In the News

Waverly Rare Books at Quinn's Auction Galleries to Auction Rare Botanical & Zoological Prints

Falls Church, VA - On Thursday, January 25, the Waverly Rare Books & Prints... read more

The Todd Webb Archive Announces Sale of Rare Vintage Prints at AIPAD 2018

Todd Webb (1905-2000), best known for his photographs of New York, Paris, Georgia O'Keeffe... read more

The Yale Center for British Art Expands Its Collection of Modern and Contemporary British Photographs

New Haven, CT—The Yale Center for British Art has expanded its collection of photographs... read more

Gouache on Paper of Iconic Apple Logo Attributed to Andy Warhol Headlines February 1 Sale

Franklin, MA — A mid-1980s gouache on paper rendering of the iconic Apple Macintosh... read more

The Library of Milanese Collector Sergio Rossetti Headed to Sotheby’s Milan on February 20

On February 20th 2018, Sotheby’s Milan will offer up for sale the library of... read more

Gift of Over 650 Works from Frederic A. Sharf Caps Legacy of Wolfsonian Support

Miami Beach, FL— The Wolfsonian-Florida International University today announced a significant gift of more... read more

Huntington's Spring Exhibition will Focus on Rare 19th-Century Astronomical Prints

San Marino, CA - A rare set of exquisite lithographs, depicting the pastel drawings... read more

Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books Presents Highlights for TEFAF Maastricht 2018

Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books AG returns to TEFAF Maastricht (10-18 March 2018) with... read more

Follow us on TwitterLike us on Facebook
Auction Guide
Advertise with Us
2015 Bookseller Resource Guide
Digest

Inaugural Follies

LOC American history specalist Marvin Kranz, now retired
Marvin Kranz

Marvin Kranz, the now-retired specialist in American History at the Library of Congress, admits to feeling unnerved by the prospect of several million people crowding onto the Washington Mall for President Obama’s inaugural; of 10,000 buses all needing parking, no bathrooms, and pushing and shoving for a glimpse of the historic procession along Pennsylvania Avenue.

But mayhem and bad manners have been the order of the day, Kranz observes. The fun started with George Washington’s inaugural, which took place in lower Manhattan’s Federal Hall, where the U.S. Sub Treasury building now stands. “Washington was about to be sworn in when he said, ‘Where’s the bible?’” said Kranz. “Somebody had to run over and get one next door at the Masonic Lodge.”

mousever for larger view
Eisenhower's First Inaugural Address
Eisenhower’s First Inaugural Address

It’s well known that when Andrew Jackson decided to open his inaugural to an adoring public, the public responded by enthusiastically trashing the White House, standing on sofas in their muddy boots, breaking furniture and the like.

Similar misadventures befell other presidents. James Buchanan’s party of guests got food poisoning the night before in a Washington hotel and could barely make it through the ceremony. At Grant’s second inaugural ball, Kranz said, “There was a temporary wooden building erected to serve the crowd liquor, but it was so cold that everyone ignored the liquor and went for hot coffee and cocoa.” Then, when a flock of doves was released into the frigid air, to symbolize the General’s (anything-but-dovish) victory over his political foes, “the doves promptly keeled over.”

John F. Kennedy’s inaugural remains notable for two snafus. As Baby Boomers may remember, Kennedy was the first president to ask a poet to read at the swearing-in ceremony—fellow New Englander Robert Frost. The notoriously unpredictable Frost had more than risen to the occasion, with a poem, “Dedication,” written especially for Kennedy. But on that snowy January day, with the sun reflecting off the snow onto the lectern, Frost was completely blinded. So he was forced to recite an old favorite, “The Gift Outright,” from memory. “Nobody cared,” said Kranz. Next came a bit of electrical mischief, causing the lectern to catch fire just as Boston’s Cardinal Cushing was about to speak.

So is Kranz planning to live dangerously and attend President Obama’s inaugural?

“I’d love to,” said the historian of first-days-on-the-job, “but I think I’m going to watch it on my eldest daughter’s big flat-screen TV.”

The Library of Congress owns “I Do Solemnly Swear…”, a collection of speeches, documents, photographs and other items from each U.S. President’s inauguration.

For collectors, an excellent source of material related to U.S. Presidential inaugurations is the Pennsylvania-based Raab Collection, a father/son business dealing in historical letters, documents and manuscripts.

Photo courtesy of Raab Collection.
comments powered by Disqus