25 Fun Facts From Presidential Inaugurations Past

Botched oaths, a lassoing cowboy, $4 inaugural-ball tickets, and more iconic inaugural moments.


Did you know ...

... in 1953 Texas-born Dwight D. Eisenhower was lassoed in the reviewing stand by a cowboy who rode up to him on horse.

... JFK’s inauguration almost went up in flames when the podium caught fire as Cardinal Richard Cushing was delivering the invocation. Thank goodness his robes didn’t light up, and Kennedy even managed a smile.

... one of the most awkward moments in inauguration history occurred in 2009, when Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed the oath during Obama’s public ceremony—putting the word “faithfully” in the wrong place. It was a small slip of the tongue, but since it raised concerns that Obama may not have been properly sworn in, they repeated the 35 words, in the right order this time, in private the next day at the White House.

... But the prize for most botched oath goes to Lyndon B. Johnson, who took the vice-presidential oath during JFK’s inauguration “without any mental reservation whatever,” instead of “without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.”

... Jimmy Carter took his inauguration in stride when he walked from the Capitol to the White House in the ceremony parade (the only other president to do so was Thomas Jefferson).

... no one throws a party like Abraham Lincoln, whose inauguration was so wild, the police had to be called in.

... Thomas Jefferson, the Man of the People, Sage of Monticello, Apostle of the Constitution, and so on, was the first president to be sworn in in Washington, D.C.

... contrary to popular misconception, Theodore Roosevelt—not the dashing John F. Kennedy—was the youngest man inaugurated, at 42 years of age.

... Ronald Reagan was the oldest man inaugurated, just 17 days short of his 70th birthday.

... Bill Clinton’s second inauguration was the first to be live-streamed on the Internet.

... apparently Bill and Hill danced till they dropped during President Clinton’s second inauguration, when they attended 14 inaugural balls—the most any president has attended.

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... while some tickets for this year’s inaugural ball are being scalped for as much as $12,500 a pop, the 400 tickets to James Madison’s celebration went for $4 apiece.

... William Henry Harrison set the record for longest speech (100 minutes and 8,495 words), which he delivered sans hat or coat in the middle of a snowstorm. Unfortunately, but perhaps not surprisingly, he died of pneumonia a month later.

... at just 135 words, the shortest speech was given by George Washington.

... the original G.W. was the only president to kiss the Bible as he was sworn in.

... Washington also ad libbed his oath, ending it with the words “so help me God” and setting a precedent for future presidents like Obama, who has requested the phrase be included in his oath.

... Theodore Roosevelt went off on a limb when he concluded his oath with the words “And thus I swear.”

... John Quincy Adams was the first of three presidents to eschew the Bible while being sworn in, opting to place his hand on a constitutional-law volume instead.

... John Quincy also broke the dress-code mold as the first president to be sworn in wearing trousers instead of knee breeches.

... an estimated 1.2 million people attended Lyndon B. Johnson’s inauguration. President Obama drew a record 1.8 million in 2009.

... in 1909 William H. Taft was sworn into office as nearly 10 inches of snow fell in D.C.—a record for Inauguration Day.

... Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second inauguration in 1937 was the rainiest to date (1.77 inches), though that didn’t stop a stalwart FDR from standing in the freezing sleet for an hour and a half as the parade splashed by.

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

... Robert Frost became the first inaugural poet when he spoke at John F. Kennedy’s swearing-in. Richard Blanco, who is speaking Monday, will be the first gay Latino inaugural poet.

... the most expensive presidential inauguration was none other than Barack Obama’s in 2009, with a bill of more than $150 million, two thirds of which was financed by private donors.