Jan 212013

A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, but an article by any other Nameless would not be as good.  Please join me in thanking Nameless for an excellent effort.

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.


If you want to see how well you remember, this one is formatted as a Quiz:


This one is probably the best:


This one is formatted as a Slideshow:



This one is formatted in PDF – so you can save a copy:




This one is also a Slideshow:


Originally posted at Daily Kos.


  13 Responses to “Inaugurations: Fun Facts, Firsts & Some Trivia”

  1. Looking over the picture, I was struck by the absence of dresses, and then saw that woman did not march in the Inaugural parade until 1917.


    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.


    How appropriate for this sainted Republican.  Maybe Reagan should have stayed outside and saved the US from Reaganomics (Trickle down economics).


    Thanks TC for the interesting facts.

    • Hmmmm … you're welcome.

      • Great job,  Nameless!  This must have taken quite a while putting together.  Thanks for the fun & interesting facts. 

        • Thank you.

          Yes, it actually took quite a bit more time than I originally thought it would.  Guess that's part of my OCD character.

          BUT it was really a hoot for me to learn all these arcane facts.  PLUS now I have resources that are Bookmarked for future enjoyment.

      • I'm sorry Nameless!  I started at the picture and dove right in!  I guess it is true. . . "When all else fails, read the instructions" or in this case, read the introduction.  Many, many apologies!!!!!!!

        You can probably see my very red face from there!

        Excellent article!

  2. Nameless, you did a great job!  Thanks.

  3. Great job, Nameless.  I would have added the two dates tied for Most Catastrophic Inauguration: 1/20/2001 and 1/20/2005.

  4. Thanks Nameless, I find stuff like this fascinating – now if I could only remember it!

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