Have Fun Collecting Historical Presidential Inauguration Covers
Author: Lori Ferber
Collecting souvenirs from the inauguration of presidents of the United States has been a pastime of collectors since the first inauguration of George Washington. Citizens attending inaugurations almost always return with momentos from America’s most lavish celebration.
Inauguration covers are essentially envelopes postmarked on the actual date of presidential inaugurations. One of the reasons for the popularity is no doubt that they are of interest to many different collectors. Philatelists (stamp collectors) collect them for the stamps attached to the envelopes, postal history enthusiasts are intrigued by the postmarks, political memorabilia collectors enjoy the references to history and presidents and people who have an affinity towards a particular president (pro or con) include it in their collections of a particular U.S. president.
In modern times, let’s call that 1957 and later, inaugural covers generally include an attractive graphic or photo on the left side of the envelope (called a cachet), a postage stamp that may or may not relate to the inaugural event (such as a U.S. Flag or White House postage stamp) a postmark which typically includes the words “inauguration day” or “Presidential inauguration all included on an envelope (usually called a “cover”.
The first commonly available U.S. inaugural cover is believed to have been produced for the inaugural of Herbert Hoover in 1929. While the cachets were certainly not ornate by today’s standards, they were specifically produced for the occasion and often contain a cachet which was produced by a rubber stamp and postmarked in either Washington, D.C. or Boundbrook New Jersey.
The so called “modern age” of inaugural covers began in 1933 with covers produced to commemorate the first term of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This was enhanced by the fact that Roosevelt was a well known stamp collector and a host of cachets were produced for this event. This term was also notable in that it was the last time an inauguration was held on a March 4th date. After that year inaugurations have been held on January 20th unless, as it did in 1957, the 20th fell on a Sunday.
During Roosevelt’s four terms in office literally dozens of different cachets were produced for each inauguration. The second term (1937) and third term (1941) are particularly prized by collectors as fewer covers were produced for these inaugurals. During this time period the type of depth and breadth designs and styles of inaugural covers began to grow. Creativity took hold as cachet makers experimented with different sized envelopes, combinations of postage stamps, postmarks from various cities linked to Roosevelt. For instance, one enterprising cachet maker actually created a series of covers postmarked in Franklin, Delano and Roosevelt Minnesota.