Myth Trivia: Surprising and interesting Inaugural Day facts

When Donald Trump becomes the 45th president of the U.S. on Friday, January 20, 2017, he will find that plenty of interesting inaugurations have preceded him.

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Statue of William Henry Harrison, Platt Park, Cincinnati, Ohio. Harrison gave the longest-ever inaugural address in 1841 and subsequently had the shortest presidency, expiring from pneumonia just a month later. (Image of Harrison statue via Wikimedia, CC 2.0 license)

CHARLOTTE, N.C., January 18, 2017 – Between the parties and the protests and throngs of people, Washington is going to be bursting at the seams come Friday. Donald John Trump will become the 45th President of the United States, and it only seems fitting to present some Inaugural Day trivia in honor of the occasion.

Every president has taken the oath of office in Washington, D.C. except for six. George Washington and John Adams were sworn in in Philadelphia. However, it should be noted that the United States capital had not yet been transferred to Washington, D.C. when they became president.

Chester A. Arthur became president in New York City, and three other presidents took the oath in seemingly odd locations; Theodore Roosevelt (Buffalo), Calvin Coolidge (Plymouth, Vermont) and Lyndon Baines Johnson (Dallas).

In the last three instances, the oath was administered because each man assumed office upon the death of his predecessor and took the Presidential oath where he happened to be at the time.


President Washington was sworn in on April 30, 1789. But until 1937, every other president took the oath in March in an effort to avoid bad weather.

In 1933, the 20th Amendment to the Constitution officially changed the ceremonial date to January 20 with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s second inauguration being the first one held on that day.

Other than Theodore Roosevelt, the traditional presidential oath was taken with a hand upon a Bible opened to a passage of the president-elect’s choice. No two president’s have chosen the same passage.

In 1853, Franklin Pierce was the first president to “affirm” rather than “swear” the oath of office, and Herbert Hoover is the only other chief executive to “affirm,” which he did in 1929.

From 1789 until 1993, the inauguration was blessed with clear weather with Ronald Reagan claiming both the warmest and the coldest inaugural days on record. On January 20, 1981 the temperature was 55. But four years later on the day of Reagan’s second inaugural, it was a brisk 7-degrees. Out of concern for the wellbeing of its participants, the ensuing Inaugural Parade was canceled by the Administration, with participants invited back at a later date to perform in concert format for the President.

Speaking of Reagan — during his second inauguration in 1985, he had to compete with the Super Bowl. The “Gipper” took it in stride, however.

The shortest inaugural address belonged to George Washington. That 1793 oration weighed in at just 135 words. On the flip side, William Henry Harrison gets the “Hot Air Award” with the longest inaugural address — 8,445 words — in 1841. The already elderly new president delivered this oration without a hat and in frigid weather, contracting a fatal case of pneumonia shortly thereafter and expiring after only a month in office.

Thomas Jefferson, our nation’s third president, was the first to be inaugurated at the U.S. Capitol, and he was the only president to have walked to and from his inaugural.

In 1809, James Madison held the first inaugural ball.

In 1857, James Buchanan’s inauguration was the first to be photographed.

William McKinley’s 1897 inaugural ceremony was the first to be record by a motion picture camera.

In 1909, William Taft’s wife was the first First Lady to accompany her husband in the procession from the Capitol to the White House.

All the women got into the act in 1917 when Woodrow Wilson’s second inaugural parade included women for the first time.

Continuing chronologically, Warren G. Harding was the first president to ride in an automobile to and from his inaugural in 1921.

When Calvin Coolidge assumed office initially in 1923 upon the sudden death of President Warren G. Harding, his own father administered the oath, making “Silent Cal” the first president to be sworn in by his father.

Coolidge also holds the honor of being the first president to have his inaugural address broadcast live on the radio. Just as interesting, Coolidge — re-elected as President in his own right in 1924 — was sworn in by ex-president William Taft in March of 1925. By then, Taft had become the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and is, to date, the only President to also have served on the nation’s highest court.

As for media coverage of inaugurations, Harry Truman takes the award for headlining the first televised Presidential inauguration in 1949.

So far, Lyndon Johnson is the only president ever to be sworn in by a woman. U.S. District Judge Sarah T. Hughes famously administered the oath of office on Air Force One in 1963, as the new President, former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and the Presidential entourage prepared to return to Washington after the tragic events in Dallas.

Jimmy Carter’s inaugural (1977) went alternative energy, employing solar heat on the chilly reviewing stand. Carter’s inaugural was also the first to be handicap-accessible.

The first ceremony in which the internet was used was Bill Clinton’s second inauguration in 1997.

Even now-departing President Barack Obama has made a noteworthy contribution to this week’s trivial pursuit, having had to take his first inaugural oath not once but twice. Obama improperly recited the oath on his first try saying “I will execute the office of president of the United States faithfully.”

That slight miscue was formally corrected on day two of Obama’s administration when he properly restated the oath again, saying, “I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States.”

Finally, just for fun, the two gems on today’s list of inaugural trivia belong to John Quincy Adams and Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was the first president to include African-Americans in the inaugural parade in 1865. As for Adams, well, in 1825 he was the first president to wear long trousers at his inauguration, thus ending the era of presidential knee britches forever.

Contact Bob at Google+

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod

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