1. Inauguration Day used to be March 4: Until 1937, the president and vice president began their terms on March 4, 4 months after Election Day. With technological advances requiring less time to count votes and travel to Washington, DC, the 20th Amendment, which was ratified in 1933, moved up Inauguration Day to January 20. (When January 20 falls on a Sunday, the public swearing-in ceremony takes place on January 21.) Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937 was the 1st president to take the oath of office on January 20.
2. Vice presidents used to have separate swearing-in ceremonies.
In modern times, the swearing-in of the vice president moments before the president has been the warm-up act to the main event. Before 1937, however, the second fiddles had their own swearing-in ceremonies inside the Senate chamber before heading outside for the presidential inauguration. Veeps even delivered their own inaugural addresses, sometimes at their own peril. In 1865 Andrew Johnson delivered a rambling, drunken speech described by Senator Charles Sumner as “the most unfortunate thing that had ever occurred in our history.” Luckily, Abraham Lincoln’s memorable 2nd inaugural address quickly swept Johnson’s incoherent oratory into the dustbin of history.
3. A Congressional chair squabble led to the first outdoor inaugural address.
Except for George Washington’s 1st inauguration in 1789, presidential swearing-in ceremonies were initially indoor affairs, held in the House and Senate chambers. The 1817 inauguration of James Monroe was scheduled for the House chamber, but after a disagreement broke out between the House and Senate about whose chairs would be used, Monroe had enough and decided to take the oath of office and deliver his speech outdoors. Except on three occasions when weather intervened, Inauguration Day festivities since 1829 have been held outdoors.
4. The president with the longest inaugural speech had the shortest term> Brevity can be a presidential virtue; long-windedness can prove fatal. A month after William Henry Harrison spent 2 hrs delivering his 8,445-word inaugural address in 1841, the 68-year-old president was dead from pneumonia, perhaps due to his prolonged exposure to raw, blustery elements during the inaugural. By contrast, these presidents delivered the shortest addresses: George Washington (135 words in his 2nd address), Franklin Roosevelt (559 words in his 4th address) and Abraham Lincoln (701 words in his 2nd address). In their entirety, all 3 of these speeches were shorter than just a single sentence–topping 700 words–in the inaugural address of John Adams.
5. The swearing-in ceremony for 4 presidents resembled marriage vows.
The Constitution does not specify precise instructions for how chief justices should administer presidential oaths, thus the swearing-in ceremony has varied over time. While most justices and presidents have alternated reciting lines of the oath, Chief Justices Edward D White and Taft recited the entire oath and posed it in the form of a question, requiring Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Coolidge and Hoover to just say, “I do.”
6. Whiskey may have saved the White House from being trashed during a rowdy inauguration party. In 1829, Andrew Jackson threw open the doors of the White House to his supporters to celebrate his inauguration. The rowdy party quickly got out of control with the throng muddying the carpets, destroying several thousand dollars worth of china and crystal and getting into fistfights over refreshments. The new president had to escape through a window to get some breathing space. The exuberant crowd was finally lured out of the White House when tubs of whiskey were rolled onto the south lawn.
Have a healthy day, Keep the Faith!