For instance, members of Congress, who, as a group, usually get 200,000 tickets to hand out for the ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, are limited to one guest each this year. The traditional inaugural luncheon has been canceled, and the parade on Pennsylvania Avenue will be a virtual “Parade Across America” to avoid crowds. And instead of inaugural balls, the evening will feature a “Celebrating America” TV program with musical entertainment.
David Kessler, the inauguration’s chief medical adviser, suggests that everyone take part from home “to protect themselves, their families, friends and communities.”
One person who said he won’t be there is President Donald Trump, who lost the November presidential election and whose presidency ends at noon Wednesday. He will be the first outgoing president in 152 years to skip the swearing-in of his successor.
Below are inauguration facts you can use to impress your parents and friends with how smart you are.
Save the date: In 1937, Inauguration Day took place on January 20 for the first time. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution had moved it from March 4 to give outgoing presidents (sometimes called “lame ducks”) less time to do things their successors might not support.
Talk the talk: The shortest inaugural address was George Washington’s second, in 1793. He said all he wanted to in 135 words. By contrast, William Henry Harrison ignored a snowstorm in 1841 and removed his coat and hat before speaking for nearly two hours and 8,445 words. He got pneumonia and died a month later. And in more speech trivia, in 1853, Franklin Pierce became the first — and we bet only — president to recite his speech entirely from memory. It was 3,331 words, enough to fill an entire newspaper page.
Walk the walk: In 1977, Jimmy Carter, accompanied by his family, became the first president to walk the 16-block parade route. The president and first lady Rosalynn Carter stopped twice to retie the laces of their 9-year-old daughter Amy’s boots. The Carters, now in their mid-90s, have attended each inauguration since, but won’t be at Biden’s because of the pandemic.
What to wear? John Quincy Adams was the first president to ditch knee breeches for long pants on his big day, in 1825. Fast-forward to 1961, when a Baltimore newspaper pleaded with John Kennedy to restore the top hat to men’s formal fashion wear and make his inauguration “more memorable for children.” Kennedy was no fan of hats, but he did like children, so he donned a silk topper for the event.
Howdy Partner: Cowboy fever gripped the nation in the 1950s. As Dwight Eisenhower watched his inaugural parade from a reviewing stand in 1953, he was lassoed like a runaway steer by a cowboy movie star. The Secret Service supposedly okayed the rope trick beforehand.
Bible study: Most presidents take the oath of office on a Bible. Four have used George Washington’s Bible from 1789. Trump and Barack Obama used Abraham Lincoln’s from 1861. Obama also used one belonging to the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Franklin D. Roosevelt holds the record for the oldest Bible, a Dutch edition printed in 1686 that he used at all four of his inaugurations (1933 to 1945).
Highs and lows: Ronald Reagan holds the record for the best and worst weather on Inauguration Day. In 1981, it was a balmy 55 degrees. Four years later, the temperature at noon was 7 degrees with a wind chill that made it feel like minus-10 to minus-20, forcing the ceremony indoors.
Varied locations: Nine previous inaugurations have been held on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol. Thirty-five have been held on the East Front. The first president inaugurated in Washington was Thomas Jefferson in 1801. The three earlier inaugurations took place in New York and Philadelphia.
Tech trivia: The first inauguration covered by telegraph: 1845. First inauguration photographed: 1857. First one recorded by a motion picture camera: 1897. First one broadcast on radio: 1925. First one televised: 1949. First one broadcast live on the Internet: 1997. And the first to be live-tweeted: 2017.