Ever since March 4, 1789, the United States has been inaugurating presidents. Today, that will continue as Barack Obama will be sworn in for his second term.
Like four previous presidents – Rutherford B. Hayes, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan – President Obama will be sworn in publicly on Jan. 21. Following tradition, when Inauguration Day falls on a Sunday, a private swearing in is held that day and a public one the next day.
U.S. presidents were sworn in on March 4 every four years until 1937, when the Inauguration was moved to Jan. 20. The 20th amendment to the Constitution allowed for this change. Especially in the days of horse and buggy travel, getting a president-elect to Washington could take some time. So four months following the election was allowed. But with more reliable forms of transportation, and especially air travel, that time was shortened to about 2 ½ months.
Two presidents – Reagan and William Howard Taft – took their oaths of office indoors because it was too cold outside in Washington. William Henry Harrison probably should have taken that advice in 1841 when he gave the longest Inaugural speech – more than 8,000 words, two hours to recite – in blustery, snowy weather. Harrison caught cold, which became pneumonia, and he died a month later.
While some political collectors frown upon Inauguration items in their collections because they are not campaign items, others see them as an important part of presidential history. Interestingly enough, there are Inaugural items all the way back to George Washington’s 1789 Inauguration. There are no Washington campaign items since he did not campaign for office. So Washington Inaugural tokens or one of the several different clothing buttons are the best political collectors have to put in their collections.
Today, collectible Inaugural items range from buttons to socks to cufflinks. I even have a 1981 Reagan Inaugural ice bucket in my collection. And no, I have no idea why anyone would want an Inaugural ice bucket.
At today’s Inauguration, take a look around at the crowd. You’re bound to see some collectibles out there.