Posted 4 years ago
There was an era of the 'smoky' back room of politics where policy or personal deals were made or unmade by a few. Just a word or two was all it took.
This set of whiskey glasses, no doubt, played a large role in that, I'm sure. Each are basic glass, not crystal, but feature the full seals of the president and vice president of the United States in gold foil. If you were drinking from these, you were at the very inner circle of power, if not the actual power itself.
All of the glasses are from the 1970s or so, the Nixon era. We know that from the manufacture and design with a particular set of three dimples at the heavy base that match your fingers precisely.
The presidential seal features the presidential eagle of 1945 surrounded by 50 stars (one for each state) surrounded by the words "Seal of the President of the United States" in gold foil (image 2).
Then there are two separate designs for the vice president of the United States. At the time of the adoption of the official presidential seal in October 1945, there wasn't a vice president. Harry Truman ascended the office after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt and there wasn't a provision to replace the vice president at the time (now we have the 25th Amendment to the Constitution adopted in 1967). So, no vice presidential seal was created until 1948.
And when they finally got around to creating an official seal of the vice president, it featured an eagle with its wings in a downward position surrounded by 13 stars holding one arrow with the overall design having no distinction at all (image 3). Which was the point. It was supposed to be that way so that it wouldn't be immediately confused with the seal and office of the president. Yet, the design was so disliked by vice presidents that Vice President Hubert Humphrey compared it to a 'droopy eagle' and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller thought it looked like a 'wounded quail.'
It took Vice President Nelson Rockefeller to have the seal of the vice president changed to reflect the office in a much better light (image 4) in 1975. The central eagle is similar to the presidential eagle, except it is larger without stars surrounding it. The glory over the eagle is distinctive and there are 13 arrows instead of one. The whole is surrounded by the words "Vice President of the United States." All in gold foil.
As a set, these three whiskey glasses tell the basic history of the seals of office certainly, but they also remind us of a time when it was the smoky back rooms, 'card games', and forced compromise that was done over a bit of whiskey and 'branch water'. It was easier to get things done, as long as you were the only ones with the power to do it.