That Was Photographed
March 4, 1857
James Buchanan's inauguration is the first ever to be photographed. The ceremony took place at the Capitol, which was still under construction in 1857.
First Time African-Americans Were Allowed to Participate in the Inauguration
March 4, 1865
African-Americans participated in the inaugural parade for the first time during Abraham Lincoln's second Inauguration.
Coldest Inauguration in March – Marred by Dead Canaries, No Less
March 4, 1873
Ulysses S. Grant's second inauguration was the coldest of those held in March. The temperature at noon was 16 degrees. About 100 canaries that were brought in to enliven the festivities with song instead froze to death.
First to Be Filmed
March 4, 1897
William McKinley's inauguration was the first to be recorded by a motion picture camera.
First Time Women Were Allowed to Participate in the Parade
March 5, 1917
Woodrow Wilson was the first to permit women to participate in the Inaugural parade. And he was also the first president to take the Oath of Office on a Sunday – the day before (March 4, 1917).
First President to Ride in a Car to His Inauguration … AND Be Sworn in by a Former President
March 4, 1921
Warren G. Harding became the first president to ride to and from the inauguration ceremony in an automobile.
… AND it was the first and only time a former President, William H. Taft, administered the oath of office. Taft had been appointed the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
First to Be Broadcast on Radio
March 4, 1925
President Calvin Coolidge's inauguration was the first to be nationally broadcast on radio.
First to Be Filmed as a “Talkie”
March 4, 1929
Herbert C. Hoover was the first Inaugural ceremony recorded by talking newsreel.
The Oldest Bible Used Is the Only Bible That’s Written in a Foreign Language (Dutch)
March 4, 1933
FDR used the same Bible for all four of his Presidential Inaugurations. It is the oldest Inaugural Bible ever used, printed in 1686; and it’s the only one in a foreign language – it’s in Dutch.
First to Take the Oath on January 20th
January 20, 1937
Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first to take the oath of office on Jan. 20. The date had been moved from March by the Constitution’s Twentieth Amendment to shorten the lame duck period between the election and the inauguration.
First to Be Televised
January 20, 1949
President Harry S. Truman's 1949 inauguration was the first to be televised.
Longest Inaugural Parade
January 20, 1953
President Dwight Eisenhower presided over the longest inaugural parade on record at his first inauguration in 1953. The procession lasted a bruising four hours and 39 minutes.
First to Have a Poet
January 20, 1961
Robert Frost became the first inaugural poet when he recited at President John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961.
First to Have Oath Administered by a Woman – As Well As First and Only Time to Take Place on a Plane
Nov. 22, 1963
Lyndon Baines Johnson's hasty swearing-in was the first (and only) time the ceremony has occurred on an airplane. Johnson's swearing-in also marked the first time a woman administered the oath of office. Johnson took the oath of office on Nov. 22, 1963, hours after President John F. Kennedy's assassination in Dallas. U.S. District Court Judge Sarah T. Hughes administered the oath to Johnson on Air Force One.
First to Ride in Bulletproof Limousine
January 20, 1965
Lyndon Baines Johnson became the first president to ride in a bulletproof limousine.
First to Have the First Lady Participate in the Ceremony
Lady Bird Johnson became the first presidential wife to participate in inaugural ceremonies when she held a family Bible for her husband, LBJ
First to Serve as Both Vice-President and President Without Being Elected to Either Office
August 9, 1974
Gerald R. Ford became the first unelected vice president to become the first unelected president when he succeeded Richard M. Nixon.
By the terms of the 25th Amendment, Ford was appointed as the Vice-President when Spiro Agnew resigned in disgrace. And Ford became President when Nixon resigned in disgrace – Nixon was the first president in U.S. history to resign.
First to Walk the Parade Route Rather than Ride
January 20, 1977
President Jimmy Carter became the first president to walk the parade route from the Capitol to the White House.
Ronald Reagan Had Both the Warmest AND Coldest Inaugurations
January 20, 1981 and January 21, 1985
In 1981, Ronald Reagan enjoyed the warmest presidential Inauguration day on record with a toasty 55 degrees. Mother Nature got back at him for his second go-around when he was sworn in during 1985. That was the coldest day on record for an Inauguration, with a high temperature of 7 degrees. In fact, it caused the ceremony to be moved inside to the Capitol’s Rotunda.
First to Be Streamed on the Internet
January 20, 1997
William J. Clinton’s Inaugural ceremony was the first to be broadcast live on the Internet.
Probably More Records and “Firsts” Than Any Other President
January 20, 2009 and January 20-21, 2013
First African-American to be elected to the office of President of the United States
Largest attendance of any Presidential Inauguration in U.S. history
Largest attendance of any event in the history of Washington, DC – and possibly America
First woman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, to emcee the ceremony
First inaugural webcast to include Closed Captioning for the hearing impaired
Only the second – and probably last – President to have taken the Oath of Office four times
With today’s ceremony, Pres. Obama will share a unique bond with Franklin Delano Roosevelt – they will be the only two Presidents who have taken the official Oath of Office four times.
As you recall, because Chief Justice flubbed the Oath’s administration four years ago it was repeated the following day. And this year because the 20th fell on a Sunday – and because the 20th Amendment requires the Oath be given on January 20 – Obama will have taken the Oath both the mandatory day and today, the 21st.
To be sure, there are even more interesting Trivia Tidbits you can find in the many References for the above.
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