23 Aug 2014
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PHOTOS: Presidential Inaugurations Through the Years

Historic photos depict presidential oaths from bygone times.

President Barack Obama's second inauguration ceremony and celebration Jan. 21 will be a far cry from the inauguration of our first president, George Washington.

That ceremony was held April 30, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York City, where the federal government was headquartered at the time. Washington made the shortest inauguration speech on record—133 words and less than two minutes long—at his second swearing-in, in Philadelphia.

One thing all presidential inauguration swearing-in ceremonies have in common, though, are these words: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Later inaugurations were held in Philadelphia when the federal government moved there. The first inauguration to be held at the U.S. Capitol was for Thomas Jefferson on March 4, 1801.

The swearing-in ceremony has taken place on the east side of the Capitol, the west side of the Capitol (where it's held today) and other places like hotel rooms (for James Monroe in 1817, because the Capitol was still being rebuilt after being burned by the British) or even on a plane (when Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn into office after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas).

To see pictures of past inaugurations, click through the media player above. A few facts about some of the presidents whose photos appear in the gallery, according to "99 Interesting Facts About the U.S. Presidents" and other sources:

  • In 1865, during Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration, African Americans marched in the parade for the first time. 
  • The youngest president was Teddy Roosevelt, who became president at age 42 when McKinley (1843-1901) was assassinated. 
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt's inauguration in 1933 was the last inauguration to be held in March. All inaugurations since then have been held in January.
  • Harry Truman didn't find out until he got to the White House on April 12, 1945, that he was being sworn in as president after the sudden death of FDR.
  • When Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower arrived at the White House to pick up President Truman in 1953 for the ride to the U.S. Capitol, they not only refused to enter for a cup of coffee with the Trumans, but stayed in the vehicle until Truman came outside. (Eisenhower was about to be sworn in, and Truman was leaving the White House.)
  • The first poet to participate in an inauguration, Robert Frost recited from memory a poem at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961, after the sun's glare on the snow made it too difficult to read a poem he had written for the occasion.
  • Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in on Air Force One in Texas, two hours after President Kennedy was killed on Nov. 22, 1963. He was the first president to be sworn in by a woman, federal Judge Sarah T. Hughes.
  • At one of the inaugural balls in 1969 that evening, Richard Nixon forgot to introduce the first lady, breaking a tradition, according to "The People's Almanac."
  • Gerald Ford was sworn in on Aug. 9, 1974, as president after Nixon's resignation in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Ford took the oath of office in the White House East Room, after the Nixons had departed to California.
  • Jimmy Carter was the first president, in 1977, to walk from the U.S. Capitol to the White House in the parade.
  • Ronald Reagan's second inauguration, in 1985, was the coldest: 7 degrees (and 10 to 20 degrees below zero with wind chill).
  • George H.W. Bush used two Bibles at his swearing-in ceremony in 1989, one belonging to George Washington and one belonging to St. John's Masonic Lodge No. 1.
  • Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993 was the first to be carried live on the Internet.
  • George W. Bush's inauguration in 2001 was the first time a former president attended his son's inauguration.
  • Barack Obama became the country's first African-American president, when he was sworn in as president in 2009.

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