Flubbed oaths, no coats, and Dutch courage: Seven facts about the US Presidential inauguration

Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th US president in Washington tomorrow

Flubbed oaths, no coats, and Dutch courage: Seven facts about the US Presidential inauguration

Vendors selling President-elect Donald Trump merchandise ahead of Friday's presidential inauguration [John Minchillo AP/Press Association Images]

Regardless of your political ideologies, Donald Trump will take to the stage on the American Capitol in Washington DC tomorrow, place his hand on a bible and utter the solemn 35 words that constitutionally grant him the US presidency for a term of four years.

Whether or not he can manage to book a celebrity to play the Liberty Ball without causing controversy, whether or not he can stick to the script of his speech without pivoting to another thought, and whether he can unite the American people remains to be seen. But the eyes of the world will be on Washington and it’s safe to say that it’s going to be huge.

Here are seven facts about the US presidential inauguration before tomorrow’s ceremony...

  1. President Trump will be sworn in with two different bibles

The first is one given to him by his mother Mary Anne Macleod 61 years ago when Trump graduated from Presbyterian Sunday School, the other being the same one Abraham Lincoln used when he was sworn in.

The only other president to use Lincoln’s bible during his inauguration was Barack Obama, who used it during both of his ceremonies. Tom Barrack, the Presidential Inauguration Committee chairman, says Trump selected it because “In his first inaugural address, President Lincoln appealed to the ‘better angels of our nature.”

  1. Always wrap up against the cold

William Henry Harrison, the ninth president, reminds all upcoming POTUSes two things: keep it short and wear a coat. At his 1841 ceremony, he gave the longest ever address, delivering his 8,500-word speech over a tedious 100 minutes. Refusing to wear a coat throughout, the extremely cold and wet conditions saw him catch pneumonia, dying a month later.

  1. In god they trust – most of the time

When George Washington took office as the first president in 1789, the bible he chose was selected at random. According to historians, the organisers had forgotten to bring one, so they scoured the locality to find one, ultimately getting their hands on one in a nearby Masonic lodge.

Three presidents since then have avoided the good book entirely, however. Theodore Roosevelt, in 1901 chose not to put his hand on a bible, nor did John Quincy Adams and Franklin Pierce, who elected to use books of law to represent the US Constitution.

  1. JFK introduced poetry for the first time

At his 1961 inauguration, American poet and Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Frost became the first poet to recite at the ceremony, which has now become a longstanding tradition. He read his work The Gift Outright, when aged 86, with Vice-President Lyndon B Johnson helping him throughout when he complained of there not being enough light.

At Trump’s ceremony, American poet Joseph Charles McKenzie of the Society of Classical Poets penned a Scottish-themed piece in honour of Trump’s British heritage.

  1. Best to avoid the Dutch courage

As the 17th President of the United States, Andrew Johnson was already off to a bad start, having assumed power after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. But it went from bad to worse when the newspapers of the day reported that he had gotten so drunk that when Lincoln’s aides came to fetch him in Kirkwood House for the ceremony, they were unable to wake him for several minutes.

When he was finally roused, “he had puffy eyes and his was caked with mud from the street.” A barber was summoned to tidy him up and reports claim by the time the 10 o’clock ceremony he had sobered up sufficiently, though did have to be nudged to leave the podium to head to his office.

  1. At a time of crisis, a woman stepped into the breach

When Chief Justice John Roberts swears in Donald Trump as the 45th president tomorrow, he will be fulfilling his solemn duty as the leader of the Supreme Court. But the first woman to ever swear in a president took place on Air Force One in 1963, as Lyndon B Johnson was hastily sworn in following the assassination of JFK.

US District Judge Sarah T Hughes became the first and only woman to date to carry out the role, receiving a phone call on November 22nd. In the rush to get there, no one on board the plane could remember the oath, finally remembering that they would need to check the constitution.

The image of Johnson raising his right hand, flanked on his right shoulder by his wife Ladybird and on his left by the widowed Jackie Kennedy, is arguably the most famous picture ever taken onboard Air Force One.

  1. The first do-over

After being sworn in in 2009, Barack Obama officially had to go through the process a second time, retaking the oath in the White House after Chief Justice John Roberts mistakenly rearranged the order of the words.

While he should have said: “faithfully execute the Office of the United States,” the Supreme Court Justice actually said: “execute the Office of the President of the United States faithfully.”

To smooth over any potential conspiracy theorists, amid all the chatter of where Obama had actually been born, the White House organised a quick do-over in the Map Room of the White House.

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