The Atlantic

The Worst Presidential Inaugurations, Ranked

Recent presidential installation ceremonies have been studiously planned and free of major disasters. It hasn’t always been so.
Source: Library of Congress

With malice toward none. The only thing we have to fear. Ask what you can do for your country.

Presidential inaugurations will, at their best, inspire their audiences—not just in their respective moments, but for decades and centuries to come. But presidential inaugurations are also run by people, which means that, sometimes, they will go extremely wrong. Sometimes, it will be protests that will mar the best-planned ceremonies. Sometimes, it will be human pettiness (as when President Hoover, riding with Franklin Roosevelt in the motorcade to the Capitol in 1932, seems to have ignored Roosevelt’s attempts at conversation, instead staring stone-faced into the distance). Sometimes, however, inaugural exercises will encounter disasters of a more epic strain: storms, illness, death, extremely pungent cheese.

With that in mind, here are some of the worst inaugurations in history, ranked in order from the mildly to the egregiously disastrous.

* * *

7. John Adams, 1797

Adams is the least disastrous on this list because nothing overtly awful befell his installation as the second U.S. president. In fact, you can make a very good case—and many have—that Adams’s inauguration was one of the most pivotal moments in American history: Washington having left office after his second term

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