A presidential inauguration is one of America’s most sacred traditions. Since the swearing in of George Washington to today’s ceremony, American inaugurations have been filled with historic, odd, patriotic, and unusual moments. Here’s a glimpse of notable stories from past inaugurations:
George Washington, 1789-1797
As the 1st president, George Washington set the tone and standard for the presidency. Many called for him to serve as president for a 3rd and 4th time, but he willingly stepped down as a testament to the great American experiment. His famous 2nd inaugural address was only 135 words. Image from Wikimedia.
Andrew Jackson, 1829-1837
Our 7th president invited the general public into the White House after his inauguration. Celebratory chaos ensued; people broke furniture and spilled food and drinks everywhere. It took 1 week to clean up. Image from Brittanica.
William Henry Harrison, 1841-1841
Our 9th president gave one of the longest inauguration speeches at almost 2 hours, over 8,000 words, and outside in freezing temperature with no coat or hat. This is probably the reason he died 1 month later from pneumonia. Image from Wikimedia.
Abraham Lincoln, 1861-1865
Our 16th president started his short second term near the end of the Civil War. His second inaugural address is one of the most famous inauguration speeches at just 700 words. Here’s the famous last line: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves.” Image from Wikimedia.
Ulysses S. Grant, 1869-1877
Our 18th president had a particularly cold second inaugural ball. They had 16 degree weather, high winds, and an unheated venue. Half of the guests did not attend, and the food and drinks froze before the ceremony commenced. Image from Wikimedia.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953-1961
Our 34th president ringed in his presidency with a cowboy famous for his rope tricks. He cowboy lassoed America’s new president at the inauguration. Image from Politico.
John F. Kennedy, 1961-1963
At the 35th president’s inauguration, Cardinal Cushing gave the traditional prayer. While he was speaking, the podium caught fire. The Cardinal continued speaking while Secret Service carefully and discreetly put the fire out.
Click here and look out for the smoke at 5:45 here! Image from Arlington Fire Journal.
Richard Nixon, 1969-1974
The 37th president was so concerned about pigeons on the inaugural parade route that he had staff spray chemical bird repellant. However, he faced an unanticipated consequence of this: the parade route was filled with dead birds. Image from CBS News.
Jimmy Carter, 1977-1981
Our 39th president wanted to be a leader of the people. Jimmy Carter surprised everyone by getting out of his limousine at the inaugural parade and walking in front of it. Image from New York Times.
Ronald Reagan, 1981-1989
Our 40th president was well-known for his love of jelly beans. At his inauguration, the ceremony planners brought in more than three tons of red, white, and blue Jelly Belly jelly beans. The blue Jelly Belly jelly bean did not exist at the time, so it was created just for this occasion. Image from Wikimedia.
Barack Obama, 2009-2017
The 44th president was the first African-American person elected president, which sparked high interest in his inauguration. His first inaugural ceremony was the largest event ever held in Washington D.C. Additionally, it had the most attendees, and was the most streamed swearing-in ceremony ever. Image from Wikimedia.
Joe Biden, 2021-present
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be very few physical attendees at this year’s pandemic. The Presidential Inaugural Committee placed a flag for every state and territory that would have been present at the National Mall. Joe Biden will be the oldest president, and Kamala Harris is the first female Vice President, and first person of color as Vice President. Image from Daily Mail.