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Presidential Elections

Inaugurations and the First One Hundred Days

Which inaugural parties go down in history?

Andrew Jackson’s first inauguration in 1829 is famous for its public reception. For the first time in history, Jackson invited the public to attend an inaugural party—an invitation that attracted thousands of newly enfranchised supporters, including old soldiers, backwoodsmen, and immigrants, to the White House. Their enthusiasm over the day’s events and downright rowdiness caused thousands of dollars of property damage and forced the new president to narrowly escape out a window. A fourteen-hundred-pound wheel of cheese was consumed in two hours. Meanwhile, White House staff members placed tubs of punch on the lawn in an effort to draw the crowd out of the White House, and then carefully locked the doors behind them. Though one eyewitness compared the event to the “inundation of the northern barbarians into Rome,” Amos Kendall, an editor from Kentucky, heralded, “It was a proud day for the people. General Jackson is their own president.” Four years later, Jackson delivered his second inaugural address to a more subdued crowd in the Capitol’s Hall of Representatives.

Jackson’s bash laid the groundwork for most twentieth-century presidents, who have enjoyed glitz and glamour consistently since Warner Bros. Studios sent a train-load of Hollywood stars to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inauguration in 1932. In 1961, John F. Kennedy turned inaugural events into a nationwide happening when he televised his gala, which was hosted by Frank Sinatra and attended by the movie stars of the day. Bill Clinton, determined to outdo those presidents before him, reportedly spent as much on the inauguration events of 1993 as he did on his campaign for president a year earlier. The central event of his inaugural celebration was a Call for Reunion concert at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, where artists such as Aretha Franklin, Michael Bolton, Tony Bennett, Bob Dylan, Diana Ross, and LL Cool J performed. At a televised party, the rock group Fleetwood Mac reunited to sing “Don’t Stop Thinking about Tomorrow,” Clinton’s campaign theme song.



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