Today began with an unethical Presidential trivia question from a friend, who couldn’t even wait for me to get up, and left it with Grace. The question? “What was the warmest Presidential inauguration?” His answer: Gerald Ford, who was sworn in after President Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, and it was 89 degrees. However, the question was misleading (and knowing this guy, deliberately so), especially since it was asked on Inauguration Day, which is what we generally mean when we we refer to a President’s inauguration. Vice-Presidents who take over the job don’t get “inaugurations,” although it is technically correct to call the beginning of anything an inauguration. Have you ever heard or read about Lyndon Johnson’s swearing in on Air Force One on November 22, 1963 as his “inauguration” after President Kennedy was assassinated? Neither have I. He was “sworn in.” A Presidential Inauguration with an upper case “I” always refers to Inauguration DAY, but as my wife pointed out, you can’t tell over the phone whether a word is capitalized.
Millard Fillmore was also sworn into office during a Washington, D.C. summer, on July 10, 1850, after President Taylor expired. I can’t find any reference to the temperature, but it often tops 90 in July here. If we are discussing Inaugurations with a big I, Ronald Reagan gets credit for the warmest modern ceremony at 55 degrees for his first term , and also the modern record for the coldest January D.C. day at 7 degrees when he took his second oath.
My guess this morning, without checking, was that the warmest Inauguration record belongs to George Washington. The first inauguration ceremony was held on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City on April 30, 1789. (It had been delayed from the original March date because such a throng was expected, and more time was needed to prepare.) Accounts say there was sunshine and a temperature of around 60 degrees for that event. (That’s another problem with my annoying friend’s “gotcha!” question: weather stats for the 19th and 18th century are often sketchy.) I think my guess is probably right, too. After George Washington, the inauguration date became March 4th where it stayed until 1937; it was changed to January 20th. If the day falls on a Sunday, the event is moved to the 21st.