Every four years, an inaugural ceremony gives the nation a chance to celebrate a new beginning, and the president an opportunity to address the American people. Joe Biden became the 46th president when he took the oath of office on Jan. 20. One of the youngest senators when he was elected to Congress in 1972, Biden is the nation’s oldest president. Just as no two presidents are alike, neither are the ceremonies that usher them into office. Several men were sworn in after a president’s death or resignation and didn’t have an inauguration until they were elected to a full term later, if at all.
The first president.
Inaugurated on April 30, 1789 and March 4, 1793. Washington wore a dark brown suit that was made in the United States for the 1789 ceremony. At 135 words, his 1793 inaugural address is easily the shortest in the history of the ceremony.
The first president to live in the White House.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1797. Oliver Ellsworth became the first chief justice of the United States to administer the oath of office to the president during the ceremony, establishing a tradition for future inaugurations.
The first president to be inaugurated in D.C.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1801, and March 4, 1805. Jefferson’s 1801 inauguration was the first time the Marine Band played at the ceremony. He walked to and from his ceremony instead of riding in a carriage.
The first president to ask Congress for a declaration of war.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1809, and March 4, 1813. The first inaugural ball was held after his 1809 ceremony. His suit for that inauguration was made of wool that was grown and processed in the United States.
The first president to travel on a steamboat.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1817, and March 5, 1821. Monroe’s 1817 inauguration was the first to be held outdoors, which happened because the Senate and the House were feuding about which chairs to use.
John Quincy Adams
The first known photo of a U.S. president is of Adams.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1825. According to his account of the ceremony, Adams took the oath on a book of law rather than a Bible. He was the first to wear long trousers during the ceremony instead of knee breeches.
The first president to have served in both houses of Congress.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1829, and March 4, 1833. Jackson’s 1829 inauguration was the first of 34 held on the East Portico of the U.S. Capitol, the most popular venue in the ceremony’s history.
Martin Van Buren
The first president who was not born a British subject.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1837. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney administered his first of seven oaths of office during Van Buren’s inauguration, which is the second most oaths administered, behind John Marshall.
William Henry Harrison
The first president to die while he was in office.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1841. Wearing no coat on a cold day, Harrison delivered the longest inaugural address in history. Doctors cited pneumonia when he died a month later, but new research points to typhoid or paratyphoid fever.
The first to become president after the death of his predecessor.
Sworn in on April 6, 1841. Tyler took his oath at Brown’s hotel in Washington two days after William Henry Harrison died. He was sworn in by William Cranch, chief judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of the District of Columbia.
James K. Polk
The first (and only) president to have been speaker of the House.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1845. Polk’s inauguration was the first to be covered by telegraph and the first to be shown in an illustration, which was run by the Illustrated London News. The origin of the Bible he used is unknown.
The first president who had not served in an elected office.
Inaugurated on March 5, 1849. Three inaugural balls were held in the evening, and Taylor attended all of them. Although there were only snow flurries during the day, it began snowing heavily during one of the inaugural balls.
The first (and only) president named Millard.
Sworn in on July 10, 1850. After Zachary Taylor’s death, which appeared to be from food poisoning, William Cranch, chief judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of the District of Columbia, administered the oath of office.
The first sitting president to seek and be denied renomination by his party.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1853. Pierce recited his entire 3,329-word speech from memory, the first president to do so. He canceled the inaugural ball and broke from tradition by affirming the oath of office instead of swearing it.
The first (and only) president to be a bachelor.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1857. Buchanan’s inauguration was photographed, which is believed to be a first. While it snowed for most of the day, the heaviest snow fell while he gave his address.
The first president to hold a patent.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1861, and March 4, 1865. During Lincoln’s 1865 inauguration, African Americans participated in the parade for the first time. The Bible that Lincoln used in 1861 was purchased by William Thomas Carroll, clerk of the Supreme Court.
The first president to face impeachment charges, which came after he fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. The Senate acquitted him.
Sworn in on April 15, 1865. Johnson was sworn into office the day Lincoln died. He fell short of the 1868 Democratic presidential nomination.
Ulysses S. Grant
The first president to legally change his name. He was born Hiram Ulysses Grant.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1869, and March 4, 1873. In 1869, outgoing President Andrew Johnson stayed at the White House to sign last-minute legislation instead of attending the ceremony.
Rutherford B. Hayes
The first president to hold the White House Easter Egg Roll.
Inaugurated on March 5, 1877. During his inaugural address, Hayes delivered what became his best known quote: “. . . He serves his party best who serves the country best.” The Bible he used was open to Psalm 118:11-13.
James A. Garfield
The first president to be elected directly from the House of Representatives.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1881. Garfield was the first president to watch the inaugural parade from a stand in front of the White House. The Bible he used was open to Proverbs 21:1.
Chester A. Arthur
The first president to take the oath of office in his own home.
Sworn in on Sept. 20, 1881. James A. Garfield was shot on July 2, 1881, and died Sept. 19. Arthur took the oath of office on Sept. 20 with a state judge in New York, and again on Sept. 22 in Washington.
1885–89 | 1893–97
The first president to get married at the White House.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1885, and March 4, 1893. Cleveland was elected in 1884 and 1892, making him the only president to serve nonconsecutive terms. He is considered the 22nd and 24th president.
The first president to be a grandson of another (William Henry Harrison).
Inaugurated on March 4, 1889. Harrison took the oath of office under an umbrella as rain came down in sheets. The total rainfall for the day was 0.86 inches. He took the oath using a Bible provided by the Supreme Court clerk.
The first president to ride in an automobile.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1897, and March 4, 1901. The 1897 inauguration was the first recorded in moving pictures and featured the first congressional luncheon for the incoming president.
The first president to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1905. Roosevelt took the oath Sept. 14, 1901, after the assassination of William McKinley. He won reelection in 1904, becoming the first to ascend to the office after a president’s death and also win reelection.
William Howard Taft
The first president to take and administer the oath of office.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1909. A snowstorm forced the ceremony indoors to the Senate chamber. About 6,000 workers and 500 wagons were needed to clear the parade route of 58,000 tons of snow and slush.
The first president to have a PhD.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1913, and March 5, 1917. Wilson canceled the inaugural ball because he felt it was inappropriate for such a serious day. He used the same Bible as when he was sworn in as governor of New Jersey, open to Psalm 119:43-46.
Warren G. Harding
The first president to be on the cover of Time magazine.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1921. Harding rode a Packard Twin Six to and from his inauguration, the first time an automobile was in the ceremony. He took the oath on the same Bible that George Washington used.
The first president to give a radio broadcast from the White House.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1925. Coolidge was sworn in on Aug. 3, 1923, after the death of Warren G. Harding. William Howard Taft administered the oath at Coolidge’s inauguration. He used a family Bible, open to John 1.
The first president born west of the Mississippi River.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1929. Hoover’s inauguration was the first captured by the “talking newsreel.” By the time he completed his inaugural address, Hoover was soaked with rain. He used a family Bible, open to Proverbs 29:18.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
The first president to nominate a woman to a Cabinet post.
Inaugurated on March 4, 1933; Jan. 20, 1937; Jan. 20, 1941; and Jan. 20, 1945. The 20th Amendment, ratified in 1933, moved the inaugural date to January to allow for quicker transitions. He is the only president to have four inaugurations.
Harry S. Truman
The first person to be issued a Medicare card.
Inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1949. Truman took the oath of office on April 12, 1945, after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He won reelection in 1948. His inauguration was the first to be televised, and he reinstated the inaugural ball.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
The first president of 50 states (Alaska and Hawaii were admitted during his presidency).
Inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1953, and Jan. 21, 1957. Eisenhower’s 1953 ceremony was the first time the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies hosted the luncheon.
John F. Kennedy
The first (and only) president to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize.
Inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1961. For the first time, a poet, Robert Frost, participated in the inaugural ceremony. Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic to become president. He used his mother’s family Bible, closed.
Lyndon B. Johnson
The first president to appoint an African American (Thurgood Marshall) to the Supreme Court.
Inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1965. Johnson was sworn in on Nov. 22, 1963, after Kennedy was killed. He was the first president to ride to and from his inaugural ceremony in a bulletproof limousine.
Richard M. Nixon
The first (and only) president to resign from office and be pardoned by another president.
Inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1969, and Jan. 20, 1973. Nixon’s 1969 inauguration included an interfaith prayer service that was open to the public.
Gerald R. Ford
The first (and only) unelected vice president to become president.
Sworn in on Aug. 9, 1974. Ford took the oath of office in the East Room of the White House after Richard M. Nixon resigned as he faced impeachment hearings for his role in the Watergate scandal.
The first president born in a hospital.
Inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1977. Carter was the first president to walk in the parade after the inaugural ceremony. His was the last of the 34 inaugurations held at the East Portico of the Capitol. He used a family Bible, open to Micah 6:8, and the Bible used by George Washington.
The first president to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1981, and Jan. 21, 1985. Reagan’s 1981 inauguration was the warmest on record at 55 degrees. His 1985 inauguration was the coldest on record at 7 degrees.
George H.W. Bush
The first president to have served as director of the CIA.
Inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1989. On the 200th anniversary of the presidency, George H.W. Bush took the oath of office on the same Bible used by George Washington in 1789. He also used a family Bible.
The first president to send an email.
Inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1993, and Jan. 20, 1997. Clinton’s 1997 inaugural ceremony was the first to be broadcast live on the Internet. The 1997 ceremony also marked the last presidential inauguration of the 20th century.
George W. Bush
The first president to have an MBA.
Inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2001, and Jan. 20, 2005. After 9/11, security was ramped up at the 2005 ceremony. A 100-block zone was closed to traffic as soldiers, sharpshooters, helicopters, fighter jets and 13,000 police patrolled the area.
The first African American president.
Inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2009, and Jan. 21, 2013. Obama’s 2009 inauguration had the highest attendance ever. Because Jan. 20 fell on a Sunday in 2012, Obama took the oath in private on that day and retook it at a public ceremony on the 21st.
The first president to have never performed public service.
Inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017. An enthusiastic crowd celebrated on the Mall as Trump delivered his inaugural address, but demonstrations in downtown Washington became unruly as protesters clashed with Trump supporters.
The first president to be inaugurated in the midst of a pandemic.
Inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021. Biden took the oath of office using his family Bible. With few onlookers due to the coronavirus pandemic and heightened security, Biden and the first lady walked an abbreviated parade route to the White House that was followed by a virtual “Parade Across America.”