Presidents come and presidents go, but inauguration ceremonies and parades will always be iconic Washington, DC’s moments. Locals may grouse about traffic and crowds, but I bet most of us are secretly proud — and sometimes a little amused — by our place in the national spotlight.
Recently, I stumbled across some fun facts about inaugurations past. Enjoy!
★ George Washington ad-libbed his oath of office, ending it with the words “…so help me God.” Subsequent presidents have requested that the phrase be added to their oaths as well. Washington was the only president to kiss the Bible as he was sworn in. He went on to deliver the shortest inaugural address in US history: just 135 words.
★ Thomas Jefferson was the first president to be sworn in in Washington, DC.
★ While tickets to past inaugural ball have been scalped for as much as $12,500, the 400 tickets to James Madison’s celebration went for $4 apiece…a pretty penny in 1809.
★ John Quincy Adams was the first of only three presidents to bypass the Bible when sworn in; he placed his hand on a constitutional-law volume instead. Adams also broke with tradition on the fashion front, opting to wear trousers instead of knee breeches to his inauguration.
★ James Buchanan’s 1857 inauguration was the first to be photographed.
★ Party like it’s 1861! Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration was so wild the police had to be summoned.
★ Clocking in at 100 minutes and 8,495 words, William Henry Harrison’s speech was the longest to date. He delivered it in the middle of a snowstorm, wearing neither a coat nor a hat. Harrison died of pneumonia a month later.
★ Did you know: Theodore Roosevelt—not the youthful John F. Kennedy—was the youngest man inaugurated, just 42 years old.
★ William H. Taft was sworn into office as nearly 10” of snow fell in DC—an Inauguration Day record.
★ FDR’s 1937 inauguration was the rainiest to date (nearly 2”). That didn’t stop the stalwart president from enduring freezing sleet for 90 minutes as the inaugural parade splashed by.
★ A cowboy in the 1953 parade lassoed Texas-born president Dwight D. Eisenhower in the reviewing stand. (One hates to ponder the fate of any roughrider who tries that in this era…!)
★ JFK’s inauguration was hot! Cardinal Richard Cushing was delivering the invocation the podium caught fire. Luckily, a crisis was averted. That year Robert Frost became the first inaugural poet.
★ Jimmy Carter took his inauguration in stride, walking from the Capitol to the White House in the parade. Needless to say, the Secret Service was frenzied! Prior to Carter, the only president to walk the parade route was Thomas Jefferson. Since Carter, only President Regan has declined the stroll.
★ Prior to Donald Trump, who will be approaching 71 on January 20, Ronald Regan was the oldest inaugurated president, just 17 days short of his 70th birthday.
★ Bill Clinton’s second inauguration was the first to be live-streamed on the Internet.
★ President Obama’s first inauguration drew a record 1.8 million in 2009. It was also the most expensive inauguration to date, coming in at a price tag of more than $150 million. Private donors financed two thirds of the expenses. Richard Blanco became the first gay Latino inaugural poet when he spoke at Obama’s second inauguration.