The basics of the inauguration are simple: the new president takes a 35-word oath on a constitutionally prescribed date.
But the formula left a lot of room for novelty. As the inaugurations evolved over the decades, many of them became turning points in the tradition, marked by accidents, innovations and spontaneous gestures.
Jimmy Carter started an informal custom when he unexpectedly got out of his limo and walked down Pennsylvania Avenue. Barack Obama’s first term got off to an unusual start when he became the first president to renew his oath. Harry S. Truman’s second inauguration was the first to be televised, and Bill Clinton’s in 1997 was the first to be broadcast live.
Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration Wednesday will also seek to balance tradition with the challenges of the present day, including the pandemic and widespread political upheaval. For the first time, the procession to the White House will be replaced by a “virtual parade” in an attempt to slow the spread of a virus that has killed nearly 400,000 Americans.
Here’s a look at some of the precedents in the history of the presidential inauguration.
The Presidential Oath is also enshrined in the Constitution: “I solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully perform the office of President of the United States and, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the States. -United. “
Each president must recite the oath of office, which has been taken 72 times by the 45 presidents of the United States who preceded Mr. Biden.
Franklin pierce, in 1853, was the first to choose the word “affirm” rather than “swear” and broke the precedent by not embracing the Bible.
Lyndon B. Johnson was the first and only president to take the oath of office in an airplane, after the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. It was also the first time that a woman had taken the oath: Judge Sarah T. Hughes from the North District of Texas swore an oath to Mr Johnson on Air Force One, using a Catholic missal found on board, before the plane left Dallas for Washington.
The oath of Barack obama, who became the country’s first black president in 2009, had a unique twist. He was sworn in twice by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr .: The second time was Jan. 21 during a White House revival after the two clashed with words during of the inauguration ceremony the day before.
“In 25 seconds, President Obama became president again,” wrote The New York Times.
George washington was a man of few words. His second inaugural speech numbered 135, making it the shortest ever. In 1817, James monroe became the first president to be sworn in and deliver his inaugural address outside in front of the Old Brick Capitol. William Henry Harrison spoke the longest, delivering 10,000 words in 1841.
George washington was sworn in at Federal Hall in New York and then delivered his speech in the Senate Chamber. John adams was inaugurated at the Philadelphia House of Congress in 1797. In 1801, Thomas jefferson was the first to walk to and from his inauguration and became the first president inaugurated on Capitol Hill in Washington.
The opening day was not always in January. George Washington was sworn in on April 30, 1779. In the 19th century, March 4 was incorporated into the Constitution as an inauguration day. But in 1933, the ratification of the 20th Amendment established that the terms of the president and vice-president would instead end at noon on January 20.
The first president to be inaugurated on January 20 was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was sworn in for a second term in 1937, with a large crowd despite a cold, wet rain.
In 1837, Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren rode together in a horse-drawn carriage to the Capitol for the inauguration, the first time that an outgoing president has joined his successor. “We’ve come to expect this now, but unfortunately we don’t have it this year,” said Jim Bendat, an inauguration historian. “It’s an important symbolic moment to show that the old and the new can get along, even if they are in a different party.”
A president whose term of office ends is not required to attend the inauguration. In 1801, John adams became the first president to avoid the swearing-in ceremony of his successor, in this case Thomas Jefferson. After months falsely stating that the 2020 election was stolen, President Trump announced that he would not be attending Mr. Biden’s inauguration.
Tall hats were the traditional headgear of choice for many presidential inaugurations. But Dwight D. Eisenhower replaced it in 1953 with a homburg that broke “official dress tradition,” reported the Times. Kennedy returned to the traditional hat in 1961, before it disappeared as official attire.
Kennedy was the first to add a poet to its inaugural events. The event did not go as planned. Robert Frost, then 86 years old, had planned to read “The Preface”, verses he had composed for the occasion. But the glare on the page made it hard to see. “I don’t have a good light here at all,” he said, according to The Times coverage of the event.
Johnson tried to shade the manuscript with his top hat. But Frost put it aside and recited his poem “The Gift Outright”, which he knew by heart.
Amanda Gorman, who in 2017 became the first National Youth Poet Laureate, will read at this year’s ceremony.
Over the years, most presidents have taken an oath with one hand on the Bible. Some have chosen a family Bible, such as Jimmy carter done, with the one used by Washington placed on the lectern. Theodore Roosevelt was an outlier in 1901. At a friend’s home after William McKinley’s assassination, he did not use one, but took an oath with a “raised hand.”
Others have put their singular imprint on the gesture. Kennedy, the first Roman Catholic to be elected president, used a Catholic Bible. Johnson asked his wife, Lady Bird, to hold the Bible during the oath, making him the first to do so. And Mr. obama used the Bible belonging to Abraham Lincoln. (Mr. Trump used the same Lincoln Bible in 2017.)
LincolnThe second inauguration, in 1865, was the first time African Americans had participated in an inaugural parade. Women participated in the inaugural parade for the first time in 1917, at the start of Woodrow wilson’s second term. In 1977, Mr. Carter became the first to walk more than a mile on the White House Road. Mr Carter’s walk with his wife, Rosalynn, and their 9-year-old daughter, Amy, has become a tradition that has been matched – in ceremony if not in length – by presidents who have followed.
James and Dolley Madison began the tradition of a White House reception and inaugural ball in 1809. Tickets were $ 4, or about $ 85 at current prices.
McKinley’s second inauguration in 1901.
The inaugurations reflected technological and industrial innovations. In 1921, Warren G. Harding was the first to go to its inauguration in an automobile. Fast forward to the closed bulletproof limousines, which first appeared in 1965 under Johnson.
The audience has grown with technological developments. In 1845, James polk the inaugural speech reached more people by telegraph. In 1897, McKinley’s the inauguration was captured on a cinematic camera, and Calvin Coolidge’s in 1925 was broadcast over the radio.
Ronald reagan, a former actor, had a television camera placed inside his limousine during the ride from the Capitol to the White House in 1985. And in 1997, Bill clinton the inauguration was the first to be broadcast live on the Internet.
Some inaugural ceremonies began as family affairs. James garfield mother attended its inauguration in 1881, setting a precedent. In 1923, Calvin Coolidge’s father, justice of the peace of Vermont, took the oath of office to his son. The first inauguration ceremony attended by both parents of the president-elect was Kennedy, in 1961. And George W. Bush ceremony in 2001 was the first and only time that a former president, George Bush, attended his son’s inauguration as president.