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U.S. Presidential Inaugurations: Firsts and Photos

National Geographic News
January 18, 2005
 
This week's 55th U.S. presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C.,
will involve a cast of thousands and an audience of millions.

There will be a church service, a procession by the President-elect to the Capitol Building, an oath of office administered by the chief justice, and a 21-gun salute. The newly sworn in President will give a speech and the members of Congress will host him at a formal lunch in the U.S. Capitol. The President will lead a parade of more than 10,000 people and dozens of floats back to the White House.

There will be nine official balls and nearly twice as many unofficial parties. The First Lady's inaugural gown will likely be presented to the National Museum of American History in Washington.

The whole shebang will cost 40 million U.S. dollars, paid for by private donations solicited from President George W. Bush's supporters.

The 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that the term of the President expires at noon on January 20. Other than the date and time—and the wording of the oath of office—the transfer-of-power protocol is based on traditions going back to George Washington. (See images of past Inaugurations.)


Noteworthy Inaugurations: Firsts and Other Facts

April 30, 1789: George Washington
On the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City, Washington was sworn in wearing a dark brown suit, steel-hilted sword, white silk stockings, and silver shoe buckles. During the oath of office he placed a hand on the Bible, beginning a tradition that nearly every U.S. President has repeated.

March 4, 1793: George Washington
In the Senate Chamber of Congress Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Washington delivered what is still the shortest inaugural address (133 words). He wore a black velvet suit, diamond knee buckles, black silk stockings, silver shoe buckles, and a dress sword with a richly ornamented hilt.

March 4, 1797: John Adams
Adams took the oath in the House of Representatives Chamber in Philadelphia's Congress Hall.
• First President to receive the oath of office from the Chief Justice of the United States

March 4, 1801: Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson is thought to have been the first and only president to walk to and from his Inauguration. Wanting to draw a distinction between royal events and simple, democratic ceremonies, he declined to ride in the customary carriage.
• First President to be inaugurated in Washington, D.C.
• First time a newspaper (the National Intelligencer) printed the inaugural address on the morning of the Inauguration

March 4, 1805: Thomas Jefferson
After taking the oath of office at the Capitol, President Jefferson mounted his horse and rode back to the White House, followed by members of Congress and a large crowd of citizens.
• First Inaugural Parade

March 4, 1809: James Madison
Tickets to Madison's inaugural ball, the first to be held on the same day as the Inauguration, cost four dollars.
• First inaugural held in the hall of the U.S. House of Representatives

March 4, 1817: James Monroe
With the Capitol having been burned by the British in 1814, Madison is inaugurated outdoors at the temporary Old Brick Capitol (current site of the Supreme Court).
• First public Inauguration

March 4, 1825: John Quincy Adams
• First president sworn in wearing long trousers

March 4, 1829: Andrew Jackson
Outgoing President John Quincy Adams, said to be embittered by the campaign of 1828, did not attend Jackson's inaugural ceremony.
• First Inauguration held at the east front of the Capitol

March 4, 1833: Andrew Jackson
• First time two inaugural balls were held

March 4, 1837: Martin Van Buren
• First time outgoing and incoming Presidents rode together to the Inauguration
• First use of floats in an Inaugural Parade

March 4, 1841: William H. Harrison
Despite a snowstorm, Harrison did not wear an overcoat, hat, or gloves during his nearly two-hour Inaugural Address. He died of pneumonia one month later.
• Longest inaugural address (10,000 words)

April 6, 1841: John Tyler
After the death of President William Harrison, Tyler took the oath at Brown's Hotel in Washington, D.C., and did not deliver an Inaugural Address.
• First Vice President to become President upon the death of a President

March 4, 1845: James Polk
• First Inauguration to be covered by telegraph
• First known newspaper illustration of a presidential Inauguration (The Illustrated London News)

March 4, 1857: James Buchanan
• First Inauguration known to have been photographed.

March 4, 1861: Abraham Lincoln
The secession crisis required tight security for the new President and his parade. Army sharpshooters were on the rooftops overlooking the parade, and people complained that they could not see the President in his open carriage, as it was completely surrounded by cavalrymen.

March 4, 1865: Abraham Lincoln
• First time African Americans participated in the Inaugural Parade

March 5, 1877: Rutherford B. Hayes
• Started the tradition of the President-elect going first to the White House to meet the outgoing President before proceeding to the Capitol

March 4, 1881: James Garfield
• First president to review the Inaugural Parade from a stand in front of the White House

March 4, 1897: William McKinley
• First Inauguration recorded by movie camera
• First time Congress hosted an inaugural luncheon for the President and Vice President

March 4, 1905: Theodore Roosevelt
President since 1901 due to McKinley's assassination, Theodore Roosevelt did not have an inaugural parade until 1905. Veterans of Roosevelt's Spanish-American War Rough Riders charged along the parade route at full gallop. Some 35,000 people took part in the parade.

March 4, 1921: Warren G. Harding
• First President to ride to Inauguration in an automobile
• First use of loudspeakers at an Inauguration

March 4, 1925: Calvin Coolidge
• First Inauguration to be broadcast nationally by radio

March 4, 1933: Franklin D. Roosevelt
After beginning the tradition of attending a morning worship service on Inauguration Day, Roosevelt was sworn in with a hand on his circa-1686, Dutch-language family Bible.
• Oldest Bible used in an Inauguration

January 20, 1937: Franklin D. Roosevelt
• First January 20 Inauguration, due to a change made by the 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

January 20, 1941: Franklin D. Roosevelt
• First and only President to take the oath of office for a third term

January 20, 1945: Franklin D. Roosevelt
In light of World War II, Roosevelt chose to have a simple Inauguration at the White House. There was no formal celebration and no parade, partly because of gas rationing and a lumber shortage.
• First and only time a President was inaugurated for a fourth term (Presidents were later limited to two terms)

January 20, 1949: Harry S. Truman
• First Inauguration to be televised

January 20, 1961: John F. Kennedy
• Last President to wear traditional stovepipe hat to the Inauguration
• First time parade was televised in color

November 22, 1963: Lyndon B. Johnson
After President Kennedy's assassination, Johnson took the oath on Air Force One, at Love Field airport in Dallas, Texas.

January 20, 1965: Lyndon B. Johnson
• First use of a bulletproof, closed limousine.

January 20, 1977: Jimmy Carter
• First President to walk all the way from the Capitol to the White House with his family after ceremony
• First time an outgoing President left the Capitol grounds via helicopter

January 20, 1981: Ronald Reagan
• First Inauguration that was held on the west terrace of the Capitol
• First closed-captioned TV broadcast for the hearing impaired
• Warmest Inauguration on record (excluding President Ford's, which was on August 9, 1973, after President Nixon resigned)

January 20, 1985, and January 21, 1985: Ronald Reagan
As January 20 fell on a Sunday, festivities were held on Monday, January 21. Reagan did, however, take the oath of office on Sunday, January 20.
• First time TV camera was placed inside the President's limousine
• Coldest Inauguration on record

January 20, 1997: William J. Clinton
• First time Inauguration was broadcast live on the Internet

January 20, 2005: George W. Bush
• First Inauguration since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks
• Tightest security of any Inauguration (more than a hundred square blocks closed off, 6,000 police officers and 7,000 U.S. troops deployed, fighter jet patrols, chemical sensors)

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