Strange and interesting facts from past inaugurations
January 5, 2017
By Kate Murphy
As Inauguration Day approaches for President-elect Donald Trump on Jan. 20, we look back at some fun and interesting facts from inaugurations past.
For starters, George Washington was a man of few words at his second inauguration, in 1793, when he delivered an address that was just 135 words. It remains the shortest inaugural address in history.
In 1809, the first-ever inaugural ball was held the evening after James Madison was sworn in. At that time, tickets cost just $4, whereas now they can go for thousands of dollars.
John Quincy Adams set a precedent for presidents’ inauguration attire. In 1825, he was the first to wear long pants instead of knee breeches to the swearing-in.
In 1865, during Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration, Vice President-elect Andrew Johnson was drunk during the swearing-in. Johnson had been ill from typhoid fever and tried whiskey in an attempt to feel better. A senator wrote a letter to his wife saying that Johnson “disgraced himself and the Senate by making a drunken foolish speech.”
As for Inauguration Day weather, the snowiest on record was in 1909, when 10 inches of snow fell while William H. Taft was sworn into office. The wettest on record was in 1937, for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second inauguration, when 1.77 inches of rain fell.
During the cowboy craze in the United States in 1953, incoming President Dwight D. Eisenhower was lassoed in the reviewing stand during the inaugural parade by cowboy star Montie Montana.
When Cardinal Richard Cushing was delivering the invocation during John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961, the podium caught fire, due to an electrical short. When the situation was handled, JFK cracked a smile.
During the same inauguration, Vice President Lyndon Johnson botched his oath when he said, “I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation whatever.” Whoops, it should have been, “without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.”
Another oath flub happened in 2009 during Barack Obama’s first swearing-in ceremony. Chief Justice John Roberts put the word “faithfully” in the wrong place and caused Obama to get tongue-tied. Concerns were raised that Obama wasn’t properly sworn in, so he repeated the 35 words in a private ceremony at the White House the next day.