Presidents in Office

Explore objects and archival materials that feature more than 150 years of Presidential history with a Western Pennsylvania connection.

Senator John Heinz History Center

Invitation to President Johnson's Inauguration (1965)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

The Inauguration

The hard days on the Presidential campaign
trail are over and it is time to celebrate! Since 1933, January 20 has been
Inauguration Day for American Presidents. Previously, Presidents were sworn
into office on March 4, but passage of the 20th Amendment to the
Constitution moved the ceremony to January.  The planning and preparation for this day
takes months and includes sending out invitations to the President’s family,
friends, special guests, and other politicians.    

Invitation to Bill Clinton's First Presidential Inauguration, 1993, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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President Obama Inauguration Invitation, 2009, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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An invitation for President Barack Obama's Inauguration in 2009. This was the first time an invitation of this nature, which invited all Americans to view the Inauguration online and the first-ever Neighborhood Inaugural Ball, was issued.

It reads "No matter where you will be on Inauguration Day, we invite you to join us as one nation in celebration of this historic moment."

FDR Presidential Inaugural Ticket (front), 1937, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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FDR Presidential Inaugural Ticket (back), 1937, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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Tickets from the Lenox Collection to Bill Clinton's Second Presidential Inauguration., 1997, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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This ticket was likely given to Brown-Forman executives or other company representatives to attend the Inauguration. Brown-Forman owns Korbel Champagne, which was served at this inaugural event, and at the time also owned the Lenox Glass Company, which produced the Inaugural gifts from Congress to the President and Vice President.

President Cleveland Inauguration Badge (1893)Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

Inauguration Day

Inauguration Day is a busy day in Washington D.C., involving the Inaugural ceremony, a luncheon, a parade, and both the official and unofficial balls. Take a look at artifacts from previous Inaugurations, including a dress worn to an Inaugural Ball, a ticket to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1937 Inauguration, and various badges and buttons.  

President Harrison Inauguration Badge, 1889, Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections
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Benjamin Harrison's inauguration took place on March 4, 1889. Since 1937, Inauguration Day has taken place on January 20.

President Cleveland Inauguration Badge, 1893, Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections
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Badge from Grover Cleveland's second Inauguration as President. Cleveland first served as President from 1885 to 1889, and is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms.

Dress worn by Mary D. Barnes (1950-1956)Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

Pittsburgher Mary D. Barnes wore this dress to one of Dwight D. Eisenhower's Inaugural Balls. Barnes, an attorney, supported Eisenhower's campaigns.

Button for President Reagan and Vice President Bush’s inauguration, Jed Enterprises, 1981, Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections
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Inauguration Ceremony Program, 1997, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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This program for Bill Clinton's Inauguration Ceremony Program lists the speakers and performers and provides a history of the inauguration.

Map of Inauguration seating chart (1997)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

This color-coded map shows the designated seating and viewing areas for attendees at Bill Clinton's Inauguration Ceremony.

President Reagan Commemorative Plate (1985)Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

Inauguration Gifts & Presidential Tableware

The Bryce/Lenox companies have been producing china and glass products for the White House and Presidential Inauguration for decades. The following are examples of pieces produced by Lenox that were given to incoming Presidents by Congress at the Inaugural Luncheon or specialty items made for use at the Inauguration, in the White House, and at the Vice President’s residence.      

President Reagan's jelly bean jar (c. 1980) by Lenox Glass Co.Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

When Ronald Reagan ran for Governor of California in 1966, he began eating “Goelitz Mini Jelly Beans” to help him give up pipe smoking. After Reagan left the governorship, he continued to receive shipments of Goelitz Mini Gourmet Jelly Beans directly from the company. The company shipped three and a half tons of red, white, and blue Jelly Belly jelly beans to Washington, D. C. for the 1981 Inaugural festivities. Herman Goelitz Candy Company provided the Reagan White House with Jelly Belly jelly beans for all eight years of Reagan’s presidency. The President kept his favorite snack in a cut glass jar, just like this one, on his oval office desk – his favorite Jelly Belly flavor was licorice.

President Reagan Commemorative Plate, 1985, Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections
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This plate was produced for President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush's 1985 Inauguration. It commemorates this event as the 50th Presidential Inauguration.

President Bush and Vice President Quayle inauguration bowl and box, Lenox China Co., 1989, Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections
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These sample pieces of china are made by the Lenox Co. The bowl has a gold seal with an image of the Capitol Building dome and President George H.W. Bush’s signature in gold on the opposite side. The trinket box features an image of the Great Seal of the U.S. on the lid, and inside, text acknowledging the 1989 inauguration as the "Bicentennial" Inaugural.

Inaugural Bowl, Lenox Glass Co., c. 1990, Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections
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Lenox Glass Co.'s master cutter Peter O’Rourke drew the grid lines on this bowl in preparation for cutting the design. The finished piece was given by Congress to the President at the lunch following the Inauguration.

Glass stand for President Clinton's Inaugural bowl (1993) by Lenox Glass Co.Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

Lenox Glass Co. created glass bowls as the gifts from Congress to the President and Vice President to be awarded at the lunch following the Inauguration. Master cutter Peter O’Rourke designed and cut the intricate patterns on the bowls. This glass stand was made to hold President William Jefferson Clinton's Inaugural bowl.

Bill Clinton receiving his Inaugural Gift (1997)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Photograph of President Bill Clinton receiving his Inaugural Gift, a Lenox bowl with an engraved image of the White House. Note the presentation box created for the bowl.

Brown-Forman company newsletter, Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections
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A similiar glass stand supported the bowl presented to Bill Clinton as an Inauguration gift. This image, from the Brown-Forman company newsletter of George W. Bush's gift, illustrates how the bowl looks on the stand .

Al Gore reciving his Inaugural Gift, 1997, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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Photograph of Vice President Al Gore receiving his Inaugural Gift, a glass Lenox bowl with an engraved image of the White House.

President Wilson Presidential dinner plate, Lenox China Co., c. 1920, Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections
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Sample Presidential dinner plate, in the “Command Performance” pattern, made by Lenox China, Trenton, N.J., for President Wilson, c. 1920.

This sample has the gold work but not the blue border that distinguished the 1,700 pieces of Lenox China that Mrs. Wilson ordered for use in the White House in 1918.

President Reagan's Service set (c. 1982)Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

This image from the Lenox Collection shows the china that the Reagans ordered to replace the set that had been used since Lady Bird Johnson purchased it in 1967.

First Lady Nancy Reagan chose red, her favorite color, for the focal color of the china. Lenox designers even took samples to the White House and viewed them in the dining room under candleight to make sure the tone was just right. The $209,508 cost of the 4,372-piece set initially caused a stir, which President Reagan dubbed the "china crisis." However, since private donations, not federal money, funded the purchase, the criticism quieted. Still, this demonstrates how important public perception can be.

Design of the Great Seal of the United States for the Reagan's Service set, 1982, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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A Lenox design for the Great Seal of the United States featured in the center of the Reagan's china service.

Vice Presidential dinner plate, Lenox China Co., Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections
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This cobalt and gold sample with the Vice President’s seal in the center would have been used at the Vice President’s official residence in Washington, D.C.

Vice Presidential glassware by Lenox Glass Co.Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

This glass with a wafer stem would have been used at the Vice President’s official residence in Washington, D.C.

Blair House Presidential glassware, Lenox Glass Co., Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections
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A flute glass, finger bowl, and wine glass made by Lenox, Mount Pleasant, Pa.

This glass would have been used at Blair House, the President's guest house in Washington, D.C.

Ice Bucket with Presidential Seal by Lenox Glass Co.Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

Bud vase with White House and Nancy Reagan’s signature, c. 1980, Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections
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These bud vases were likely made for First Lady Nancy Reagan to give as gifts.

Tumbler and glass with Presidential seal, Lenox Glass Co., Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections
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While these may have been produced for use in the White House, Lenox also made glass sold as souvenirs in the White House gift shop.

Menu from Independence Day dinner in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt Menu from Independence Day dinner in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt (c. 1902) by Tiffany & Co.Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Presidential Life

The following items document the lives of various U.S. Presidents during their time in office and beyond. These items give a peak into their public lives, including official dinners, appearances, and installing diplomatic officials, as well as their private lives, such as a private letter, a photograph of family members, and personal writings.

Letter from Andrew Jackson to Judge William Wilkins, 1834, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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Letter from Andrew Jackson to Judge William Wilkins, a prominent politician from Pittsburgh. Here, Jackson asks if Wilkins would be interested in serving as Minister to Russia, which Wilkins accepts and serves from 1834-1835.

William Wilkins Minister to Russia Credentials, 1834, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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Document declaring William Wilkins "Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States at the Court of His Majesty The Emperor of All of the Russias". The document is signed by President Andrew Jackson and Secretary of State John Forsyth. Notice the Great Seal of the U.S. on the document.

Judge William Wilkins' tea set (c. 1830)Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

A Meissen porcelain tea service painted with scenes of Central European peasants and burgers of the Renaissance, c. 1830 and a Paris porcelain openwork compote with gold gilding, c. 1830 purchased by William Wilkins, U.S. ambassador to Russia, and later Secretary of War under President John Tyler, while in Europe.

Letter from James Buchanan to Judge William Wilkins (1858)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

This letter was written by James Buchanan to Judge William Wilkins, a longtime friend. Wilkins had apparently asked Buchanan to spend time with him and his wife, but Buchanan's duties as President appear to have hindered this meeting. "I should accept it with all my heart were this possible. The pressure of public affairs, however, so near the meeting of Congress is an insuperable obstacle in the way," he writes.

Menu for a dinner with President and Mrs. McKinley, Tiffany & Co., 1897, From the collection of: Senator John Heinz History Center
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Menu from a dinner hosted in honor of President and Mrs. McKinley by railroad executive Robert Pitcairn at his Pittsburgh home. Other guests included Pennsylvania Governor Daniel Hastings, George Westinghouse, Philander C. Knox, and Henry Clay Frick and their respective wives. This Tiffany & Co. dinner menu belonged to Adelaide Frick.

Menu for a dinner with President and Mrs. McKinley, Tiffany & Co., 1897, From the collection of: Senator John Heinz History Center
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Menu from Independence Day dinner in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt Menu from Independence Day dinner in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, Tiffany & Co., c. 1902, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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Tiffany & Co. menu from a dinner hosted by Attorney General Philander C. Knox on Independence Day 1902 in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt at the Hotel Schenley in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Click the image to explore the menu and see what the President ate for dinner.

President Roosevelt postcard, 1906, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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This postcard features President Theodore Roosevelt delivering an address during the dedication of Pennsylvania's new State Capitol in 1906, two years after his election in 1904.

Commemorative Plate (1974)Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

This pewter plate, engraved by Pittsburgh artist Tadelus Wastowicz, is based on two political cartoons drawn by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial cartoonist Cyrus "Cy" Hungerford. Wastowicz combined two cartoons of Hungerford's, drawn on August 10 and August 12, 1974, to comment on feelings related to Richard Nixon's resignation and transfer of the Presidency to Gerald Ford.

Letter from "Jerry Ford" to Cy Hungerford, 1975, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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Letter from Gerald Ford to Cy Hungerford regarding his political cartoons.

Handkerchief depicting President Hayes (1877-1881)Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

In the Public's Eye

Public perception of the President can be fickle. A significant part of the job involves managing dissent or receiving praise, deserved or not, for events, circumstances, and emotions that effect the people or the country. Upon returning to civilian life, the activities of the President are still closely watched and their actions often impact their political legacy. The following materials from the Heinz History Center’s collection show how Presidents were perceived and memorialized during and after their Presidency. 

Poem written by John Quincy Adams (c. 1843) by John Quincy AdamsOriginal Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

A poet throughout his life, John Quincy Adams wrote this piece while traveling along the Ohio River to Pittsburgh, Pa from a speaking engagement in Cincinnati, Ohio, 14 years after he left office. The subject is a young Pittsburgh woman whom he met and became friends with while during the course of their trip.

Handkerchief depicting President Hayes (1877-1881)Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

Colorful handkerchief depicting an image of President Rutherford B. Hayes in each of its four corners.

Photograph of Ulysses S. Grant, 1880, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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Photograph of Ulysses S. Grant and his family on board the Kearsarge with its crew. This is believed to be taken after Grant left the Presidency and embarked on a two year world tour, which ultimately renewed his popularity after a contentious Presidency.

President Cleveland souvenir spoon, 1893, Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections
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A souvenir spoon depicting President Grover Cleveland and his wife, Frances Cleveland, and scenes from The Chicago World's Fair, also known as The Columbian Exposition.

President Abraham Lincoln's Funeral Tassel (c. 1865)Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

This tassel is said to have been cut from President Abraham Lincoln's catafalque, the framework that supported his coffin during the funeral or while lying in state. The tassel represents a physical connection to Lincoln and an intriguing glimpse at public memory.

President Reagan Commemorative Plate (1985)Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

In Conclusion

President Warren G. Harding once remarked, “My God, this is a hell of a job!” As this unapologetic quote indicates, the American Presidency is not a job for the faint of heart. As of January 20, 2017, only 45 men have occupied this position in the 230 years since the office of the President was created. Each Inauguration Day represents a new era in American history and culture as the government peacefully passes from one elected leader to another. The artifacts and documents shared in this exhibit demonstrate the importance of this position to the creation of an American political identity, how the professional and private lives of the Presidents converge, often inseparably, and how the American public perceives and remembers its leaders.  

Credits: Story

White House Historical Association
Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies
The Miller Center of Public Affairs
Bunch III, Lonnie G, Spencer R. Crew, Mark G. Hirsch, and Harry R. Rubenstein. "A Glorious Burden: The American Presidency." Washington, D.C: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.
“Adams as a Poet,” Library of Congress, accessed January 17, 2017.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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