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Presidential history, Ontario County style

A little piece of presidential memorabilia was hidden in the home of Wilma Townsend, the curator at the Ontario County Historical Society.

Jammed behind the wall and wainscoting in the kitchen of the Townsend’s 1906 house was a tiny political pin that spelled the name “Hoover.” The brass artifact was likely worn to support the election of President Herbert Hoover in 1928 and only came to light when the family’s kitchen was being renovated. The piece is now on view at the Historical Society along with numerous items related to each of the 45 U.S. presidents.

“In the past we’ve limited our display during February to Presidents Washington and Lincoln, since both were born in the month,” said Townsend.

Presidents Day, which falls on the third Monday in February, is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents, past and present. With five glass cases available in the society’s back gallery space, it became tempting to show objects for each chief executive.

The exhibit “All Things Presidential” features original autographs, official documents, posters, photographs, campaign-related items like the Hoover pin, and even a white plaster life mask of Abraham Lincoln.

“The Lincoln mask was made in 1861 and doesn’t come out too often because it is quite fragile,” said Townsend, whose Hoover pin is right next to a copy of the “Official Program for President Hoover’s Inaugural Ceremonies” on March 4, 1929. The dated program is a reminder the presidential inauguration was then held in March rather than January. Inauguration Day moved to Jan. 20 beginning in 1937, following ratification of the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution.

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