Trending: The Inauguration Will Not (Just) Be Televised

(The following post is featured in the January/February 2017 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM, and was written by Audrey Fischer, LCM editor. You can read the issue in its entirety here.)

The inauguration of the 45th president will be the social media event of the year.

Calvin Coolidge speaks at his inauguration on March 4, 1925, National Photo Company Collection, Prints and Photographs Division.

Calvin Coolidge speaks at his inauguration on March 4, 1925, National Photo Company Collection, Prints and Photographs Division.

Today, social media provides an unlimited opportunity for individuals and media outlets to record and be a witness to such historical events as the presidential inauguration. These sounds and images are then instantaneously shared through computers and mobile devices with a global audience.

This is, of course, a relatively new development.

For the nation’s first 100 years, people got their news by word of mouth and from the printed page. Newspaper accounts of presidential inaugurations – with images largely engraved – informed the public. A number of prolific diarists provided first-person accounts for those unable, or uninvited, to attend the festivities in the nation’s capital. Those who received telegrams or glimpsed the first photographic image of the event – James Buchanan’s 1857 inaugural – must have felt that the modern age had truly arrived.

William McKinley’s March 4, 1897, inauguration was the first to be recorded by a movie camera. The 2-minute film footage shows the inaugural procession down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Film footage from McKinley’s second inauguration in 1901 shows the president addressing crowds on Pennsylvania Avenue, riding in a processional to the Capitol and taking the oath of office. The short clips, produced by Thomas Edison, came to the Library through the copyright registration process and are part of the Library’s Paper Print Collection. Discovered in 1942, the paper copies were converted into projectable celluloid images.

McKinley was shot by an assailant while attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, on Sept. 6, 1901, and died a week later from complications. The Library holds film footage of McKinley’s day at the exposition and scenes from his funeral in Canton, Ohio.

Herbert Hoover, Mrs. Hoover and William Howard Taft watch the inaugural parade on March 4, 1929, National Photo Company Collection, Prints and Photographs Division.

Herbert Hoover, Mrs. Hoover and William Howard Taft watch the inaugural parade on March 4, 1929, National Photo Company Collection, Prints
and Photographs Division.

Calvin Coolidge’s inauguration in 1925 was the first to be broadcast nationally on radio. The address delivered by the man known as “Silent Cal” could be heard by more than 25 million Americans, according to a New York Times report, making it an unprecedented national event.

Herbert Hoover’s inauguration in 1929 was the first to be recorded by a sound newsreel. It marked the second and last time that a former president, William Howard Taft, administered the presidential oath.

Harry S. Truman’s inauguration in January 1949 was the first to be televised, though few Americans owned their own set. In 1981, Ronald Reagan’s inauguration was broadcast on television with closed captioning for the hearing-impaired. During Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985, a television camera was placed inside his limousine – another first – to capture his trip from the Capitol to the White House.

Barack Obama takes the oath of of ce on Jan. 20, 2009. Susan Walsh, Associated Press Photo/Corbis.

Barack Obama takes the oath of of ce on Jan. 20, 2009. Susan Walsh, Associated Press Photo/Corbis.

Bill Clinton’s 1997 second inauguration was the first to be broadcast live on the Internet. President Clinton had signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 at the Library of Congress the previous year.

Barack Obama’s historic first inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009, garnered the highest Internet audience for a presidential swearing-in. It was the first inaugural webcast to include captioning for the hearing-impaired. According to the Wall Street Journal, President Obama’s second inauguration generated 1.1 million tweets – up from 82,000 at the 2009 event.

World War I: Understanding the War at Sea Through Maps

(The following guest post is by Ryan Moore, a cartographic specialist in the Geography and Map Division.) Soldiers leaping from trenches and charging into an apocalyptic no man’s land dominate the imagination when it comes to World War I. However, an equally dangerous and strategically critical war at sea was waged between the Central Powers […]

LC in the News: December 2016 Edition

Happy New Year! Let’s look back on some of the Library’s headlines in December. Topping the news was the announcement of the new selections to the National Film Registry. Outlets really picked up on the heavy 80s influence of the list. “It’s loaded with millennials,” said Christie D’Zurilla of The Los Angeles Times. “Ten of […]

World War I: Lubok Posters in the World Digital Library

(The following guest post is by John Van Oudenaren, director for scholarly and educational programs at the Library of Congress.) By the time the United States entered World War I in April 1917, the European powers had been fighting for more than two-and-a-half years. U.S. troops joined their British, French and Belgian allies in battles […]

Highlighting the Holidays: Under the Mistletoe

The holidays are full of many traditions – gift giving, sending cards, singing and cooking. Also kissing. If ever there was a time to pucker up, it’s in December, underneath the mistletoe. Washington Irving wrote in the 1800s, “young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under [mistletoe], plucking each time a berry from […]

Witnesses to History

(The following was written by Barbara Orbach Natanson, head of the reference section in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division, and featured in the November/December 2016 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. You can read the issue in its entirety here.) The Library’s documentary photograph collections provide a rich, visual record of the […]

Rare Item of the Month: Mary’s Treasures

(The following is a guest blog post written by Elizabeth Gettins, Library of Congress digital library specialist.) This month, in honor of Mary Todd Lincoln’s birthday on December 13, we will depart from our literary theme and look at some of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division’s “special collections.” While these items are not […]

Pic of the Week: Pulling Strings

Luthier John Montgomery inspects the strings on the 1697 “Castelbarco” cello made by Cremonese master Antonio Stradivari, one of five Stradivari instruments originally donated to the Library by Gertrude Clarke Whittall in 1935. According to her bequest, the instruments would be played from time to time, as they were intended. To that end, she established […]

World War I: On the Firing Line With the Germans (1915)

(The following post was written by Mike Mashon of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division and originally appeared on the Now See Hear! blog.) During the centenary observance of World War I, we’ve been prioritizing the preservation of films in our collection pertaining to the conflict. Foremost among these is a film called “On […]