Department of wretched excess
For President Clinton's 1997 inauguration, Washington's Ritz-Carlton hotel offered a four-night package in its presidential suite, complete with 24-hour butler service, a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce and a champagne-and-caviar dinner for 12 in the suite's private dining room. Price: $30,000. Not to be outdone, the Grand Hyatt offered up a $53,000 package that included four days in one of its presidential suites, transportation to and from Washington in a private jet, 12 hours of limousine service each day, a pair of tickets to all 14 inaugural balls, a reception for 30 (complete with string quartet) and — for the first taker — a replica of the inaugural gown worn by Jacqueline Kennedy.
Ulysses S. Grant's second inauguration, in 1873, hit some gastronomic high notes. Among the items ordered for a feast at the inaugural ball: 8,000 pickled oysters, 150 pounds of boiled lobster and 24 cases of Prince Albert crackers.
A rose is a rose is a rose?
Inaugural balls were untainted by commercialism until 1889 and Benjamin Harrison. Guests at his inaugural ball were given a rose laced with perfume, provided by a clever entrepreneur who wanted ball goers to know that his scent could make even a rose smell better.
Hot and cold
Ronald Reagan's first inauguration, in 1981, was the warmest on record, with a noon temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. His second, with a noon temperature of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, was the coldest on record — so cold, in fact, that planners were forced to cancel most outdoor events and have Reagan deliver his inaugural address in the Capitol Rotunda.
Of $25,000 appropriated by Congress, Franklin Roosevelt returned all but $526.02 to the Treasury for his fourth inauguration in 1945. The only expense was a White House luncheon with members of Congress, and the menu was nothing special: cold chicken salad, rolls (with no butter) and cake (with no frosting).
Best exit line
Exiting President Woodrow Wilson, at the conclusion of Warren G. Harding's swearing-in ceremony in 1921, shook hands with the new president and his running mate, Calvin Coolidge. Wilson then turned to his wife, Edith, and asked, "Are you ready to scoot?"