A few days ago, someone commenting at The Conservative Treehouse posted a link to a detailed article about Lyndon Baines Johnson’s inauguration in 1965.

The article, at carlanthonyonline.com, is called ‘Inauguration Swinging-Sixties Style: LBJ’s Big Day, 1965’. Carl Anthony’s article is well worth reading and has plenty of photographs.

Although I was interested in the 1964 election at a very tender age with all its varied personalities and intrigue, by the time Inauguration Day came around, I had lost interest. I do not remember my parents talking a great deal about LBJ, whereas when John F Kennedy was alive, he and Jackie were frequent topics of conversation. They watched every JFK speech broadcast on television. They were also interested in the people around the Kennedys.

I’ll come back to LBJ later. Suffice it to say that Carl Anthony’s article got me searching for information on Eisenhower’s inaugurations for today’s post and JFK’s for tomorrow’s. I was particularly interested in minorities present, celebrities performing and the general tone of events. This is what I found.

Eisenhower 1953

Dwight David Eisenhower’s first term in office began on January 20, 1953. He succeeded Harry S Truman. (Incidentally, his middle initial never stood for anything.) Richard Milhous Nixon was his vice president.

The Second World War general intended to focus on peace and prosperity.

However, the Korean War had started in 1950 and would not end until July 1953. An armistice was declared on July 27 and peace talks lasted until November 1954, at which time the country was divided into its present-day North and South Korea.

Russia also posed a threat, unmitigated by the death of Josef Stalin in March 1953.

Inauguration ceremony

The Washington Post (WaPo) archives have an excellent article on what happened on Inauguration Day. Excerpts and a summary follow.

The weather was unexpectedly sunny and pleasant. But that was not all (emphases mine):

The greatest spectacle of the Inaugural—a mingling of consecration and carnival, of solemnity and celebration—was warmed not only by the sun, but by the good will of those departing from the political scene.

A moment after Mr. Eisenhower took the oath that raised him to the pinnacle of his career, Harry S. Truman, suddenly become a private citizen, reached over and shook his hand warmly.

Mrs. Truman kissed Mrs. Eisenhower who, but a little while before, was trying to hold back tears as her stalwart husband was being sworn into office.

Those were the days.

An invocation for the ceremony was given by the Most Rev. Patrick O’Boyle, Archbishop of Washington.

Eisenhower, who became a Presbyterian that year, was sworn in on two Bibles: the Washington Bible from 1789 and his own West Point Bible.

The Washington Bible was opened to 2 Chronicles 7:14, which will be familiar to many Americans who prayed and meditated upon it in a national civilian prayer effort during Obama’s second term:

14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

According to Wikipedia, Eisenhower’s West Point Bible was opened to Psalm 33:12:

12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
    the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

However, the Eisenhower archives indicate it was Psalm 127:1:

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.

After Eisenhower took his oath of office, he offered a prayer, which WaPo says he:

had written … a little while before in his suite at the Hotel Statler, between the time he returned from church and the time he started for the White House to join Mr. Truman for the ride to the Capitol.

The incoming president said:

My friends, before I begin the expression of those thoughts that I deem appropriate to this moment, would you permit me the privilege of uttering a little private prayer of my own. And I ask that you bow your heads. Almighty God, as we stand here at this moment my future associates in the Executive branch of Government join me in beseeching that Thou will make full and complete our dedication to the service of the people in this throng, and their fellow citizens everywhere. Give us, we pray, the power to discern clearly right from wrong, and allow all our words and actions to be governed thereby, and by the laws of this land. Especially we pray that our concern shall be for all the people regardless of station, race or calling. May cooperation be permitted and be the mutual aim of those who, under the concepts of our Constitution, hold to differing political faiths; so that all may work for the good of our beloved country and Thy glory. Amen.

Eisenhower then gave his first inaugural address. WaPo tells us that he was interrupted by applause five times:

the first time when he said that the United States faces the threat (obviously that of Russia) with “confidence and conviction.”

Bartleby.com has the full text of the address, which is highly optimistic and, perhaps to us, surprisingly outward looking. After he spoke at length on faith, Eisenhower said:

Freedom is pitted against slavery; lightness against the dark.

The faith we hold belongs not to us alone but to the free of all the world. This common bond binds the grower of rice in Burma and the planter of wheat in Iowa, the shepherd in southern Italy and the mountaineer in the Andes. It confers a common dignity upon the French soldier who dies in Indo-China, the British soldier killed in Malaya, the American life given in Korea.

We know, beyond this, that we are linked to all free peoples not merely by a noble idea but by a simple need. No free people can for long cling to any privilege or enjoy any safety in economic solitude. For all our own material might, even we need markets in the world for the surpluses of our farms and our factories. Equally, we need for these same farms and factories vital materials and products of distant lands. This basic law of interdependence, so manifest in the commerce of peace, applies with thousand-fold intensity in the event of war.

A benediction followed, given first by the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Henry K. Sherrill of New York, followed by Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver of Cleveland.

Afterwards, the diminutive internationally acclaimed soprano, Dorothy Maynor (1910-1996), sang the Star Spangled Banner. She was the first black to sing at a presidential inauguration: Harry Truman’s in 1949. WaPo said it was difficult to see her on the rostrum because of her height.

Maynor, incidentally, was the daughter of a Methodist minister and married a Presbyterian clergyman in 1942. By then, she had already earned two bachelor’s degrees and had toured the United States, Europe and Australia, often to sold out concerts.

Eugene Conley (1908-1981) followed with America the Beautiful. He, too, was an opera singer. A tenor, he performed with the New York City Opera then went to Europe where he performed in Paris, Milan and London. By the time he sang at the inauguration, he was appearing regularly on television.

Hats were of interest because Eisenhower eschewed the traditional top hat for a homburg. In deference to his choice, Truman also wore one. As for their wives:

They rode bareheaded, chatted amiably and waved to the crowds.

Congressional luncheon

Eisenhower established this tradition with this inauguration.


In the parade which followed, the Eisenhowers created a new tradition: riding in the same car together.

They rode in a white Cadillac with its top down.

WaPo tells us:

The cheering began on Capitol Hill and mounted the nearer the Chief Executive got to the White House. He waved at first, but as the noise grew in intensity he began to stand up to acknowledge the acclaim.

When they reached the White House, the couple went straight to the reviewing stand.

WaPo says that the parade lasted four hours and 39 minutes, possibly the longest of its kind in history. The sun had set by the time it ended:

President Eisenhower was in a gay mood at the White House, as he reviewed the Inaugural parade. At one point he submitted to being lassoed by a California cowboy named Marty Montana, who made good with his lariat after one nervous failure.

Approximately 750,000 people turned out to line the route on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Inaugural balls

As I wrote in my history of presidential inaugurations, the Eisenhowers planned on only one inaugural ball, as Truman had done.

However, demand for tickets was such that a second one was held.

An original invitation is currently on sale.

Mamie Eisenhower’s gown was pink, which became her trademark colour as first lady. Time has a picture of it and says the style indicates a move away from postwar austerity to opulent gaiety:

Mamie didn’t skimp on the rhinestones. Her pink peau-de-soie gown is covered with more than 2,000 of them.

The Eisenhower archives have more pictures of the balls as well as of the rest of the day.

Eisenhower 1957

January 20 was on a Sunday in 1957, so Eisenhower was sworn in privately in the White House that day.

The public ceremony went ahead the following day.

Inauguration ceremony

The Eisenhower archives tell us that the weather that day was not as nice as it was in 1953. Light snow fell in the morning. Flurries continued in the afternoon.

The Bible verse used for that occasion was Psalm 33:12:

12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
    the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

This video shows Eisenhower being sworn in:

The internationally renowned black contralto Marian Anderson (1897-1993) sang at the ceremony. Anderson never joined an opera company and performed in concerts and recitals only. Her career spanned four decades — 1925 to 1965 — and she was well known in the United States and Europe. The YouTube video below shows the president standing to her right side:

Eisenhower’s address, in full at Bartleby.com, was about American prosperity and the Cold War. However, once again, he reminded Americans of the world beyond:

New forces and new nations stir and strive across the earth, with power to bring, by their fate, great good or great evil to the free world’s future. From the deserts of North Africa to the islands of the South Pacific one third of all mankind has entered upon an historic struggle for a new freedom; freedom from grinding poverty. Across all continents, nearly a billion people seek, sometimes almost in desperation, for the skills and knowledge and assistance by which they may satisfy from their own resources, the material wants common to all mankind.

No nation, however old or great, escapes this tempest of change and turmoil. Some, impoverished by the recent World War, seek to restore their means of livelihood. In the heart of Europe, Germany still stands tragically divided. So is the whole continent divided. And so, too, is all the world.

The divisive force is International Communism and the power that it controls.

Sadly, that is still true 60 years on.

Nonetheless, Eisenhower encouraged a continuation of optimism and a hope that the United States could help the world where it could.


The Eisenhower archives tell us that the parade was only an hour shorter than the one in 1953.

Once again, 750,000 people lined the route to witness the entertainment:

Marching in the parade were 17,000 people, including 11,757 in military service. There were 47 marching units, 52 bands, and 10 drum and bugle corps in the inaugural parade. The highlight of the parade was a mammoth float — 408 feet long and mounted on 164 wheels — which introduced the theme “Liberty and Strength Through Consent of the Governed.”

The Eisenhower children and Nixon girls stood next to each other, their fathers behind them in the reviewing stand.

The grandstands were extensive, accommodating 65,800 persons: 2,900 more than in 1953.

As he did in 1953, Eisenhower stood up in the car to wave to spectators:

Here are some of the bands and floats. Note that the spectators are integrated:

Inaugural balls

That evening, four inaugural balls were held.

This brief and blurry video shows one of them. Mamie Eisenhower wore a lace ballgown:

The Eisenhower archives have more photos of the day.

Although my late mother was a big fan of the much derided Adlai Stevenson II, Eisenhower’s opponent in both the 1952 and 1956 presidential campaigns, she was very happy with the retired general by the time he ran for re-election.

She said the Eisenhower years were a time of much happiness in the United States. Speaking personally, it seems that the nature of television shows reflected that optimism. Whatever one’s politics was, people seemed to share the same values and interests. There was no real division then. Admittedly, segregation in the South was still to be resolved, however, many blacks from that part of the country found employment by moving north to good jobs in manufacturing, particularly in the motor industry in Detroit. Therefore, overall, the Eisenhower years offered mobility and opportunity.

Tomorrow: John F Kennedy’s inauguration