9 Historical Facts on Presidential Inaugurations

Ever since 1801 when Thomas Jefferson won a bitter campaign and took the presidency from his long-time friend and fellow patriot John Adams, the United States of America has prided itself on a peaceful transfer of power. That transition and symbol of democracy is celebrated every four or eight years on Inauguration Day. With the commencement of a new presidential term upon us, here are nine historical facts to get you ready for Inauguration Day:

1. Donald John Trump will become the 45th president of the United States of America. January 20, 2017, marks the 58th regularly scheduled inaugural ceremonies. There have also been nine intra-term inaugurations.

2. At 70 years and 7 months, Donald Trump will become the oldest first-time president, surpassing Ronald Reagan, who was 69 years and 11 months at his inauguration in 1981. When Reagan left office, he was just a few days shy of 78 years old. For what it’s worth, presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is 69 years and 2 months and would’ve been the second oldest president. The average age of the president at inauguration is 54 years and 11 months.

3. The 20th amendment moved Inauguration Day from March 4 to January 20, reducing the “lame duck” period of the outgoing president by six weeks. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inauguration took place on March 4, 1933, and his second inauguration was held January 20, 1937.

4. The coldest inauguration on record was 1985 when Ronald Reagan took the oath of office inside the Capitol Rotunda. The temperature was 7 degrees outside with wind chills of -25. Ironically, Reagan’s first inauguration in 1981 was the warmest January inauguration with a temperature of 55. This year’s forecast for noon predicts light rain and a temperature of 46.

5. Most president-elects wake up on Inauguration Day at Blair House. The official guest house of the President was named for Francis Preston Blair, an influential advisor to President Andrew Jackson.

6. Article II, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution spells out the oath in 35 words, “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” George Washington is credited for adding the phrase, “So help me God.” After January 20, the oath will have been taken on 74 occasions by 44 people.

7. Still holding the record for longest inaugural address, William Henry Harrison refused to wear a topcoat on a cold and wet day in early March and died from pneumonia just 31 days after taking office.

8. The inaugural parade has only been around since 1953. That year, the parade lasted more than five hours after Dwight Eisenhower recited the oath with his hand on two Bibles, open to II Chronicles 7:14 and Psalm 33:12.

9. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter broke protocol when he began the rather new tradition of walking along Pennsylvania Avenue. His motivation to walk the mile and a half from the Capitol to the White House was to mark a “new beginning” that he proclaimed in his inaugural address.

Stars and Stripes
Gotham Magazine

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