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.

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 […]

Ladies Behind the Lens

(The following is an article, written by Brett Carnell and Helena Zinkham of the Prints and Photographs Division, for the November/December 2016 Library of Congress Magazine.) “If one is the possessor of health and strength, a good news instinct … a fair photographic outfit, and the ability to hustle, which is the most necessary qualification, […]

The Power of Photography

(The following is a feature story from the November/December 2016 Library of Congress Magazine, LCM, that was written by Helena Zinkham, director of the Library’s Collections and Services Directorate and chief of the Prints and Photographs Division. You can read the issue in its entirety here.)  What do Marilyn Monroe, Civil War soldiers and the Wright Brothers […]

Page from the Past: War of the Worlds

(The following was written by Audrey Fischer for the July/August 2016 Library of Congress Magazine, LCM.) The story is legendary in the annals of broadcasting history. On the evening of Sunday, Oct. 30, 1938, a young Orson Welles directed and narrated a radio adaption of H.G. Wells’ novel, “The War of the Worlds” for his […]

Technology at the Library: Display By Design

(The following is an article in the September/October 2016 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. The article was written by Fenella France, chief of the Library’s Preservation, Research and Testing Division.) Technological advancements have made it possible for the Library to put several rare maps on long-term display. Preserving and making the Library’s […]

Making of the Modern Map

(The following is a feature story in the September/October 2016 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. The story is written by Ralph Ehrenburg, chief of the Library’s Geography and Map Division. You can read the issue in its entirety here.) Advances in technology continue to transform the ancient art and science of mapmaking. […]

First Word: The 14th Librarian of Congress

(The following is a feature in the September/October 2016 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM.) Carla Hayden discusses her decision to become a librarian and her plans as the new Librarian of Congress. You are about to be sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress. How does that feel? It’s such an honor […]

Curator’s Picks: Signature Sounds

(The following is from the July/August 2016 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. You can read the issue in its entirety here.) Matt Barton in the Library’s Motion Picture and Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division discusses some of the nation’s most iconic radio broadcasts. DATE OF INFAMY SPEECH President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed a Joint […]

Trending: Olympic Games

(The following is a feature in the July/August 2016 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM, that was written by Audrey Fischer, magazine editor. You can read the issue in its entirety here.) Broadcasts of the Olympic Games bring the event to life for millions of viewers and leave a record behind for posterity. […]