1. Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration was a beautiful and dignified event until the Veep, Andrew Johnson, took the mike and like a drunken best man, laid down a rip-roaring drunken speech that left everyone dismayed. He had a pretty good reason for it though. He had typhoid fever and the treatment at the time was – you guessed it – drinking whiskey. Lincoln was horrified. Hannibal Hamlin, who was Lincoln’s VP during his first term, actually yanked on Johnson’s coattails to get him to shut up. He eventually did but not before making the whole affair very awkward.
2. The inauguration of Andrew Jackson goes down in history as the wildest party ever to hit Washington DC. As a “man of the people”, President Jackson invited basically the whole country to come to the White House, like it was a frat party at Georgia Tech. The resulting pandemonium was predictable. Presidential china was smashed, curtains were ripped off their mounts, carpets were ruined by thousands of muddy feet running wild through the house. The party only wound down when the commoners were lured outside to the White House lawn with a giant tub of whiskey.
3. To celebrate his second inauguration, Ulysses S Grant decided to free thousands of canaries into the blue Washington sky. Unfortunately it was so cold, all the birds froze to death.
4. Richard Nixon also had a bird-related disaster. In an effort to keep the birds away, the streets along the parade route were treated with a chemical bird repellent. The result was thousands of dead pigeons along the central D.C. streets.
5. President James Buchanan caught dysentery – known for a while as National Hotel Disease – and had terrible diarrhea in the weeks before the inauguration. He was worried he was not going to be able to appear at his own inauguration because he was – as he said in a letter to Jefferson Davis – “living life cautiously.” Nearly three dozen people died from the National Hotel Disease so all things considered, Buchanan got off lightly.
6. At John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, just about everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. The weather was horrible: eight inches of snow had fallen the night before and the day was frigid. Robert Frost botched the poem he wrote and ended up reciting an old one from memory. He had announced that he would not wear a hat to be inaugurated – the first president to eschew headwear – but he was pressured by the hat industry to wear a hat so he wore a hat off and on all day. And lastly, the podium caught fire as Cardinal Richard Cushing delivered the invocation.
7. William H. Taft had even worse weather: 10 inches of snow was fell that day, a record for Inauguration Day.
8. Fourteenth president Franklin Pierce gave his inauguration speech without using any notes – and he chose to “affirm” rather than “swear” to faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States. His son, Benjamin, was killed in a train crash just two months before the inauguration, and he had begun to question his Christianity, and decided not to swear on the Holy Bible.
9. Pierce’s vice president’s inauguration that still holds the record for the craziest. William Rufus King was sworn in while in Cuba. He was terminally ill with tuberculosis so Congress passed a special act to allow this unusual ceremony. VP King did eventually return to the US, but died shortly after.
10. In the cringiest modern Inauguration Day flub, Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts misstated a few words while administering the Oath of Office to Barack Obama. A second oath was administered the next day to assure Obama would be viewed as a legitimate president.