This blog was originally published on January 15, 2013.
The oath of office, the address, the poet laureate, and the parade. The presidential inauguration is the official swearing in of the new commander in chief. Over the centuries, it has expanded from a simple oath taking into a daylong event full of parades, galas and general pomp and circumstance.
With President Obama’s second inauguration approaching, let’s take a look back at some of the more memorable moments of inaugurations past.
1. Presidential inaugurations are held every four years on January 20th, unless the 20th is a Sunday. The original date was March 4th, but that was changed by the 20th Amendment in 1933. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the last president inaugurated on March 4thand the first inaugurated on January 20th.
2. George Washington’s second inaugural address is the shortest on record at 135 words. So far, this blog is 143.
3. The longest address (8,445 words and nearly 2 hours) and shortest presidency belong to William Henry Harrison in 1841. President Harrison did not wear a coat and soon caught a cold, which turned into pneumonia, which led to his death … 30 days after he took office.
4. Ever heard of President Atchison? Yeah, me neither. However, there are some who believe that David Rice Atchison was president for one day. President Polk’s term ended at noon on March 4, 1849. Incoming President Zachary Taylor refused to be sworn in until March 5th, because the 4th was a Sunday. As president pro tempore of the Senate, Atchison was next in the line of presidential succession, leading a few historians to believe that he served as acting president for those 24 hours.
5. It used to be customary for the inaugurated president to wear a top hat, the most formal accessory. John F. Kennedy was the last president to follow this tradition at his inauguration in 1961.
6. Following the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn into office on Air Force One. Due to the circumstances, Johnson took his oath on a missal (a liturgical book used by Catholics) and chose his friend and local judge Sarah T. Hughes to swear him in. She is the only woman in U.S. history to have sworn in a president.
7. After Vice President Spiro Agnew’s 1973 resignation and President Nixon’s 1974 resignation, Gerald Ford became the first person to hold the office of both president and vice president without having been elected to either. He was sworn into the office of president but never had a true inauguration ceremony.
8. Ronald Reagan took the oath of office in 1985 on Super Bowl Sunday. His inauguration was held the following day, and was the coldest on record — a frigid 7°!
9. President Barack Obama was sworn in twice in 2009. Following Chief Justice John Roberts’s lead, Obama recited the oath incorrectly. He was officially sworn in on the following day.
10. James Buchanan’s 1857 inauguration was the first to be photographed. William McKinley’s 1897 ceremony was the first to be filmed. Harry Truman’s inauguration in 1949 was the first to be televised. Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1997 was the first to be broadcast on the Internet. My, how times have changed.
So there you have it: 10 of the most memorable moments from past presidential inaugurations. And with Beyonce and Kelly Clarkson performing at this year’s inaugural celebration, there’s a chance this one may be one for the books too.