Top 5 Inauguration Day Facts You Probably Didn't Know

Written by Michael Wynands Top 5 Inauguration Day Facts Donald Trump has his swearing-in ceremony on inauguration day, January 20, 2017. What a great excuse to look back at some of the stranger moments and peculiar facts about this momentous event. Like the time a drunken brawl broke out, or when the poet laureate didn't know the president's name. All this and more on this episode of WatchMojo's Top 5 Facts! Special thanks to our users for submitting the idea on our Interactive Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Written by Michael Wynands

Top 5 Presidential Inauguration Facts


It’s a new day in America... every four years. Welcome to WatchMojo’s Top 5 Facts. In today’s instalment we’re counting down the Top 5 Inauguration Facts. The United States presidential inauguration is the ceremony that officially kicks off an American president’s term in office. While some have criticized the event as being overly ceremonial and somewhat unnecessary, it has a long history involving a number of interesting traditions that are certainly worth knowing.

#5: It Used To Happen March 4th

Up until 1937, the President didn’t take power until four months after Election Night. At the time, it was a question of technological limitations. Vote counting, travel and coordination were significantly more time-intensive back then. With the ratification of the 20th Amendment however, this period of transition was drastically shortened. But what purpose does it serve now apart from making the president a “lame duck”? Most importantly, it allows the new administration to hire some 4,000 staff and train them before taking on the massive responsibility of running the White House… and country. The president’s “transition team” works to prepare each major agency or federal department and much more. It’s not always a smooth transition - Hoover to Roosevelt and Clinton to Bush were notoriously problematic, but for the most part, it’s a time of cooperation.

#4: One Man In History Has Been on Both Sides of The Swearing-In Process

William Howard Taft was the 27th President of the United States, and was inaugurated on March 4th 1909. He lost his re-election campaign to Woodrow Wilson in 1912, after which he returned to the legal profession as a Professor. Given that he had appointed numerous federal judges, it was considered a conflict of interest for him to practice as an actual lawyer. During this time he remained very involved in politics in various ways. With the return of the Republican party to power under Warren G. Harding, Taft was named Chief Justice on July 11th 1921. He officially became the only person in history to hold the position of both President and Chief Justice. In this position he swore in both Presidents Coolidge and Hoover at their respective inaugurations.

#3: It Happens Outdoors Because of A Historic Fight

On April 30th 1789, George Washington became the first President of the United States, but his inauguration was the last one to be held outdoors… until 1817. Washington’s second inauguration was performed in Senate chambers, which became tradition. When James Monroe was inaugurated however, the Capitol building was still under reconstruction following the fire of 1814. It was suggested that he take the Oath in the temporary “Old Brick Capitol”, which at the time housed Congress, sparking controversy and argument. Allegedly, no one could agree as to whether it was more appropriate for him to use the senate or the house chambers. According to legend, Monroe grew sick of the debate and moved the affair outside. Since that day, weather permitting, all inaugurations have been outdoor affairs.

#2: It’s Got A Bit Of Drunk History To It

Nowadays, the VP is sworn in just before the President. But up until 1937, they had their very own ceremony and inaugural speech. In 1865, VP Andrew Johnson brought extreme dishonor to his office by doing the whole thing wasted. Allegedly suffering from ill health, other reports state that he was hung over, and took a couple swigs of whiskey for a little “hair of the dog” cure. His 7 minute speech ran 10 minutes long and only ended when someone intervened. During the oath, he drunkenly kissed the bible. Then there was the ever-controversial President Andrew Jackson who essentially threw a rager at the White House following his inauguration. Things quickly got out of hand and he slipped out a window or side door. The destructive festivities only ended when the crowd was lured out onto the front lawn with more booze. Thousands of dollars worth of damage was done to the White House.

#1: Things Don’t Always Go As Planned

As we were saying... inaugurations have a tendency of going off the rails. JFK’s ceremony was a veritable trainwreck. An overnight snowstorm almost ended it before it started, an electrical failure resulted in a smoking lectern, and poet Robert Frost struggled to recite Kennedy’s requested poem,and then accidentally called him “Mr. John Finley”. At least JFK’s inaugural address ended smoothly, which can’t be said for all Presidents. President Harrison gave an insanely long-winded two hour address at his cold, rainy inauguration, and died of pneumonia just one month later. Obama actually needed a do-over after a jumbled oath swearing process. Dead birds, severe diarrhea and the worst coat check system in history… the presidential inauguration has seen it all over the years.

Just how familiar were you with the inauguration before today? Do you tune in to watch the ceremony when a president takes office? For more stately top 10s and smoking lectern Top 5s, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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