Historic, Horrible and Hysterical True Facts about Past Inaugurations (We Solemnly Swear!)

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), January 18, 2009 | Go to article overview

Historic, Horrible and Hysterical True Facts about Past Inaugurations (We Solemnly Swear!)


Byline: Jamie Sotonoff jsotonoff@dailyherald.com

Every U.S. presidential inauguration is historic in some way. It could be because of the weather, the profound speeches or the lavish parties.

As we prepare to make history again and swear in our first African-American president, we look back on some interesting facts about past presidential inaugurations.

Leading by example

Because of the wars and the Depression, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt refused to have celebrations or parties following their inaugurations in 1913 and in 1937, 1941 and 1945, respectively.

A lot of dancing

Bill Clinton had 14 different inaugural balls after his ceremony in 1997.

A cold reception

Ronald ReaganAEs inauguration ceremony in 1985 had to be moved indoors and the parade canceled because the noontime temperature in Washington, D.C., was only 7 degrees.

Historic firsts

Abraham LincolnAEs inauguration in 1865 marked the first time African-Americans participated in the inaugural parade. Woodrow WilsonAEs inauguration in 1917 marked the first time women participated in the parade.

From $4 to $300

Tickets to the first-ever inaugural ball in 1809 for James Madison cost $4 each. Tickets to ObamaAEs Illinois State Society Inaugural Gala cost between $300 and $500 (and itAEs sold out).

Bible swearing

Richard Nixon took the oath of office with his hand on two Bibles. Teddy Roosevelt didnAEt put his hand on anything.

Less is more

After his second inauguration in 1793, George WashingtonAEs speech was 133 words long. The longest inauguration speech (nearly 2 hours long and 10,000 words) was delivered by William H. Harrison in 1841. He did not wear a coat or hat on that cold day and died of pneumonia a month later, while in office.

On foot

Shunning the customary carriage, Thomas Jefferson walked the one block from his boardinghouse to his inauguration on Capitol Hill in 1801.

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