NPR logo From The Archives: Inaugural Firsts, Ball Gowns And JFK

Inauguration 2013

From The Archives: Inaugural Firsts, Ball Gowns And JFK

As we prepare for President Obama's second inauguration on Monday, we've been looking back through our coverage of inaugurations past. (And it's reminded us that a lot has changed, even from just four years ago.) Along the way, we ran across a few memorable features that we thought worth revisiting.

Inaugural Firsts

Four years ago, NPR's Becky Lettenberger put together a look at history-making moments from George Washington's inauguration to Barack Obama's. As you take a scroll through time, make sure to watch out for a photo from the first presidential inauguration known to have been photographed — James Buchanan's in 1857.

Inaugural Seconds

President Obama dances with first lady Michelle Obama on the night of his first inauguration, Jan. 20, 2009, in Washington. Charles Dharapak/AP hide caption

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Charles Dharapak/AP

After President Obama was re-elected last November, NPR's Linton Weeks asked: Do we really need a second inauguration? "Obama's first inauguration in 2009 was historic and symbolic and arguably a meeting-up point for a lost nation. Now, four years later, we are still trying to get the danged compass to work. Do we really have time — and resources — to party?" he wrote. His story examines the pros and cons of ditching the pomp.

First Ladies: Dancing Through History

The inaugural ensemble of Grover Cleveland's wife, Frances, a fashion icon during the late 1800s who was considered the Jackie Kennedy of her day. Hugh Talman/Courtesy of National Museum of American History hide caption

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Hugh Talman/Courtesy of National Museum of American History

If your favorite part of Inauguration Day is the glitz of the balls, NPR's Susan Stamberg has the story for you. She visited the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History last year to view an exhibit of first ladies' gowns. Don't miss her favorite: "a simple spill of slate blue silk crepe" worn by a first lady rarely considered stylish. (Hint: That first lady later served as a delegate to the United Nations.)

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JFK At 50

President John F. Kennedy delivers his inaugural address after taking the oath of office on Jan. 20, 1961. AP hide caption

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AP

2011 marked the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's inauguration, "a day that would change the lives of many young Americans," as Nathan Rott put it in a piece for All Things Considered. He spoke to several people who reflected, five decades later, on the different paths their lives had taken because of the president's call to action that day. (The Kennedy presidential library also announced the digitizing of much of its collection for the 50th anniversary — including photos, recordings and more.)

Taking The Oath

Quick: Where does the oath of office come from?

Stumped? Morning Edition reminded us in 2009 that it's right there in the Constitution. "It's the only sentence in quotes in the entire Constitution," explained Marvin Pinkert, then-executive director of the National Archives Experience. Pinkert shares the back story of the oath in an interview with Steve Inskeep.

The first printed copy of the draft Constitution, Aug. 6, 1787, annotated by George Washington and others. (Click for full page.) Courtesy of National Archives hide caption

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Courtesy of National Archives