It used to be that the President of the United States (POTUS) was directed by the U.S. Constitution to take office on March 4. But this was during the days when the fastest travel around was by horseback. It would take awhile for all of the election returns to be brought in from the far corners of our country to be counted. But by the 1930’s with the advent not only of the telegraph as a means of communication, but also radio, there was no longer a need to wait an entire four full months for the new POTUS to be inaugurated. With the 20’th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (passed in 1933), the Inaugural date was changed to January 20, at noon. So the last POTUS to be sworn in on March 4, was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. FDR thus also became the first POTUS sworn in on January 20, 1937. With that in mind let us note some of the more memorable events that took place on this – the old inauguration for the POTUS. I shall add to this posting with each passing year, but let’s start with one of the most amazing inaugural blow-outs of all time:
1829 = The Jackson Party Goes Wild!!
The inauguration of Andrew Jackson in 1829 marked the first time that a “common man”, i.e. a man who was not from the nation’s cultural or social elite class took the office. His election took place after a truly vile campaign of personal and political slurs tossed by both sides, culminating with the rumors that Jackson’s wife, Rachel had been an adulteress. Rachel Jackson died just before Christmas of 1828, in part because of the strain that these charges had on her. Jackson was left grief-stricken and forever embittered against his political enemies as a result. But his inauguration party left everyone with a sour aftertaste. It was by this time a tradition to have a public reception in the White House itself following the swearing in of the POTUS, But this time the “public” got out of hand, roaming every part of the executive mansion, drinking, smashing, and looting. Here, eyewitness Margaret Bayard Smith, a Washington socialite describes the mayhem:
“But what a scene did we witness! The Majesty of the People had disappeared, and a rabble, a mob, of boys, negros [sic], women, children, scrambling fighting, romping. What a pity what a pity! No arrangements had been made no police officers placed on duty and the whole house had been inundated by the rabble mob. We came too late.
“The President, after having been literally nearly pressed to death and almost suffocated and torn to pieces by the (Above: Jackson, third from right, is pressed by the crowd) people in their eagerness to shake hands with Old Hickory, had retreated through the back way or south front and had escaped to his lodgings at Gadsby’s.
“Cut glass and china to the amount of several thousand dollars had been broken in the struggle to get the refreshments, punch and other articles had been carried out in tubs and buckets, but had it been in hogsheads it would have been insufficient, ice-creams, and cake and lemonade, for 20,000 people, for it is said that number were there, tho’ I think the number exaggerated.”
Eventually, quick thinking waiters put the barrels of “Cider” out on the front lawn, and the cider being the life of the party, that is where most of the crowd went. Thus the crowd finally left the building and order was restored.