First Things First: Facts About Presidential Inaugurations
At the beginning of his second term in 1805, Thomas Jefferson became the first president to participate in a tradition that has become a staple of presidential inaugurations: the inaugural procession on Pennsylvania Avenue.
On Jan. 20, 2009, more than 200 years after Jefferson’s inaugural parade, Barack Obama will carry on the time-honored tradition as he takes his place in history as the nation’s first black president. Record crowds are expected in Washington for Obama’s inauguration, making his one of the most popular celebrations in the country’s history.
As Washington and the nation prepares for the inauguration, the Newseum — located along the parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue — highlights some of the historic firsts surrounding presidential inaugurations.
- 1845: James K. Polk’s inauguration was the first to be reported by telegraph. Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph, transmitted news of the ceremony to Baltimore from a telegraph set up on the inaugural platform at the U.S. Capitol.
- 1897: William McKinley’s inaugural parade was the first to be recorded on movie film.
- 1909: William Howard Taft’s wife, Helen, became the first first lady to ride in an inaugural parade with her husband from the Capitol to the White House.
- 1921: Warren G. Harding became the first president to ride in an automobile to and from his inauguration.
- 1925: Calvin Coolidge’s inaugural was the first to be broadcast nationally over radio. Some 25 million Americans listened; the Associated Press called it “the greatest audience ever addressed by any man.”
- 1937: Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president inaugurated on Jan. 20, instead of March 4. His vice president, John Nance Garner, was the first to be sworn in on the same platform as the president.
- 1949: Harry S. Truman’s inauguration and parade were the first to be televised. An estimated 10 million people watched the events. “Home Viewers Get All of Color, Pomp,” headlined the Chicago Daily Tribune.
- 1961: John F. Kennedy’s inauguration was the first to be broadcast in color.
- 1977: Jimmy Carter was the first president to walk from the Capitol to the White House after taking the oath of office.
- 1981: Ronald Reagan’s inaugural ceremony was the first to be held on the West Front of the Capitol, rather than the East Front.
For his part, Obama will host a “Neighborhood Inaugural Ball,” an all-inclusive, first-of-its-kind celebration that will feature webcasting and text messaging to link neighborhoods across the country to the celebration in Washington.
The history of Pennsylvania Avenue, including the events and people who made it famous, is featured in a permanent exhibit on the Hank Greenspun Terrace on Pennsylvania Avenue.Related Links: