This section is from the book "The National Capitol. Its Architecture Art And History", by George C. Hazelton, Jr. Also available from Amazon: The National Capitol Its Architecture Art and History.
From the central portico, once in four years, a large platform is customarily erected, which holds in the neighborhood of 2,500 persons. At the front of this wooden platform is placed a small raised pulpit, and there on the 4th of March, rain or shine, the President-elect is sworn into office by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. The crowd filling the space below, eager both to see the ceremony and listen to the inaugural, has been estimated often at over 100,000 persons.
The first citizen who took the oath of office as President out-of-doors, after the removal of the seat of government to Washington, was James Monroe, on March 4, 1817. The National Intelligencer of the day before published a programme of the ceremonies, which were to have taken place in the hall occupied by the Representatives, where the Senators were to enjoy the privilege of the front row of chairs and the Members find such accommodations as they could j but in its issue of the 4th, that paper said : " The committee of arrangements have been induced to alter the form of the ceremony, intended to have been observed at the inauguration of the 4th March, and the President elect will take the oath of office at 12 o'clock, in a Portico, to be erected in front of the Congress Hall for that purpose. The cause of this change of arrangement is principally ascribed, we believe, to fears of the strength of the building in which Congress sit, but in a degree also imputable to a difference between the two Houses, or their officers, in the mode of appropriation of the Representatives' Chamber to the purposes of this ceremony." Congress was then sitting in the " Old Capitol " east of the grounds. Vice-President-elect Daniel D. Tompkins was sworn into office by Mr. Gail-lard, and delivered his address. The Senate then adjourned for an hour upon the motion of Mr. Barbour—Madison, Monroe and the justices of the Supreme Court having previously entered the chamber. The Senators and marshals of the day accompanied the presidential party to the portico, where the inaugural was delivered and the oath of office administered by Chief Justice Marshall.
John Quincy Adams took the oath of office on the central portico in 1825, and it is said that Andrew Jackson, the unsuccessful candidate, was the first to take the President's hand after the ceremony. The Intelligencer tells us: " No less than four large eagles were seen poising themselves directly over the Capitol for about ten minutes, when one of them, apparently larger than the rest, began to descend, and after making a number of circles around the centre dome arose in graceful spirals. Was their attention attracted by the immense concourse of people about the place, or was the parent eagle, which before made her appearance in almost the same place when our last venerable Chief Justice was conducted into office, now sent by our guardian spirit with her brood from their mountain eyry to augur continued and increased prosperity to our happy country ? "
Four years later the great Chief Justice administered the oath upon the same spot to Jackson at his first inauguration, which was the scene of unprecedented enthusiasm. The President-elect and Van Buren rode to the Capitol in a phaeton, presented by citizens of New York, made of wood from 6 the old Constitution. The appearance of the rabble which overran Washington on this occasion has often been compared with the descent of the barbarians upon Rome. From the descriptions of the doings of the people, the comparison is not unfavorable to the barbarians. A ship's cable, stretched across the central eastern steps, about two-thirds of the way up, could scarcely restrain the madly enthusiastic throng as "Old Hickory," the hero of New Orleans, came upon the President's portico to deliver his inaugural. Ten thousand persons, which was a huge multitude for that day, are estimated to have .witnessed the exercises and afterwards to have run riot in the halls and upon the lawns of the White House in wild demonstrations of joy. Marshall administered the oath, for the last time, again to Jackson in 1833.
Chief Justice Taney administered the oath of office on the east front of the Capitol to Van Buren in 1837, to the elder Harrison in 1841, to Polk in 1845, to Taylor in 1849, to Pierce, who, it is claimed, was the first to memorize his inaugural, in 1853, to Buchanan in 1857, and to Lincoln, on the occasion of his first inauguration, in 1861. Lincoln was then stopping at Willard's Hotel, and Buchanan, who had been detained at the Capitol signing bills, drove thither for him. On the return, the open barouche, with Senators Baker and Pearce on the front seat, was surrounded by a guard of honor of regular cavalry. After the ceremony in the Senate Chamber, Mr. Baker formally introduced Lincoln to the 30,000 persons in waiting upon the eastern plaza. When the President-elect began to read his inaugural, the wind was blowing briskly, and he laid his heavy cane across the manuscript to keep the sheets from flying away. He looked pale and anxious, but read his address firmly and distinctly despite the lack of applause.
It fell to the lot of Taney's successor on the bench, Chief Justice Chase, to administer the oath of office out-of-doors, in front of the same central eastern portico, to Lincoln at his second inauguration in 1865 and to Grant in 1869 and 1873. President Johnson, it seems, did not accompany Grant to the Capitol ; it having been decided that they ride in separate carriages, he refused altogether to attend the ceremony. President Hayes was here sworn into office by Chief Justice Waite on March 5, 1877—the 4th coming on Sunday. The same oath had been administered to him by the Chief Justice in the White House on the Saturday preceding at five minutes past five o'clock, to prevent any difficulty in the way of riots which it was feared might occur because of the political bitterness at the final determination of the Electoral Commission against Samuel J. Tilden. Garfield took the oath of office on the east front of the Capitol in 1881, the oath being administered by Chief Justice Waite. Hancock, the unsuccessful candidate, was present in the full uniform of a Major-General.
March 4, 1885, was a glorious, propitious day. The people hopefully exclaimed: "Cleveland's luck!" The President-elect delivered his first inaugural from a platform erected on the east front, after which Chief Justice Waite administered the oath of office on a small, well-worn, morocco-covered, gilt-edged Bible, marked " S. G. Cleveland." It was the gift of the President's mother, when a young man he first left home to seek his fortune. The same little Bible was again called into use eight years later, though Chief Justice Fuller then officiated. The day was not the same, however. Snow fell in huge wet flakes. There was a spatter as the wheels of the state carriage turned up Pennsylvania Avenue. It was almost as cold as the day of Grant's second inauguration in 1873. The pedestrians shivered; the horsemen scented pneumonia in the air.
On the same spot, in 1889 and 1897 respectively, Benjamin Harrison in the face of a driving stonn, and Wiljiam McKinley on a day so beautiful that it seemed to herald returning prosperity, received the oath of office, administered by Chief Justice Fuller, in the presence of the people. The arrangements at the inauguration of President McKinley differed from those of his predecessors in that the platform constructed for the ceremony extended southward from the steps upon the east front of the Senate wing, whence only it could be reached. The President-elect delivered his inaugural and took the oath of office upon a small pulpit at the corner of the platform instead of at the center, as had before been customary. This permitted the crowd in the open campus to have a better view of the proceedings, as they could see the inauguration from two directions. Upon the steps of the central eastern portico, another platform,-disconnected, formed a reserved gallery from which all was equally well seen.
It has been customary during the later administrations for the President's carriage, his escort and a part of the procession, just before noon, to pass up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Peace Monument and thence along North B Street to the top of the hill, where the President and President-elect enter the grounds. The entire procession, both military and civil, is massed here and in the adjacent streets until the completion of the exercises, when the return is made along the same route, the President's carriage and guard of honor being placed in the van in order that he may reach the Executive Mansion first. The state carriage leaves the procession at the Treasury, and passes quickly behind that building. The President reviews the marching troops and citizens from the stand prepared for the occasion in front of the White House lawn.
At the last inauguration, the beautiful state carriage, drawn by four black horses, contained on the back seat, as is now customary, the outgoing and the incoming President, Cleveland and McKinley; opposite them sat Mr. Sherman of Ohio and Mr. Mitchell of Wisconsin, who composed the committee appointed by the Senate for that purpose. During the drive to the Capitol, President Cleveland occupied the seat of honor on the right; returning, after the inauguration, that place became the prerogative of President McKinley. During the ride to and from the Capitol, Cleveland with becoming dignity allowed his silk hat to remain upon his head, while McKinley, with hat in hand, responded to the cheers of the crowd right and left along the way.