Looking Back at Presidential Inaugurations

Join the audience of a live BackStory with the American History Guys radio show, January 19

2009 inauguration on Capitol Hill
Photo caption
Architect of the Capitol
WASHINGTON, (January 8, 2013)

*** A broadcast of the January 19 BackStory program on the history of presidential inaugurations is viewable online at C-SPAN3. Watch it here.***

Which fiercely contested 19th-century presidential election nearly resulted in two rival inaugurations? Which president has been invoked by all subsequent presidents—even Confederate president Jefferson Davis—in inauguration ceremonies?

As the nation pauses to look forward at the next four years, BackStory radio’s American History Guys link present and past, tackling these and other questions in their characteristically irreverent take on the history of American presidential inaugurations during a live program in the Flag Hall of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History at 11 a.m. Saturday, January 19.

Join the Smithsonian and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for a special one-hour presentation of BackStory. Exploring scenes from presidential inaugurations past, historians-cum-radio-personalities Brian Balogh, Ed Ayers, and Peter Onuf will examine what these moments reveal about the social and political forces at work around them, beginning with America’s first inauguration. The History Guys will also reflect on the ways 20th century media technologies have shaped inaugurations, and explore the transitional rituals that take place behind the scenes—in the ballrooms and cubicles of the capital city.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday, January 19th in the Flag Hall of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.  Audience members are invited to participate in the program with questions for the American History Guys. The program will feature an interview with special guest Harry R. Rubenstein, Chair of the Division of Political History at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, who will focus on the museum’s presidential history collection and display rarely seen inaugural artifacts.

For those unable to attend in person this special one-hour program will be simulcast via cable service and online by C-SPAN3's American History TV and later available as a podcast at www.backstoryradio.org. This event is supported in part by contributions from the History Channel.

Check www.neh.gov for further details on this special event, and for additional resources and information from the National Endowment for the Humanities and other federal agencies on American presidential inaugurations, including film profiles of US presidents, an archive of past inaugural addresses, poetry read at inauguration ceremonies, and lesson plans on presidential history from EDSITEment, NEH’s award-winning website for teachers, students and life-long learners. 

BackStory with the American History Guys is a weekly public radio program and podcast that brings historical perspective to daily events. Made possible through grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the series is a program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Each week the American History Guys—University of Virginia history professors Balogh and Onuf, and University of Richmond President and historian Ed Ayers—tear a topic from the headlines and plumb its historical depths. Together they drill down to colonial times and earlier, revealing the connections between past and present.  The program can be heard on 23 public radio stations and in 57 communities nationally, and is available online as a podcast.

Event:   Four More Years: Presidential Inaugurations
               Live presentation of a BackStory with the American History Guys radio segment on the history of presidential inauguration celebrations and little-known-stories from inaugurations past.
Date:       Saturday, January 19, 2013, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Location:  Flag Hall, Second Floor, National Museum of American History, Washington D.C

                 This event is free and open to the public.

Media Contacts:
Paula Wasley: (202) 606-8424 | pwasley@neh.gov