On the eve of President Barack Obama's second inauguration, let's take time to look back at a few of the very excited, very nervous and, one time, very drunk men who've been sworn in as president and vice president.
Proof that the more things change, the more things stay the same: President James Monroe's second inauguration, held on March 4, 1817, was originally to include a ceremony in the House chamber. It ended up having to be held on an outdoor platform after the Senate and House of Representatives got into a fight over whether the ceremony would include "fine red chairs" or "plain democratic chairs."
Longest Speech = Shortest Presidency
Poor William H. Harrison. He delivered the longest Inaugural address yet (8,445 words, to be exact) on a cold, dreary March day in 1841, without wearing so much as a coat or hat. One month later, he succumbed to pneumonia, most likely the result of spending so much time in wet clothing on a cold day. Neither heated suction cups nor live snakes could cure him.
Meanwhile, in Cuba
Franklin Pierce's Vice President, William R. King, died a month after his own inauguration. He took his oath of office in Cuba on March 24, 1853, having traveled to the island in an attempt to recover from tuberculosis. But Cuba's ameliorative powers didn't prove quite powerful enough for King. He died on April 18, 1853, only one day after returning to his home in Alabama.
In 1865, Vice President Andrew Johnson had a few glasses of whiskey to steel himself for his speech during President Abraham Lincon's second Inauguration. He may have overdone it, however. His speech turned out to be rambling, foolish and nearly incomprehensible (moreso than the usual rambling, foolish, nearly incomprehensible speeches we're used to from our vice presidents). An intoxicated Johnson didn't step away from the podium until someone managed to pull him away by the coattails.
A Faithful Flub
President Barack Obama made history when he took the oath of office as our nation's first black president. Chief Justice John Roberts also made a bit of history that day when he mistakenly asked President Obama to repeat "I will execute the office of President to the United States faithfully" rather than the correct wording of "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States." Better safe than sorry, the President and Justice Roberts had a take two the next day.