A parade, inaugural speeches, and the date itself are some of the key elements of the ceremony marking the beginning of presidential terms in the United States.
As tradition dictates, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as 46th president of the United States on Jan. 20, 2021.
Biden, 78, will be sworn in as the oldest president in the nation’s history, displacing Ronald Reagan, who left the White House in 1989, when he was 77.
In light of the pandemic, Biden’s inauguration will have its idiosyncrasies because of necessary safety measures, but it’s certainly not the first ceremony to depart from the norm, as our list of Inauguration Day trivia below shows.
The inauguration team has already requested for people to stay at home and celebrate safely, but assured they will honor the traditions.
“The 59th Presidential Inauguration will be a historic and exciting event that showcases the strength and diversity of our nation—and one that every American can enjoy from their home,” the Biden Inaugural Committee tweeted.
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris plan to take their oaths of office in the US Capitol, according to a statement from the organizational committee.
“The ceremony’s footprint will be extremely limited, and the parade that follows will be reimagined,” read the press release.
A group of production experts for big events, like the Super Bowl halftime and the Tony Awards, will be in charge of the program for Americans to watch at home.
Here are a few Inauguration Day traditions and trivia, some dating back to when George Washington, the first president of the United States, was sworn in on April 30, 1789.
- George Washington was a 57-year-old general when he was sworn in on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City. A large crowd gathered around the building.
- Washington’s second inauguration was held on March 4, 1793. Incoming presidents had their ceremonies on that spring date for many years, unless it fell on a Sunday.
- Beginning in 1937, the 20th Amendment of the Constitution moved Inauguration Day to Jan. 20. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president sworn in on that date.
- The use of the Bible is a tradition, not a constitutional requirement. George Washington started the tradition. Theodore Roosevelt did not use the Bible for his swearing-in on Sept. 14, 1901. John Quincy Adams instead used a book of law for his inauguration. As the first Catholic elected president, John F. Kennedy was the first to use a Catholic version of the Bible for his oath.
- In 1801, Thomas Jefferson was the first president to be inaugurated in Washington, DC. He was also the first president to have an inaugural parade.
- Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter have been the only two presidents to walk in the inaugural parade from the Capitol to the White House. President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama walked a portion of the parade following his inauguration in January 2009.
- America’s ninth president, William Henry Harrison, delivered the longest inaugural address, at 8,445 words. He spoke for 1 hour and 45 minutes in a snowstorm, without a coat. The second-longest speech, delivered by President William Howard Taft in 1909, was 3,000 words shorter. Washington had the shortest speech, only 135 words, at his second inauguration on March 4, 1793.
- Harrison served the shortest presidency, dying 32 days after his inauguration on March 4, 1841. For many years, his long inaugural address, in a snowstorm without a coat, was considered the culprit. Recently, it became known that he had typhoid fever.
- Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest president to be sworn into office at age 42, in 1901.
- Barack Obama’s first inauguration had the highest attendance, with an estimated 1.8 million people crowding the National Mall in 2009 and nearby areas.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower was lassoed by cowboy star Montie Montana while on the podium during his first inauguration in 1953. Montana had permission from the Secret Service. Vice President Richard Nixon and other dignitaries looked on. Eisenhower also made history at his first inauguration by breaking the tradition and reciting his own prayer after taking the oath, rather than kissing the Bible. He also had one of the most colorful parades, featuring 73 bands, 59 floats, horses, elephants, and civilian and military vehicles in a procession that lasted 4 hours and 32 minutes.
- James Buchanan’s inauguration was the first to be photographed, in 1857. Harry S. Truman’s inauguration was the first to be televised, on Jan. 20, 1949. According to the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, it was viewed by 10 million Americans, making it the most-watched event in history. John F. Kennedy would be the first whose inauguration was transmitted on color television on Jan. 20, 1961. Bill Clinton’s second inauguration was the first to be live-streamed on the internet in 1997.