Home / History / 10 Most Bizarre Inauguration Facts

10 Most Bizarre Inauguration Facts

Published: January 19, 2017

If you thought you knew everything about presidential inaugurations, here are some facts that might be new to you. Know of other interesting inauguration details? Tell us in the comments.

  1. Two presidents have taken the oath of office four times: Franklin D. Roosevelt (who was elected four times) and Barack Obama. At Obama’s first inauguration, Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed the wording of the oath. Obama re-took the oath in private a few days later, and then for good measure, recited the oath again in public. The oath for his second term brings the total to four.
  2. The podium at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration caught on fire because of a faulty space heater hidden under the lectern.
  3. At least three presidents did not swear the oath on a bible: John Quincy Adams, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson took the oath on Air Force One following Kennedy’s assassination, and in the chaos, mistook Kennedy’s Catholic missal for a bible.
  4. Three presidents didn’t attend the inauguration of their successors: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson.
  5. The longest inaugural address was given by William Henry Harrison, who talked for more than two hours on a cold, wet day.
  6. The shortest inaugural address was George Washington’s second. It was 136 words long.
  7. The first president to wear long pants to his inauguration was John Quincy Adams. (Earlier presidents wore knee-length breeches.)
  8. Warren G. Harding was the first president to go to his inauguration in a car. It was a Packard Twin Six supplied by the Republican National Committee.
  9. Only one president both took and administered the presidential oath. William H. Taft took the oath when he became president in 1909, and later, when he was chief justice of the Supreme Court, he administered oaths to Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.
  10. The only president sworn in by a woman was Lyndon B. Johnson.  Federal district judge Sarah Hughes administered the oath to Johnson on Air Force One, following Kennedy’s assassination.
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  • Wallace DeShon

    Coolidge first oath was administered by his father.

  • Re: #3 – Actually more than 3 presidents did not swear on a Bible.
    For all presidents (with the exception of Andrew Jackson) from GW’s 2nd inauguration through to John Tyler, there’s no indication that a bible was used.
    Rutherford B. Hayes, at his Sunday, March 3, 1877, private ceremony, did not use a Bible.
    As stated, Theodore Roosevelt did not use a bible, but TR most likely skipped the bible [& saying SHMG] because it was a matter of his religious upbringing in the Dutch Reformed Church.
    Aug. 3, 1921 Calvin Coolidge, at his farmhouse inauguration, did not swear his oath on a bible.
    JFK had a bible as part of the ceremony, but somehow he missed placing his hand on it when the oath was recited.
    And yes, LBJ took his oath on a Catholic Prayer book on board Air Force One.

  • Beth B

    Re: #5–William Henry Harrison’s longest speech was followed by the shortest time in office. After speaking for more than 2 hours, on a cold and wet day, in his shirtsleeves (no coat or hat), the new president soon developed pneumonia. He died in 1841 after 31 days in office.