On April 30th, 1789, George Washington made history, becoming the first president of the United States. Soon after being sworn in, George Washington's inauguration as president inspired enterprising craftsmen to make and sell a variety of commemorative buttons with patriotic designs.

Much has been documented about the buttons that were created to recognize George Washington’s inauguration. Unfortunately, there is little evidence surrounding when they were made and used. Below is a description of a few of these rare buttons, of which are currently on display at the Mount Vernon estate. 

The Memorable Era or Dated Eagle Button

(Mark Finkenstaedt)

(Mark Finkenstaedt)

It has been mostly accepted that this button was made shortly before March 4th 1789, the day Washington's inauguration was originally scheduled. It is believed that George Washington's inaugural suit of brown cloth from the Hartford Manufactory was adorned with gilt buttons decorated with an eagle by the engraver William Rollinson. However, no surviving examples have been located, and no direct relation between those buttons and the "Dated Eagle" type has been established.

Learn More

GW in Oval Button

(Mark Finkenstaedt)

(Mark Finkenstaedt)

This coat button has Washington's initials and the salute "Long Live the President” engraved in it, the phrase pronounced by Robert Livingston after he gave the oath of office to Washington on April 30, 1789 at Federal Hall in New York.

An advertisement that was recovered and is dated February 8th, 1787 placed by placed by Crumpton & Co. of the Wholesale and Retail American Button Manufactory indicates that patriotic buttons were being sold in time for John Adams' inauguration on 4 March 1797.

 

Fifteen Star Type Button

(Mark Finkenstaedt)

(Mark Finkenstaedt)

This button is known to collectors as the "Fifteen Star" type. It celebrates both George Washington and the young nation's expansion. It features the phrase "Long Live the President" around a ring of stars symbolizing the fifteen states.  Congress admitted Kentucky as the fifteenth state to the union in 1791.

Given the likely date of this item, c. 1791-1796, it’s possible it could have been made for an admiring citizen to wear while greeting Washington on his tour of southern states from March - May 1791 or for the second inaugural on March 4th, 1793.

Dotted Script GW Button

(Mark Finkenstaedt)

(Mark Finkenstaedt)

This button is made of copper alloy and has a “GW” stamped in a central circle encircled by a circular band around the rim with the words "Long Live The President".

 

 

Learn more

Linked States Buttons

(Gavin Ashworth)

(Gavin Ashworth)

(Mark Finkenstaedt)

(Mark Finkenstaedt)

The design on these buttons of an endless chain of thirteen links with the initials of the states is derived from the design first used on the Continental Currency fractional notes issued in February of 1776. The popular design was repeatedly used on currency and coinage and has been imprinted on regimental flags, and prints throughout the revolutionary and early national period. The combination of Washington's cipher and the chain of states visually testifies to the importance of a strong executive for the nation's government.

Inaugural Copper Buttons

Mount Vernon currently has 9 of these buttons on display at the estate. They were created to celebrate George Washington's inauguration. 

Liberty Cap Medal

(Gavin Ashworth)

(Gavin Ashworth)

Liberty cap / GW, 18th or 19th century.

View What Clothing and Items Washington Had As President

Learn More
Buy Tickets What to Do Calendar Shop Restaurant Donate Membership
Estate Hours

Open today from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

iconDirections & Parking
buy tickets online & save