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Inauguration Trip-ups, Oddities and Excesses

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

inauguration celebration hotel package jet kennedy gown clinton

Among the more opulent celebrations revolving around the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1997, the Grand Hyatt hotel offered a $53,000 package that included a private jet, presidential suite and a replica of the inaugural gown worn by Jacqueline Kennedy in 1961. — Bettmann/Corbis

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 grant inaugural lobster indulge

President Ulysses S. Grant celebrated his second inauguration in 1873 by indulging in fine foods, including 150 pounds of lobster. — Maarten Wouters/Getty Images

Inaugural indulgences

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.

Cheapest inauguration

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?"

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