Photos: Historic Inauguration Will Not Look Like The Past

2 hours ago

Even before rioters stormed the Capitol two weeks ago, the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president and vice president was going to look different from ceremonies past.

The risk of large crowds with the ongoing pandemic meant there would be no parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, and many of the usual performances and speakers had been replaced with plans for virtual events.

But the riot at the Capitol have meant further changes to the already unusual inauguration plans, with increased security measures around the Capitol and thousands of National Guard troops stationed nearby.

The scaled-down Inauguration Day events represent a loss of what some scholars call "a civil religion" that binds people together, says Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia's Miller Center.

"When we don't have the serious parts of our [civil religion], the celebratory parts of that, it's like losing one's religion and ceremonies all at the same time," she says.

With the biggest security presence of any inauguration in history and the National Mall shut down to the public, D.C. residents say they've "never seen anything like this" in their city.


On Monday, Lisa and Alex Brittain made their way toward D.C.'s Union Station, inspecting the fences and security checkpoints along the way.

"It's security on steroids," Lisa Brittain said.

Jackie Coleman, who lives in D.C.'s Southeast district, said her commute had doubled due to the preparations.

"We've never had all this, so it's a little different," she said. "But at least I feel protected, you know?"

Without a big parade or throngs of observers, Wednesday's events will be missing some of the standard fanfare of inaugurations past. But Perry said even the "miniature version" of the inauguration ceremony that will take place in front of the Capitol means a continuation of tradition — that part, at least, will look the same.

"Just as long as the photographers don't take photos looking down the mall," Perry said.

Here's a look at Inauguration Day festivities throughout history, including elements that Biden's ceremony will miss.

At Abraham Lincoln's inaugural speech in January 1861, large crowds turned out.
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The public inauguration of Rutherford B. Hayes takes place in front of the U.S. Capitol on the East Portico in on March 5, 1877.
In 1921, the Inaugural Procession for President Warren G. Harding makes it way down the parade route.
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Calvin Coolidge (left) wears wing collar and muted top hat en route to take oath on Inauguration Day, March 4, 1925.
In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower's inauguration drew a large crowd.
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President Dwight D. Eisenhower (center) gets lassoed by Montie Montana in the presidential stand in front of the White House during the inaugural parade, Jan. 20, 1953.
An Army Pershing missile mounted on a tank-like carrier is featured in the inaugural parade for President John F. Kennedy along Pennsylvania Avenue on Jan. 20, 1961.
First lady Jackie Kennedy and President John F. Kennedy pictured moments after he became president on Jan. 20, 1961. This exclusive picture was taken in the rotunda of the Capitol just after Kennedy left the inaugural stand.
Henry Burroughs / AP
President Richard Nixon and former President Lyndon B. Johnson clasp hands as they sit on the inaugural stand where Nixon took the oath of office on Jan. 20, 1969.
Preston Stroup / AP
President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn watch (left) as police and Secret Service officials remove a spectator (right) who burst into the Inaugural Parade on Pennsylvania Avenue on Jan. 20, 1977.
President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan wave from their limousine during the inaugural parade in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 1981.
President George H.W. Bush and his wife, first lady Barbara Bush, acknowledge the crowd on Pennsylvania Avenue after getting out of their limousine and walking the inaugural parade route in Washington, D.C.. Earlier, Bush was sworn in as the 41st president of the United States.
Dennis Cook / AP
President Bill Clinton gestures as he delivers his inaugural address after taking the oath of office on Jan. 20, 1993. Clinton was sworn-in for a second term in front of the Capitol on Jan. 20, 1997, along with Vice President Al Gore.
Ron Edmonds / AP
George W. Bush takes the oath of office from Chief Justice William Rehnquist to become the 43rd president on Jan. 20, 2001, in Washington. Wife Laura Bush holds the Bible beside daughter Jenna.
Doug Mills / AP
President Barack Obama takes the oath of office from Chief Justice John Roberts at the ceremonial swearing-in on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington on Jan. 21, 2013.
Saul Loeb / AP
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk the inaugural parade route in Washington, Jan. 20, 2009.
Charles Dharapak / AP
First lady Melania Trump (left), President Donald Trump, President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama at the U.S. Capitol after Trump's inauguration ceremonies in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2017.
Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images

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