- Before the Twentieth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Inauguration Day was March 4, the date on which the Constitution first took effect in 1789. The last March 4 inauguration was FDR’s first term, in 1933.
- The location of the swearing-in has changed over the years. George Washington was sworn in at Federal Hall in New York City, a building now dwarfed by skyscrapers in lower Manhattan. It’s now a museum and George Washington memorial run by the National Park Service. John Adams was sworn in at Congress Hall in Philadelphia. Thomas Jefferson was the first president to be sworn in in Washington, D.C. Almost all subsequent inaugurations were held at the Capitol Building, except James Monroe in 1817, who was sworn in across the street, at what is now the site of the Supreme Court building, because the Capitol was still being repaired after the War of 1812. FDR took his final oath of office in 1944 at the White House, both because of World War II and his own poor health.
- Ever since I’ve lived in Washington, inaugurations have taken place on the west side of the Capitol, with spectators crowded onto the National Mall. It’s crowded but there’s plenty of room for the people and the Jumbo-trons that allow people farther back to see and hear the ceremony. But until Ronald Reagan’s 1981 inauguration, the ceremony usually occurred on the east side of the building, which looks out onto city streets. You have the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress building facing the Capitol, and beyond that is residential area. I can’t imagine what those residents must have gone through when all the hoopla was on their side of the Capitol Building! And while I think the west side is a better choice merely for logistical reasons, it is said that Reagan requested the change so he could fact toward his home state of California.
- One other bit of trivia: presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth attended President Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration and stood rather frighteningly close to him. This image, from the website of President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ home (his summer home, three miles from the White House), shows their locations.
There’s also an interesting article at the Lincoln’s Cottage site, comparing Lincoln’s inaugurations to Barack Obama’s.