June 2005 > Americana > Historical
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Lot 172: 1789 George Washington Inauguration Button
This rare "Eagle and Star" copper button represents one of the most historically significant categories of American political material cutlure, a highly distiguished and highly valued survivor from a select series manufactured by New York and Connecticut colonial button makers and sold to ebullient American citizens to celebrate George Washington's first inauguration on April 30, 1789. These specially designed copper or brass coat buttons were an important symbol of pomp and circumstance, as Washington himself commissioned six buttons with the eagle on them to wear when he took the oath of office at Federal Hall in New York City, and well-to-do gentlemen of the era were expected to wear the snazziest "dress up" buttons they could find on their own coats. The Eagle and Star was one of several button designs, others being the eagle and sun and those with the letters "GW" either alone or with inscriptions and one with Washington's bust. The Eagle and Star, however, was one of the the most popular, and was worn by many who served in Washington's administration. That so few people could afford these buttons (most of the attendees wore not the Inaugurals but more cheaply-made "Colonial" buttons) accounts for their scarcity today. 1 1/4" in diameter, the solid one-piece copper has darkened with tarnish into a rich deep brown hue through which the eagle and burgeoning star can still be clearly seen, as well as the "box" detailing that runs along the corona. Button still has the metal shank on the back, an important facet since many 19th Century collectors removed the shanks to fit the buttons neatly into their medal collections. True Americana.
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