When the President’s Inauguration was In March!

By | Mar 4, 2011

The 20th amendment to the United States Constitution moved the Presidential Inauguration Day from March 4th to January 20th. Franklin Roosevelt was the last president to be inaugurated on March 4th, when he took the oath of office in 1933. Four years later he became the first to take the oath on the new day.

Why was March 4th chosen as Inauguration Day in the first place? Washington’s first Inauguration Day came nearly two months later on April 30th. When a date was chosen as the first day that the new Congress under the Constitution would meet, the first Wednesday in March was decided upon. The first Wednesday of March in 1789 was March 4th. The 12th Amendment, ratified in 1804, officially made the 4th of March Inauguration Day.

When March 4th fell on a Sunday, the Presidential Inauguration was moved to Monday March 5th. James Monroe and Zachary Taylor were both inaugurated on March 5th. Monroe in 1821 and Taylor in 1849. Rutherford Hayes took the oath on Saturday March 3, 1877. Woodrow Wilson took the oath of office on Sunday March 4, 1913. Both had a public inauguration on the 5th.

The 20th Amendment is sometimes called the “Lame Duck Amendment”. Between the national election in November to a March Inauguration over four months would pass. It was felt that the time before the beginning of the new terms (Both Presidential and Congressional) needed to be lessened. The amendment also clarified what would happen in the case of the President-Elect was not able to take office.

Some of the firsts that happened on the March 4th Inauguration are; The first Inauguration to be photographed was James Buchanan’s in 1857. William McKinley’s 1st Inauguration in 1897 was the first to be captured by a motion picture camera. Calvin Coolidge’s Inauguration in 1925 was the first to be broadcasted on national radio. Four years later Herbert Hoover’s Inauguration was recorded for talking newsreel.

As part of the 20th amendment the Vice-President began taking the oath of office at the same ceremony as the President’s. Prior to this the Vice-President’s oath was done in the Senate Chambers.


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1 Comment so far
  1. JimCooke March 4, 2010 10:04 am

    Thanks for this interesting article.

    Let me add that Calvin Coolidge’s Vice Presidential Address was the shortest on record and that President Harding’s Inaugural Address was the first to be broadcast over loud speakers and could be heard by all assembled. An apocryphal story is of Coolidge listening to Harding’s address and being asked: “Isn’t that amplifier Harding is using a wonderful thing!” Coolidge replies, “Yes, indeed, but what he most needs is a condenser.”

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