Bitter, record-breaking cold forced cancellation of today's inaugural parade, but it is not the first time that the weather has shown a bipartisan contempt for the best laid plans of presidents and their inaugural committees.
In its 196-year history, the inaugural parade has been rained on 10 times. Seven parades have been held in the snow. Several other marches up Pennsylvania Avenue, a route first followed by Thomas Jefferson, were taken in subfreezing temperatures.
William Henry Harrison, 68, braved the cold and wind without a hat or overcoat for his 1841 inaugural celebration, and he caught a cold and died of pneumonia a month later.
President Reagan's inaugural parade is the first to be canceled because of bad weather, officials from his inaugural committee said yesterday. But according to an article on inauguration weather published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Franklin Piece scrapped plans for a procession back to the White House after his inauguration in 1853.
It had started to snow in the middle of Pierce's inaugural speech at the Capitol. So he dropped outgoing president Millard Fillmore and his wife, Abigail, off at the Willard Hotel, and he went back to the executive mansion accompanied by a parade that formed somewhere in the one block between the hotel and the White House.
But Abigail Fillmore had already spent more time than she should have outside: Like Harrison, she died of pneumonia within a month.
Prior to Ronald Reagan's, the coldest inauguration on record was Ulysses S. Grant's second inauguration on March 4, 1873. Military cadets fainted in the cold, and canaries in outdoor cages froze to death. Gusty winds, according to NOAA, made Grant's inaugural address unintelligible except for those standing next to him.
Four years earlier, Grant awoke on the day of his first inauguration to rain.
In the face of light snow and near-freezing temperatures, William Howard Taft took his oath of office indoors in 1909. But the snow stopped shortly after noon, and about 20,000 marchers went ahead with the parade, struggling past snow-covered reviewing stands and tattered inaugural decorations.
"I always knew it would be a cold day when I got to be president," Taft is said to have told a reporter.
Franklin Roosevelt's second inauguration in 1937, the first time the event was held on Jan. 20 instead of March 4, was nearly rained out. The rain was so heavy that thousands of out-of-town visitors arriving by train could not get out of Union Station.
But FDR followed all previous arrangements. He refused to take the oath of office indoors, and he and his wife, Eleanor, rode up the avenue afterwards in an open car before drenched but cheering parade-goers.
Actually, according to NOAA, the switch of inaugural dates from March 4 to Jan. 20 considerably minimized the chance of rain or snow on inauguration days.
Prior to the change, one out of every three inaugurals was held in wet weather. But of the 11 inaugurations held since 1937, only two -- Franklin Roosevelt's and John F. Kennedy's -- had to contend with precipitation.
Richard Nixon had two inauguration celebrations, and they were both held in chilly weather. Jimmy Carter's took place in equally bone-numbing temperatures.
Carter had better weather four years later -- except that the comparatively balmy inauguration day -- temperatures were in the 50s -- was enjoyed a lot more by the man who was replacing him, Ronald Reagan.