(Providence, Rhode Island) – We’ll skip the combative politics for today, since it’s Inauguration Day. We’ll get back to the issues next week, but I thought today it might be fun to have some inaugural trivia. If you have to work Monday, you can use these to stump your co-workers!
Don’t Forget Your Coat! – William Henry Harrison (photo) should have taken a mom’s advice and worn a coat to his inaugural. Instead, at age 68, he delivered a two-hour address, (the longest in history), in a cold and damp rain. He wore neither a coat, nor a hat. He also rode a horse to and from the ceremony instead of a closed carriage. Not surprisingly, he caught pneumonia and died 32 days later. The longest inaugural address led to the shortest presidency. Conversely, George Washington had the shortest inaugural address, and served two full terms. Modern politicians take note: brevity is good!
Always Listen to Your Mom! – Perhaps James Garfield took a cue from Harrison’s fate, but it took 40 years. In 1881, his mother Eliza was the first presidential mom to attend an inaugural. We presume she made him wear his coat, but whether or not he did, doesn’t matter. Garfield died after 200 days in office, the second shortest term next to Harrison’s.
Who’s on First? – It must have been a perplexing site in 1925, when Calvin Coolidge took his second oath of office. That’s because he was sworn in by former President William Howard Taft. That’s the only time that has ever happened. Why, you ask? Because after Taft was defeated for reelection as President, he was later appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and served as Chief Justice. So, one of America’s most rotund politicians also got to serve in two of the fattest jobs in the land: President, and Chief Justice. Not a bad career! By the way, Taft is the only other President buried at Arlington National Cemetery, besides John F. Kennedy.
Thanks for Being There, Dad! – President Calvin Coolidge also makes the trivia books for his first inaugural. He is the only President to be sworn in by his father. Coolidge, who became President upon the death of Warren Harding, was traveling in Vermont at the time. His dad, who happened to be a notary public, delivered the oath of office.
Thanks for Being There, Ma’am…I mean Judge! – Women’s roles in the inaugural – as in many walks of life – were scant in the nation’s early history. In fact, it wasn’t until 1917 and Woodrow Wilson’s second inauguration, that women were allowed to march in the parade. Years later, one woman performed a critical task in launching a presidency. U.S. District Judge Sarah Hughes delivered the oath of office to Lyndon Johnson in Dallas after the Kennedy assassination. To date, he remains the only President sworn in by a woman. Pretty soon I think we'll be adding another trivia question: Who was the first female president sworn in by a man? Could it be 2016?
Media Matters! – The first presidential inauguration to be photographed was James Buchanan’s. The first to have his recorded on film was William McKinley. The first have his oath broadcast on radio was Calvin Coolidge. The first to be televised was Harry Truman’s, and the first to be streamed live on the Internet was Bill Clinton’s second inaugural. Will Barack Obama be the first to “tweet” the Oath of Office on Twitter? Stay tuned!
We Shall Overcome! – It is fitting that Abraham Lincoln was the first President to allow African-Americans to participate in the parade. This year, President Obama – the nation’s first African American President – will have his second inaugural ceremony on the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday.
His Sunny Optimism! – Ronald Reagan’s charm, sunny optimism and warm personality endeared him to political friend and foe, alike. Even some of his most ardent detractors personally loved him. So, it’s probably appropriate that Reagan had the warmest weather on record for his first inaugural (55 degrees in 1980), and also the coldest for his second (7 degrees in 1985). It was so cold; in fact, they moved the ceremony inside the Capitol!
Hey, the Constitution Says, January 20th? – There might be some confusion this year, since the Constitution mandates the swearing in takes place on January 20th. Well, that will in fact happen today, but in private. The public inauguration ceremonies on Monday are just that, ceremonial. Oddly enough, they may have done this because of football, although no one is saying (the Constitution has no prohibition for Sunday inaugurals). In 1985, Ronald Reagan’s second inaugural was the same day as the Super Bowl Sunday, so, as with this year, the swearing in was private with the public ceremony Monday. With the NFC and AFC Championships today, the inauguration ceremony might have gotten short shrift. By the way, in 1985 Reagan did the Super Bowl coin toss via satellite from the White House, on January 20, after his private swearing-in ceremony.
My thanks to Christine Frantz and Beth Rowen for their great trivia. Here is a link if you want more: http://www.infoplease.com/spot/inauguralincident.html
If you have questions or comments (or more trivia), just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.