Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Facts

In honor of the inauguration of our 44th president, here are some lesser-known facts about the presidential inauguration:

-- At his 1905 inauguration, Theodore Roosevelt wore a ring containing a lock of Abraham Lincoln's hair.

-- In 1841, William Henry Harrison was the first president to arrive in Washington by train.

-- Thomas Jefferson walked both to and from his ceremony. Jimmy Carter revived this tradition in 1977, although he left by helicopter.

-- Lyndon B. Johnson was the first president to use a bulletproof limousine in 1965.

-- On Nov. 22, 1963, the presidential oath was administered by a woman for the first time: Sarah T. Hughes, U.S. District Judge of the Northern District of Texas swore in Lyndon B. Johnson. His was also the first inaugural oath taken on an airplane. The ceremony took place on Air Force One, a Boeing 707, at Love Field, Dallas.

-- In 1961, Army flamethrowers cleared heavy snow off Pennsylvania Avenue for John F. Kennedy's inauguration. Kennedy used a Catholic version of the Bible. His was the first recorded for color television by NBC.

-- Three poets have participated previously as part of the official inaugural ceremony: Robert Frost at Kennedy's and Maya Angelou and Miller Williams, who read for Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1997, respectively.

-- Since Millard Fillmore in 1850, Tennessee's Johnston & Murphy has gifted handmade shoes to every new president. Lincoln's top the presidential pack at size 14.

-- George Washington's original inaugural address was, at 135 words, the shortest ever given. Every president since him has adopted his ad-libed "so help me God" and kiss on the Bible.

-- The presidential oath is sworn on the Bible, which is generally open to a verse chosen by the president. Washington's original verse, Genesis 49:13, was taken at random from the Masonic Bible. In 1989, George H.W. Bush swore over Washington's same Masonic Bible, opened at random.

-- William Henry Harrison's inaugural speech lasted for a record 8,444 words and nearly two hours. The ordeal, according to some historians, left him with pneumonia, and he died 31 days later.

-- The 1949 inauguration of Harry Truman was the first ever televised. Radio broadcasts covered Calvin Coolidge, film recorded William McKinley, sound newsreel captured Herbert Hoover, and Samuel Morse personally reported via telegraph upon the 1845 inauguration of James K. Polk.

-- For Abraham Lincoln in 1865, blacks joined the inaugural parade for the first time. Woodrow Wilson's parade in 1917 admitted the first female participants, and the first lady rode with him to and from the Capitol.

-- Ronald Reagan's 1981 inauguration was the warmest on record, at 55 degrees. His second, in 1985, was the coldest. The 7-degree temperature forced the cancellation of the parade and the relocation of the ceremony indoors. Afternoon wind chill temperature fell as low as minus-20 degrees.


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