The Capitol Dome

Summer 2012

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THE CAPITOL DOME BOOKSHELF New&Noteworthy Books on Congressional and Capitol History The U.S. Capitol Historical Society is initiating a feature presenting newly published books on congressional or Capitol history that are worthy of the attention of our readers. If you have a recommendation for a book to add to the Capitol Dome bookshelf, please contact us at Books should be nonfiction, pertain to the history of the Capitol or Congress, and have been published within the last two years. JIMBENDAT Democracy's Big Day: The Inauguration of Our President, 1789-2013 (Bloomington, Ind.: iUniverse, Inc., 2012), 200 pp., hardcover, $24.95; softcover, $14.95; ebook, $3.95. EVER WONDERED WHICH PRESIDENTIAL inauguration featured an official peanut pitcher? Probably not, but you'll learn the answer in this newest edition of an indispensable guide to presidential inaugurations. Next January the President-electwill take the oath of office on the steps of the west front of the Capitol, weather and all other circumstances permitting. That simple ceremony is all that the Constitution requires; however, as Jim Bendat's engaging, thoroughly researched survey of inauguration day reveals, there is much more revealing pageantry, pomp, and political imagery on display in democracy's big day. Reading this book will help you put the 2013 inauguration in histori- cal perspective. Organized in five sections, the book begins with vignettes of the prelimi- nary morning preparations as the outgoing President and the President- elect meet at the White House and 46 THE CAPITOL DOME ride together to the Capitol for the swearing-in ceremony. The following three sections deal with the ceremony, the inaugural parade, and the inaugural balls that round out the day. The final section deals with some of the atypical i n a u g u r a t i o n s occasioned by the deaths, assassinations, or resignation of sitting Presidents. The book concludes with an extremely useful chart that details the inaugural sites, the person who administered the oath, the weather, the number of inaugural balls, and a category of notable aspects of each inauguration. There are several books about presi- dential inaugurations; this inmy opinion is the best, most concise, and most useful. Not only does the author write in an accessible style, he also carefully and thoroughly researches his material in the primary sources. For example, it has often been related that President George Washington established the precedent of adding the phrase "So help me God" at the conclusion of the presidential oath. But as Bendat writes, "There are no contemporary accounts indicating that Washington actually said 'So helpmeGod'" (26). And, moreover, far from establishing a precedent, except for Chester A. Arthur in 1881, there is no evidence any subsequent President added the phrase until Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933, which did set a precedent followed by every President thereafter. Oh, yes, which presidential inaugu- ration had an official peanut pitcher?— Jimmy Carter' s in 1977, of course (145-46). ~Reviewed by Donald R. Kennon SUMMER 2012

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