10 little known facts about presidential inaugurations and the arts

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Photo by Kristen Baker-Geczy

On April 30, 1789, George Washington took the oath of office with what later became known as the shortest inauguration address. Since then, Presidential Inauguration ceremonies, which are driven by tradition, have grown to include musical performances, oaths, parades, and addresses, usually stressing the importance of unity. The peaceful transfer of power that has occurred on every U.S. Inauguration Day will begin today at 9:30 a.m. Donald Trump will take the oath of office to formally become the 45th President of the United States around noon.

Here are some things you might not knowabout past presidential inaugurations:

  1. AAm1jlI.img.jpeg
    Inauguration of James Buchanan. Photo credit: Montgomery C. Meigs Papers (Library of Congress)

    President James Buchanan’s inauguration in 1857 was the first to be photographed.

  2. In 1897, President William McKinley’s inauguration was the first recorded with a motion picture camera.
  3. Calvin Coolidge’s inaugural address in 1925 was the first to be broadcast on the radio.
  4. In 1949, Harry Truman’s inauguration was the first to be televised.
  5. The Democratic National Committee commissioned Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jamie Wyeth, Jacob Lawrence, and Robert Rauschenberg to create works of art to commemorate the 1977 inauguration of Jimmy Carter.
  6. At John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration, Robert Frost wrote a poem for the event but was unable to recite the poem because the glare from the snow-covered ground prevented Frost from seeing the manuscript and instead, recited his poem “The Gift Outright” from memory.
  7. What is today the Smithsonian American Art Museum served as the location of Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural ball.
  8. Recipients of the National Medal of Arts have performed at past inaugurations. Aretha Franklin, John Williams, Izthak Perlman, and Yo-Yo Ma all performed at Barack Obama’s first inauguration.

    Photo by Michaela McNichol
  9. The song, “Hail to the Chief,” played as the president arrives at any formal occasion,
    was originally requested in 1841 by
    Julia Tyler, the wife of President John Tyler.
  10. Andrew Jackson was the first living president to be personally honored by “Hail to the Chief.’’


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