The Double Rarity of Obama’s 2013 Sunday Second Inauguration, Part 1

In 224 years, there have been only five Presidential Inaugurations marking a second term to take place on a Sunday; this year's is one of them (1957 is shown above). Two other Sunday inaugurations began first terms.

In 224 years, there have been only seventh Presidential Inaugurations marking a second term to take place on a Sunday; this year’s is one of them (1957 is shown above). Two other Sunday inaugurations began first terms.

Obama will be only one of seven Presidents to have a Sunday Inaugural.

Obama will be only one of seven Presidents to have a Sunday Inaugural.

The ceremonies to be held two weeks from this coming Sunday and Monday, on January 20, 2013 (and January 21, 2013) marking the second Inauguration Day of President Barack Obama is only the seventh time in American history that the event will take place on a Sunday.

James Monroe.

James Monroe.

The previous such occurrences were those of James Monroe on March 4, 1821, Zachary Taylor on March 4, 1849, Rutherford B. Hayes on March 4, 1877, Woodrow Wilson on March 4, 1917, Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 20, 1957 and Ronald Reagan on January 20, 1985.

Of these previous seven events, however, those of Monroe, Wilson, Eisenhower and Reagan were also, like that of Obama, for their second inaugurations, following their re-election to a second term.

Zachary Taylor.

Zachary Taylor.

In terms of second Inaugurations resulting in some unprecedented element to inaugural history, these incidents have not been generally noteworthy. Sunday Inaugurations, on the other, hand, have led to some curiosities of historical precedence, perhaps because they are so unusual.

The Hall of Congress where James Monroe's second swearing-in ceremony in 1821 was held.

The Hall of Congress where James Monroe’s second swearing-in ceremony in 1821 was held.

Only two of these Inauguration Days have been marked with only one ceremony as the Constitution mandates.

Only one of the legal ceremonies among these six inaugurations occurred at the traditional public site on the steps of the Capitol Building. The other five were held in the House of Representatives, the private President’s Room at the Capitol, and three were held in the White House, an exact location for the swearing-in and oath not being mandated by the Constitution.

Hayes.

Hayes.

Given those statistics, the odds seem good that Obama’s second Inauguration on January 20, 2013 might mark some other crinkle to convention.

Eisenhower.

Eisenhower.

There is also another curious bit of symmetry to the upcoming event. Barack Obama is the third consecutive President to be inaugurated to a second term, following those of Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1997 and George W. Bush in 2001 and 2005.

The only other time this has occurred was in the earliest years of the presidency when Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated for his two terms in 1801 and 1805, James Madison in 1809 and 1813, and James Monroe in 1817 and 1821.

It also led to the nation technically having one one-day Chief Executive now entirely forgotten, President John Gaillard of South Carolina and one underage half-day Chief Executive almost entirely forgotten, President David Atchison of Missouri.

The oddities associated with the Sunday Inaugurations all largely stem from the conflict of the old separation of church and state issue. Resolution of it has been a matter of honoring cultural tradition while upholding constitutional mandate.

A souvenir pennant sold at Wilson's second Inauguration.

A souvenir pennant sold at Wilson’s second Inauguration.

Wilson.

Wilson.

Public officials have generally considered the Sabbath day of Sunday a particularly sensitive day on which to conduct business. Religious Americans of the early 19th century adhered to the biblical description of Sunday as the day of prayer and rest, and a president using Sunday for his inauguration risked using Sunday for his inauguration did so at his own political risk.

Legend has it that the first inauguration day of March 4 was chosen because it was the date least likely to fall on a Sunday every four years starting with 1789, the year George Washington was inaugurated as the first President.

The last time there was a Sunday Inauguration the official ceremony, the next day, was forced inside to become the first and only one to take place in the Capitol Rotunda.

The last time there was a Sunday Inauguration the official ceremony, the next day, was forced inside to become the first and only one to take place in the Capitol Rotunda.

The last inauguration to take place on March 4 was in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first of four swearing-in ceremony.

The 1933 ratification of the 20th Amendment moved Inauguration Day of January 20.

The Reagans dance at one of the numerous Balls held for his second Inauguration in 1985.

The Reagans dance at one of the numerous Balls held for his second Inauguration in 1985.

So, in the first 144 years of the presidency, there have been four Sunday Inaugurals. In the last 80 years of the presidency, there will be a total of three Sunday Inaugurals.

Congress might consider returning Inauguration Day to March 4, given the unpredictability of the six Sunday Inaugurations preceding President Obama’s two weeks from this Sunday. An overview of those six historic occasions will follow in the days ahead.

The President and his family at his first swering-in ceremony.

The President and his family at his first swearing-in ceremony.


Categories: Barack Obama, Dwight D. Eisenhower, History, James Monroe, Presidential Inaugurations, Presidents, Ronald Reagan, Rutherford B. Hayes, The Obamas, Woodrow Wilson

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6 replies »

  1. Carl: Fascinating stats on the former Sunday inaugurations. It’s amazing how Sunday blue laws and downturn in chuch attendancy have changed the religious and political climate in the US. It also quite interesting to realize Obama is the third consecutive president to be elected to a third term. I’ll look forward to your recap of the previous six Sunday inaugurations. Hail to the chiefs.

  2. Great read! Happy New Year to the Superstar Author!

  3. Looking at that striking photo of Pres. & Mrs. Reagan at their 2nd Inaugural Ball, I remember that I did not see any reporting of that celebration, whether it was because of work or low publicity or both. Mrs. Reagan, as always looked very striking in her gown, but it was so very different from the James Galanos gown she wore at her 1st Inaugural, a stunning one shoulder dress that looked straight out of Flying Down To Rio, very Ginger Rodgers/1930’s musical number. The one you’ve pictured here is a “smart” dress, but if you were to take out the beading & shorten the length, she could be a woman atty presenting an important case at court. What a difference. I know she had cancer surgery that could have warranted a very different style. The dress looks very “Bill Blass” who liked to blend casual into his ball gowns by combining knitted tops w/taffeta or chiffon skirts. Perhaps she had reached a level of self confidence that allowed her to choose a more modest look, without forsaking elegance.

    Our first ladies are all so different, and each very fascinating. I could never picture Michelle Obama in Bill Blass! I do think she would have loved “shopping” in Nancy’s Closet, though. Next to Jackie, Mrs. Reagan was one well dressed lady!

    • S. So, so happy to hear from you – you always write great comments and make such excellent observations. And, as your comment here proves, I always learn something I never knew or you bring me into a realm about which I know very little. I admit that I don’t have the attention for details about clothes, men’s or women’s – and my brain goes numb, so I only know about Inaugural clothes of First Ladies when and if what they wore had a political or cultural impact. So my perception of Mrs. Reagan’s Inaugural gown is only in the context of the political fallout which followed in the media, which used it as a symbol for juxtaposition to the ongoing1981-1982 recession. I do know, however, from just seeing the images of her during the eight years she was First Lady that she never looked anything but impeccable and managed to cast a permanent impression which suggested something simultaneous and nearly impossible to pull off: a timeless, classic quality while also capturing the vibe of her era. Thank you very much for your excellent observations and information – its not just for me that you provide it but for all the regular readers here and the strangers who wander in.

Trackbacks

  1. Monroe’s Inaudible Inauguration: Rain, Panic, A One-Day Prezzy & A Small Ball, Sunday Inaugurals, Part 2 « Carl Anthony Online
  2. A Day Without a President, A Day With Three Presidents, Ladies Gone Wild & Lincoln’s Lost Coat: Taylor’s 1849 Sunday Inaugural, Part 3 « Carl Anthony Online
  3. Murder Threats, A Secret Ceremony & the First Lady Who Just Wouldn’t Leave: Sunday Inaugurations, Part 4 « Carl Anthony Online
  4. Bomb Threats, Suffragists & A Broken Campaign Pledge: The 1917 Sunday Inauguration, Part 5 « Carl Anthony Online
  5. A Mid-Century Cold War Show & High Visibility Veep: The 1957 Sunday Inauguration, Part 6 « Carl Anthony Online
  6. Reagan’s 1985 Big Chill Sunday Inauguration with Videos, Part 7 « Carl Anthony Online
  7. The Very First Inaugural Ball: Hot for Her, Not for Him « Carl Anthony Online
  8. The Masses Crowd Two Centuries of Inaugural Balls « Carl Anthony Online
  9. Washington & Monroe: No Love Lost Between the First & Last of the Virginia Dynasty « Carl Anthony Online
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