So how many people are coming to the inauguration?

After 1.8 million came to Washington for Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, everyone is wondering how many will return for the second on Jan. 21.

Who knows, though the DC Department of Transportation is estimating 500,000. Some estimate 800,000.

There are so many clichés when it comes to crowd counting. Figures don’t lie, but liars can figure. There are numbers and then there are numbers. It can get very political.

The National Park Service stopped issuing crowd numbers under orders from Congress after wide disagreements over how many people attended the Million Man March in 1995. However, the ban was lifted for Obama’s inaugural.

Crowd counting is part science, part politics. It comes under best guess category. Some believe Obama drew 3 million people despite the official 1.8 million that was still 50 percent more than Lyndon B. Johnson’s record in 1965.

I’ve only attended one – Bill Clinton’s in 1993 with 800,000 people. All I can say is it was the most crowded event I’ve seen. Fear of losing my five-year-old to the intense crowd on Pennsylvania Ave. forced me to put her on my shoulders.

Traditionally, second inaugurals are smaller than the first because supporters learn one thing about Washington in mid-January – it’s cold. It can be damn cold, even snowy. It’s a long day of standing around, fighting crowds and cold and not seeing much. Here are crowd counts for 22 inaugurals that I could find.

2009: Barack Obama 1,800,000
1965: Lyndon B. Johnson 1,200,000
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
1905: Teddy Roosevelt 200,000
1953: Dwight D. Eisenhower 200,000
1885: Grover Cleveland 150,000
1857: James Buchanon 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)

About Rick

Rick Snider is a native Washingtonian, long-time journalist and licensed tour guide since 2010.
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