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Inauguration Trip-ups, Oddities and Excesses

From the chaotic to the comic, the event has had its moments

The inauguration festivities launching President Obama’s second term mark the 57th time the nation has held such a party, albeit of varying size and scope. Here, some notable moments from Inauguration Days past.

Mob white house inaugural andrew jackson 1829

Rowdiness ensued at the White House during Andrew Jackson's inaugural reception in 1829. — Robert Cruikshank/Library of Congress

The great escape

In 1829, Andrew Jackson, America's seventh president, opened the White House's doors to the inaugural mobs and escaped the crush of the crowd only when aides formed a wedge and escorted him out through a back window. The mansion's furnishings were ruined, and the staff could not get the 20,000 partiers to vacate the premises. They then hit on an ingenious idea: Tubs of whiskey were moved progressively outward until the crowd was beyond the White House gates. Meanwhile, Old Hickory was sleeping soundly at the National Hotel ten blocks away.

Worst performance in a supporting role

For his 1865 swearing in as Lincoln's vice president, Andrew Johnson arrived in the Senate chamber roaring drunk. His behavior (he was rude to his colleagues and made a confused, rambling speech) brought scorn from Lincoln and ridicule from the public. "Do not let Johnson speak outside," Lincoln ordered.

Best ruse for a room

Hotels and boardinghouses throughout Washington D.C. were booked solid for Abraham Lincoln's first inauguration in 1861; even mattresses scattered in hallways and lobbies commanded top rates. As a result, many visitors to the nation's capital feigned illness and tried to check into local hospitals.

Memory, don't fail me now (Part I)

William Howard Taft — the 27th President of the United States and later the nation's tenth Supreme Court Chief Justice — took his presidential oath of office on March 4, 1909. But 20 years later, as chief justice, he jumbled the words of the oath as he administered it to Herbert Hoover. Instead of reciting the phrase "preserve, protect and defend," it emerged from Taft's mouth as "preserve, maintain and defend."

chief justice roberts obama oath white house

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. re-administers the oath of office to President Barack Obama in the Map Room of the White House on January 21, 2009. — Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images

Memory, don't fail me now (Part II)

Eighty years after Taft's jumbled recitation of the oath, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., with President-elect Barack Obama standing in front of him, got things a bit mixed up, too, misplacing the word "faithfully" and changing an "of" to a "to." The following day, to erase any question that Obama was officially the president, Roberts administered a do-over in the White House Map Room.

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