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Inauguration Facts

  • 1789 - A presidential inauguration has taken place every four years since George Washington took the oath of office in New York City in 1789. He established the tradition for a two term limit and Thomas Jefferson institutionalized it. This tradition was followed by subsequent presidents until President Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected four times.
  • 1801 - Starting with Thomas Jefferson in 1801, every presidential inauguration has taken place in Washington, D.C. This ceremony involves all three branches of government in the peaceful transfer of power from one president, and often political party, to the next.
  • 1829 - Early inaugurations in Washington, D.C. were held either inside or near the U.S. Capitol. The first inauguration to take place on East Portico of the Capitol was for Andrew Jackson in 1829.
  • 1841 - In 1841, William Henry Harrison paused his inaugural address to take the oath of office before finishing his speech on a cold inauguration day. One month later, President Harrison passed away and John Tyler became the first vice president to assume the office of the president upon the death or resignation of the previous chief executive. Since Tyler, eight additional vice presidents have completed the terms of former presidents because of death or resignation: Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Gerald Ford.
  • 1853 - In 1853, Franklin Pierce became the only president to “affirm” rather than “swear” his oath of office, as permitted in the Constitution, after which he delivered his address from memory.
  • 1857 - James Buchanan’s inauguration was the first to be photographed.
  • 1865 - Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous second inaugural address on March 4, 1865 near the end of the Civil War. He ended the speech with these words: “With malice toward none; with charity for all. . . to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
  • 1869 - In 1869, President Andrew Johnson did not attend the inauguration of his successor, Ulysses S. Grant. Johnson's impeachment, coupled with Grant's rise within the Republican Party, created a mutual dislike between the two men. Ultimately, Johnson decided not to attend and spent his morning signing last-minute legislation.
  • 1877 - After the highly contested 1876 election results, the Compromise of 1877 designated Rutherford B. Hayes the next president. Inauguration Day, however, fell on a Sunday. President Ulysses S. Grant, also concerned by the potential for political unrest, decided on a private inauguration ceremony for his successor. Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite swore Hayes into office inside the Red Room of the White House. After the public inauguration at the Capitol on March 5, First Lady Julia Grant hosted a lunch at the White House in the flower-filled State Dining Room. Saddened at having to leave the residence after the luncheon, she later recalled, “How pretty the house was! Flowers on the tables, the sunlight falling through the lace curtains; how sweet it looked!”
  • 1889 and 1897 - Grover Cleveland was the first (and only) to attend two inaugurations as outgoing president.
  • 1897 - William McKinley’s inauguration was the first to be recorded by a motion picture camera.
  • 1925 - Calvin Coolidge’s inauguration was the first to be broadcast nationally by radio.
  • 1925 - In 1925, the oath of office was administered to Calvin Coolidge by Chief Justice and former president William Howard Taft. Chief Justice Taft performed this role again for President Herbert Hoover in 1929.
  • 1929 - Herbert Hoover’s inauguration was the first with a sound news reel.
  • 1937 - Inauguration day was held on March 4 until 1937, when the 20th Amendment changed the date to January 20.
  • 1945 - In 1945, because of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ill health and the ongoing war effort, his fourth inauguration was held on the South Portico of the White House, with guests standing on the snow-covered South Lawn and additional onlookers on the Ellipse. Following Roosevelt’s death, Vice President Harry S. Truman took the oath of office in the Cabinet Room of the West Wing on April 12, 1945.
  • 1949 - President Harry S. Truman’s inauguration was the first to be televised.
  • 1951 - The 22nd Amendment, ratified in 1951, states that no president can be elected to that role more than twice.
  • 1963 - Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as president on Air Force One after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Johnson was one of three presidents to have taken the oath of office in their home states. The others were Theodore Roosevelt, who took the oath of office in New York following the assassination of President William McKinley, and Calvin Coolidge, who did so in Vermont following the death of President Warren G. Harding.
  • 1981 - Since 1981, the inaugural stand has been set up on the West Terrace of the Capitol Building. This change provides for an improved panorama of the National Mall and more space for viewers.
  • 2001 - January 20, 2001 marked the first time a former president was present at the inauguration of their son when President George H.W. Bush witnessed the swearing in of President George W. Bush.
  • There have been four sitting presidents who have not attended any of the inaugural ceremonies of their successors: John Adams (1801), John Quincy Adams (1829), Andrew Johnson (1869), and Donald Trump (2021). Two others, Martin Van Buren (1841) and Woodrow Wilson (1921), were inside the U.S. Capitol signing last-minute legislation but did not attend the public ceremony outside. It is unknown why Van Buren did not participate, as he and William Henry Harrison were cordial and Van Buren even hosted Harrison for dinner at the White House before the inauguration. One possible explanation was that his son, Martin Van Buren Jr., was ill and he left to be with him. Woodrow Wilson accompanied his successor, Warren G. Harding, to the Capitol but did not stay for the public ceremony because of his poor health. Wilson had suffered a stroke in 1919, and was still experiencing health issues when he left office. Finally, Richard Nixon (1974) resigned the office of the presidency on August 9, 1974, and did not stay to witness his successor Gerald R. Ford take the Oath of Office in the White House East Room. While the sitting president was not there, this occasion was considered a presidential succession and not a traditional inauguration.

Inaugural Parades

  • 1805 - The inaugural parade, which began as a spontaneous escort for President Thomas Jefferson’s return to the White House in 1805, has developed into a formal, often lengthy procession reviewed by the president from a stand in front of the White House. More recent inaugural parades have continued well into the evening hours.
  • 1809 - On March 4, 1809, a military troop escorted President James Madison to the Capitol. Thomas Jefferson and his grandson, having ridden to the Capitol from the White House on horseback, met them at the Capitol. Following the ceremony, President Madison and First Lady Dolley Madison held a reception at their home on F Street.
  • 1829 - In 1829, an enthusiastic crowd followed President Andrew Jackson down Pennsylvania Avenue after his swearing in ceremony, forming an impromptu parade that culminated with a reception at the White House.
  • 1865 - At President Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inauguration, African-American troops, Odd Fellows and Masons joined in the inaugural parade. These were the first African American members of organizations to march in the inaugural parade.
  • 1873 - After his second inauguration in 1873, President Ulysses S. Grant reviewed the parade from the White House, extending the inaugural celebrations throughout the day. Since then, temporary reviewing stands have been placed in front of the White House for this purpose.
  • 1881 - After the inauguration of President James Garfield in 1881, civilian organizations took a more active role in the parades as opposed to military organizations, with participation by town bands, veterans’ groups, and floats with patriotic themes.
  • 1909 - In 1909, Helen Taft became the first woman to accompany her husband back to the White House as First Lady.
  • 1921 - On March 4, 1921, President Warren G. Harding became the first president to ride to and from his inauguration in an automobile.
  • 1929 - In 1929, Union Civil War veterans participated in the parade celebrating the inauguration of President Herbert Hoover.
  • 1937 - In 1937, a replica façade of Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage mansion was used for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second inaugural reviewing stand.
  • 1961 - In January 1961, a replica of John F. Kennedy’s boat PT 109 was featured in the inaugural parade.
  • 1977 - In 1977, President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter walked down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House instead of riding in a car. President Carter later wrote, “People along the parade route, when they saw that we were walking, began to cheer and weep, and it was an emotional experience for us as well.” This tradition has continued with the exception of 1985, when the parade was cancelled due to snow, wind, and bitterly cold temperatures.
  • 1993 - On January 20, 1993, roughly 800,000 people went downtown for the inauguration of President William J. Clinton, who had traveled by bus from Monticello to Washington. On Inauguration Day, audio speakers were set up along the parade route to allow those far from the Capitol to hear the oath of office and inaugural speech. On January 21, President Clinton hosted a receiving line at the White House. He, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, and Tipper Gore stood in the Diplomatic Reception Room as well as outside on the South Lawn greeting well-wishers.

Inaugural Balls

Most inaugurations have closed with one or more gala balls held in hotels, temporary buildings, or some of the larger government buildings in Washington.

  • 1809 - The first inaugural ball held on inauguration day in Washington, D.C. was in 1809 to honor President James Madison. The event was held at Long’s Hotel.
  • 1825 - Carusi’s Saloon, operated by former Marine Band member Gaetano Carusi and his family, functioned as a popular entertainment venue and music hall in Washington. It hosted numerous inaugural balls from the administrations of President John Quincy Adams in 1825 to President James Buchanan in 1857.
  • After President Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration, Buchanan stopped once inside the Entrance Hall and said his farewells to the new president. In her final role as White House hostess, Buchanan’s niece Harriet Lane planned a dinner for the Lincolns before the inaugural ball, held at a temporary structure built for the occasion near Washington’s City Hall. John Nicolay, who served as a private secretary to President Lincoln, wrote to his fiancée Therena Bates the next day, on Executive Mansion stationary, “As you see from the heading of my letter, I am fairly installed in the White House.” He described the inauguration as a “fine display” with everything going as “nicely as it could have been possibly been devised.”

Inaugural Foods

  • 1829 - At President Andrew Jackson’s 1829 inaugural, guests feasted on ice cream and cake, broke dishes and glasses, and generally wreaked havoc on the White House and its interiors.
  • 1857 - James Buchanan hired Charles Gautier, a French caterer and chocolatier, to prepare his 1857 inaugural banquet.
  • 1865 - Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural ball, which took place at the Patent Office, was the scene of a “terrific crush,” as a large throng of guests demolished the elegant buffet. The spread included ornamental pyramids of nougat and caramel, macaroons, almond sponge cake, tarts and pastries, and ice cream in “vanilla, lemon, white coffee, chocolate, burnt almonds and maraschino” flavors, among other items.
  • 1945 - President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1945 inauguration took place during the Second World War and adhered to wartime butter and sugar rations. White House cook Henrietta Nesbitt served simple unfrosted cakes to guests.

Compiled by the White House Historical Association. Please credit the Association by its full name when using this as background material. Specific sources consulted available upon request.

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About the White House Historical Association

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy envisioned a restored White House that conveyed a sense of history through its decorative and fine arts. She sought to inspire Americans, especially children, to explore and engage with American history and its presidents. In 1961, the nonprofit, nonpartisan White House Historical Association was established to support her vision to preserve and share the Executive Mansion’s legacy for generations to come. Supported entirely by private resources, the Association’s mission is to assist in the preservation of the state and public rooms, fund acquisitions for the White House permanent collection, and educate the public on the history of the White House. Since its founding, the Association has given more than $115 million to the White House in fulfillment of its mission.

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