From the president with the shortest inauguration speech to the one who had special white, red, and blue jelly beans made, here’s a few interesting facts about our country’s inaugural tradition.
“Inauguration” Hails from Late Latin
The word inauguration, in Latin, means “installment under good omens.”
The Inauguration Wasn’t Always Held on January 20
In the olden days when news was sent via horse messenger, the inauguration used to be held on March 4 to allow adequate time for the election votes to be counted and officially reported. However, with advances in technology, that lengthy four-month period was cut short so the outgoing president wouldn’t be a “lame duck” for too long, and was added as the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the last president to be sworn in on the old date of March 4 and the first to be sworn in for his second term on January 20, 1937.
George Washington Had the Shortest Speech
Coming in at a mere 135 words, Washington took a no-frills approach to his second inauguration speech, reflecting on how seriously he took his position as commander-in-chief.
Conversely, William Henry Harrison May Have Died from Giving the Longest Presidential Speech
There was a snowstorm on the day of Harrison’s ceremony and the president refused to move the proceedings indoors. Instead, he endured the frigid temperature—sans coat and hat—to deliver his two-hour, 8,445 word speech. Not long after, Harrison contracted pneumonia and died just one month into his term, becoming the first president to die in office.
Thomas Jefferson Was the First President to Be Sworn Into Office in Washington, DC
It wasn’t until March 1801 that the government move to DC, so on inauguration day, Jefferson walked to the Capitol Building’s Senate chamber to take the oath of office with just a few attendees as witnesses. After giving his speech, he walked back to the boarding house where he was staying to eat.
A Ticket to James Madison’s Inaugural Ball Cost $4
It was the 1809 event that the tradition of having an inaugural ball began. First Lady Dolley Madison hosted the soirée at Long’s Hotel in DC, with four hundred tickets offered at $4 a piece.
William Howard Taft Was the Only Former President to Administer the Oath of Office
After his presidential term, Taft served as Chief Justice of the United States and gave the oath of office to Calvin Coolidge in 1925 and Herbert Hoover in 1929.
Harry S. Truman’s Second Inauguration Was the First to Be Televised
Ronald Reagan Had Red, White, & Blue Jelly Beans Made for His Inauguration
In order to quit pipe smoking during his run for governor in 1966, Reagan developed an affinity for Jelly Beans. For his 1981 inauguration, the maker of Jelly Belly® jelly beans, Herman Goelitz, Inc., shipped three and a half tons of red, white, and blue treats to DC and continued to provide the president with the candy during the course of his two terms.
Barack Obama Used Two Historic Bibles in His 2013 Inauguration
During his swearing-in ceremony in 2009, President Obama, the country’s first African-American president and first one born in Hawaii, used the same bible that Abraham Lincoln was sworn in with in 1861. For his 2013 inauguration, he added Martin Luther King Jr.’s King James Bible along with Lincoln's.
Donald J. Trump Will Be the Oldest President in the History of the U.S.
When he takes the oath of office on January 20, Trump will officially be the oldest president of the United States. Previously Reagan held that record, as he was 17 days shy of his 70th birthday when he was sworn in.