Vice Presidential Trivia
Ratified July 27, 1804, this amendment provides for separate ballots for president and
vice president. Its ratification was a result of the 1800 election when Thomas Jefferson
and Aaron Burr tied for the presidency, each receiving 73 electoral votes. Article II,
Section I, provides: "In Case of Removal of the President from Office, or of his
Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of said Office, the
Same shall devolve on the Vice President..."
This passage was unclear. Did "the Same" refer to the words "Powers and
Duties" or to the word "Office"? If the president died, would the vice
president be the president or simply the acting president? This question was not answered
until 1841 when President William Henry Harrison died in office and Vice President John
Tyler succeeded him. Tyler set a precedent that exists today.
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 brought about the ratification
of the 25th Amendment, February 10, 1967. The amendment spells out procedures for filling
a vacancy in the vice presidency. The office becomes vacant if the vice president dies,
resigns, or is unable to carry out the duties of the office. Then the president appoints a
new vice president subject to the approval of a majority of both houses of Congress.
The Vice Presidential Residence
The home of the Vice President of the United States is located on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory, Washington, D.C. The large,
white-painted brick Victorian house on the southeast corner of 34th Street and
Massachusetts Avenue is a century old.
A typical nineteenth century country home in the Queen Anne style, it was built in 1893
for the Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Observatory when that institution moved from its
site in the Foggy Bottom district of Washington, to the countryside outside of the city.
The house was designed by a local architect - Leon Dessez (1858-1918) and placed on a
hilly site northeast of the Observatory's main building, on a piece of property originally
called "Pretty Prospect."
The three-story brick house - completed in April of 1893 - is compact, 39 by 77 feet, with
9,150 square feet of floor space. On the ground floor is a reception hall, living room,
sitting room, sun porch, dining room and small pantry, and lavatories added later to the
north side. The second floor contains two bedrooms, a study, and a den. The third floor
attic was originally servants' quarters and storage space. The kitchen was placed in the
basement, along with a laundry room and other storerooms.
The house is not likely to inspire awe; indeed, it was never included on any listings of
the period of significant houses in the District. It was solid, sensible, and pleasant,
described variously during the 1970s as more "dowager than debutante' and "more
steamboat than luxury liner." Twelve Naval Observatory superintendents lived in the
"house on the hill" from 1893 to 1927. In 1928, with the passage of Public Law
630 of the 70th Congress, the Superintendent's House became home to the Chief of Naval
Operations, and was named Admiral's House. Soon thereafter, the first extensive
alterations were made to the building. Garage space was added, along with a modernized
kitchen, plumbing, and electrical wiring. Admiral Zumwalt was the last CNO to occupy the
In July of 1974, the house was designated by Congress as the first official temporary
residence of the Vice President of the United States. By the time the redecorating and
renovating was complete, Nelson Rockefeller was vice president. They used the house mainly
for entertaining and filled it with art.
In 1977, after Jimmy Carter was elected president, Vice President Walter Mondale moved
into the house with his family, becoming the first vice presidential family to actual live
in the building. Joan Mondale transformed the house into a showpiece of contemporary art,
borrowing works from the country's major museums and placing them in the house in
ever-changing temporary exhibits. George and Barbara Bush followed the Mondales, and lived
in the house a full eight years. They were followed by Vice President Quayle, his wife
Marilyn, and their three children. The current resident is Vice President Albert Gore and
Official Duties of the Vice President
The vice president is only as important and influential as the president allows him to
be. According to the U.S. Constitution, the vice president has only two official duties:
- To preside over the U.S. Senate; however, he has no vote, except to break a tie.
- To take over if the president dies or is removed from office. Only nine of our nation's
45 vice presidents have taken over under the second provision above: John Tyler, Millard
Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester A. Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry S.
Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Gerald R. Ford
The Vice President's Flag
The first vice presidential flag (15 feet by 20 feet), now located at the Scottish Rite
Cathedral in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Thomas R. Marshall was the first vice president to have
an official vice presidential flag. On March 15, 1915, Marshall was in San Francisco as
the United States' official representative at the opening of the Panama-Pacific
Exposition. During the ceremonies, Marshall was to go aboard the battleship Colorado,
which lay at anchor in San Francisco Bay. There was quite a stir aboard ship when the
captain discovered that the vice president - and not the president - would be visiting.
They had no suitable flag to run up the ship's mast. An order was issued for the immediate
production of a flag for the vice president. Who made the flag is a mystery, but it was
completed just in time.
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