Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Top Hat and Case
Beaver, white silk lining
Made by Knox of New York
Size: 7 1/4, H 16.5, L 33.0, W 20.3, cm
Leather, blue silk lining
H 30.6, W 30.2, D 20.9, cm
Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site
Photo credit: Khaled Bassim, NPS, Museum Management Program
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Franklin D. Roosevelt wore a top hat to his 1933, 1937, and 1941 inaugurations, when he took the oath of office on the East Portico of the Capitol. In 1945, the US was at war and he chose to take the oath at the White House in a simple ceremony. In the 1941 inaugural parade, he appeared in an open vehicle, with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, waving his hat to the crowd.
Many presidents wore top hats for their inaugurations, beginning with Franklin Pierce in 1853. Dwight D. Eisenhower broke tradition by wearing a homburg in 1953, but, in 1961, the failing hat industry urged John F. Kennedy to wear a hat and he obliged, becoming the last to wear a top hat.
In addition to his inaugurations, President Roosevelt wore his top hat at various occasions, such as formal dinners and official receptions. A tag attached to the case handle indicates that he also wore the hat to formal events when traveling–it reads: “Hon. F. D. Roosevelt, Paris.”