Presidential Inaugurations and Virginia Tech

Well, tomorrow is the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, so I decided to scour our collections for items pertaining to presidents. At Special Collections you can find all sorts of material related to presidents – presidents of the U.S., presidents of organizations and businesses, and, of course, presidents of Virginia Tech. If you search our blog and our finding aids, you’ll find all sorts of posts and collections referencing all these presidential types. But I’d like to highlight items related to the presidential inaugurations of the U.S. and VT presidents that we maintain.

United States Presidential Inaugurations

The Highty-Tighties, Virginia Tech’s very own Corps of Cadets band, has performed for numerous U.S. presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt at an exposition in 1902 and in the pre-inauguration celebrations for Barack Obama’s first term in 2009. They have also gain national recognition through their performances at twelve inaugural parades, starting with Woodrow Wilson’s second inauguration in 1917 and ending with George W. Bush’s second in 2005. The band was also invited to play at William Howard Taft’s inauguration in 1909, which they were unable to attend, according to letters in Pres. Paul B. Barringer’s records, RG 2/6. During the mid-20th century, these parades doubled as band competitions, and the Highty Tighties won first prize three years consecutively in 1953, 1957, and 1961, the last year of the inaugural parade competition. Special Collections has photographs and other items related to the Highty Tighties at a few of the parades in the Historical Photograph Collection.

Special Collections also holds invitations to several U.S. presidential inaugurations in our manuscript collections. We also have materials related to the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s 1861 inauguration and a tintype from Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 re-election campaign. Below are inaugural invitations and programs for Zachary Taylor in 1849 from the Robert Taylor Preston Papers, Ms1992-003; Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 in the John Henry Johnson Scrapbook, Ms2009-053; and Richard M. Nixon in 1969 in the Earl D. Gregory Collection, Ms1972-004.

Here are items from the press packet for the inauguration of Harry S Truman in 1949 in the Evert B. Clark Papers, Ms1989-022:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Virginia Tech Presidential Installations

Being the repository for the University Archives, Special Collections, of course, maintains items related to the inaugurations or installations of the university presidents. For example, we have a video of James D. McComas’ inauguration in 1988 as 13th president of Virginia Tech. Several of the records of the presidents have files related to their inauguration ceremonies, including Walter Newman in RG 2/10, Boxes 2-3; T. Marshall Hahn in RG 2/11, Box 97; and William E. Lavery in RG 2/12, Boxes 1-2. Additionally, items related to the installation ceremonies are located in the Record Group Vertical Files and the University Libraries library catalog.

Exploring Virginia and America Through Time (with Maps!)

When determining a topic for this week’s blog post, I discovered very little has been written about Special Collections’ historical maps. We have over 800 individual maps along with special map collections, such as the Robert Holman Map Collection and the Pocahontas Mines Collection. (We are currently working on the Pocahontas Mines Collection of over 7,000 maps and will have posts devoted to it in the future, so keep an eye out!) The maps primarily document Virginia and the Appalachian region from the 18th to 20th centuries. But the maps I’d like to share with you date to the days of European colonization and American independence.

The above map, “Virginiæ partis australis, et Floridæ partis orientalis, interjacentiumque regionum Nova Descriptio”, is a reproduction of Dutch cartographer Joan Blaeu’s 1640 map of the North American coast from Florida to Virginia. Marked in the upper right corner is “Chesapeak” or Chesapeake Bay and towards center left are the “Apalatcy” or Appalachian Mountains. The map also identifies different American Indian tribes, such as the Houstaqua – probably the Yustaga people of the Florida Panhandle – and the Powhatans of Virginia. The back of the map discusses Florida, showing that the map was once part of a Latin language atlas.

This map, “Virginiæ Partis australis, et Floridæ partis orientalis, interjacentiumque regionum Nova Descriptio”, is a reproduction of a map in Arnoldus Montanus’ De Nieuwe en onbekend Weereld, published in 1671 by Jacob Meurs. When compared against Blaeu’s map, very little has changed in the description of the land, although the visual depictions are fuller and more colorful.

Jump forward to 1784, and you get this more detailed, albeit less visually arresting, depiction of North America east of the Mississippi River. This reproduction identifies the boundaries of the United States as defined by the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolutionary War. Like the other maps above, this one identifies American Indian tribes, but it includes new landmarks, cities, and states, showing how the changing political and cultural landscapes affect cartographic description.

As I mentioned, these are just a few out of hundreds of maps held by Special Collections. If you’d like to peruse more, check out those we’ve digitized and put up online or come in to the reading room and take a look at them yourself!