Counting presidential inaugurations attendance

JOHN F. KENNEDY 1961

Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration will be limited to guests, which is not the first time that has happened. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fourth inaugural was at the White House because of his failing health while Ronald Reagan’s second was indoors because of cold weather.

Of 24 past inaugural crowds I could find through newspaper accounts, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and George W. Bush in 1993 were the biggest by a Republican president at 500,000. Ironically, Reagan’s second swearing in was forced inside by frigid weather with the parade cancelled. Bush wasn’t re-elected.

Democrat Barack Obama’s 1.8 million in 2009 is the all-time leader. Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1.2 million in 1965 was more than double John F. Kennedy’s 500,000 in 1961. Obama’s second inaugural in 2013 drew 1 million while Bill Clinton’s 800,000 in 1993.

Kennedy ushered in the modern era of large inaugurations. Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural in 1861 drew only 30,000. Considering the city’s population was 20,000, that’s pretty impressive.

Second inaugurations are often one-third the size of the first. It’s simple logistics. Washington weather can be in the 30s in January. Coupled with hardly seeing anything, many people now opt to watch the second time on TV.

Here are live crowd counts based on newspaper reports.

2009: Barack Obama 1,800,000

1965: Lyndon B. Johnson 1,200,000

2013: Barack Obama 1,000,000

1993: Bill Clinton 800,000

1961: John F. Kennedy 500,000

1981: Ronald Reagan 500,000

2001: George W. Bush 500,000

2005: George W. Bush 400,000

1977: Jimmy Carter: 350,000

1973: Richard Nixon 300,000

1989: George Bush 300,000

1997: Bill Clinton 250,000

2017: Donald Trump 250,000* (Disputed)

1905: Teddy Roosevelt 200,000

1953: Dwight D. Eisenhower 200,000

1885: Grover Cleveland 150,000

1857: James Buchanan 150,000

1933: Franklin Delano Roosevelt 100,000

1853: Franklin Pierce 70,000

1841: William Henry Harrison 50,000

1929: Herbert Hoover 50,000

1829: Andrew Jackson 30,000

1861: Abraham Lincoln 30,000

1817: James Monroe 8,000

1873: Ulysses S. Grant, 2,000

1945: Franklin Delano Roosevelt 1,800 (Private ceremony)

1985: Ronald Reagan 1,000 (Indoors)

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