The Spectator

Barometer | 19 January 2017

Also in our Barometer column: longest and shortest addresses, the cost of Trump’s wall, and advertising in Piccadilly

Text settings
Comments

Starting cold

Why is US Presidential Inauguration Day always on 20 January?

— The date was moved from 4 March in the 20th amendment to the US constitution, passed on 23 January 1933, but it is hard to find any significance to the date. The change was made in an attempt to reduce the lame-duck period of an outgoing president, though it did increase the risk of a repeat of what happened in 1841 when William Henry Harrison was sworn in. Choosing not to wear a coat, hat or gloves, he made the longest inaugural speech of any president, at two hours. Three weeks later he was reported to be suffering from a cold, which developed into pneumonia and then pleurisy, leading to his death on 4 April — although some doubt the connection with inauguration day.

— On 4 March 1841, Washington was 48°F (9°C) and wet. The forecast for this year’s inauguration day was 42°F with rain.

Men of few and many words

Which presidents have made the longest and shortest inaugural addresses?

LONGEST

Number of words

William H. Harrison, 1841

8,445

William Howard Taft, 1909

5,433

James Knox Polk, 1845

4,776

James Monroe, 1821

4,467

Benjamin Harrison, 1889

4,388

SHORTEST

Number of words

George Washington, 1793

135

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1945

559

Abraham Lincoln, 1865

698

Zachary Taylor, 1849

996

Theodore Roosevelt, 1905

985

The cost of the wall

Donald Trump reiterated his plan to build a wall along the US-Mexican border. Some estimates of its cost:

Donald Trump, 2015

$8bn–$12bn

Congressional Republicans, 2017

$14bn

Marc Rosenblum, Migration Policy Institute, 2015

$15bn-25bn

Washington Post, 2016

$25bn

Todd Sternfield, CEO, Superior Concrete Products of Texas, 2017

$50bn

The lights of Piccadilly

The six remaining illuminated advertising screens at Piccadilly Circus were turned off so they can be replaced with a single screen.

— The first illuminated sign is usually said to have been ‘Drink Perrier’, hung outside the Café Monico in 1908. But a 3ft ‘Mellin’s Foods’ sign had appeared four years earlier.

— The current signs bring in £4m a year, according to Campaign. But the new single LED screen will be worth £30m.