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Inauguration Uh-Ohs: Food Fights, Drunk VPs, and Fire

President Obama has gone out of his way to echo Lincoln throughout the presidential transition, right down to his inauguration lunch where food the 16th president "would have enjoyed" was served. But not even Abe Lincoln's inauguration went smoothly. What could possibly go wrong? Let's look at what has at inaugurations past.

  • Andrew Jackson, the president of the people, was followed back to the White House by 20,000 well-wishers looking for ice cream, cake, and lemonade. It turned into a mob that nearly destroyed the White House and forced Jackson to exit through a back door.
  • A food fight broke out during Lincoln's inaugural supper.
  • Andrew Johnson, Lincoln's vice president, had come down with a bug on inauguration day, so he drank some whiskey to perk himself up. And then he drank some more! People held their heads in embarrassment while he rambled, drunk, through his speech.

To see the rest,


  • Someone forgot to turn on the heat at Ulysses S. Grant's inaugural ball. People tripped over one another while dancing in their overcoats, and canaries — brought in to chirp for song — froze to death.
  • At JFK's inauguration, a lectern caught on fire during the invocation. Then Vice President Lyndon Johnson tripped on the words of his oath, saying "without any mental reservation whatever."
  • Poet Robert Frost mistakenly dedicated his poem not to John F. Kennedy but to John Findlay. Who? He was a Harvard professor.

So far so good today, but a long night — 10 inaugural balls — awaits the Obamas tonight.


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