Martins Ferry, OH Historical Society Home Page

By Barbara Shrodes

     Among the items in the textile collection at the Sedgwick House Museum are two very special gowns. They were worn to the inauguration festivities surrounding the second inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1957.
     Donated several years ago by Martha Martin, formerly of St. Clairsville, the gowns were featured in a Times Leader article about President’s Day.
     Along with the gowns, Mrs. Martin donated an invitation to the Inaugural Ball, an invitation to an Inaugural Tea Dance, a program from the inauguration and a letter from Mrs. Martin describing the train trip to Washington, D. C. and the Eisenhower Inauguration.
     The letter, which was written to friend in 1985 explains that Lewis Martin, Mrs. Martin’s husband was serving on the Ohio Republican Finance Committee in 1956 as co-chairman of fund-raising in Belmont County. Because he and a friend, Chuck Romig, helped to raise such a large amount of money for the presidential campaign, they received invitations to attend the inauguration.
     Mrs. Martin went on to write that a special train was chartered to take Ohio’s inaugural delegation to Washington, D. C. Even though it departed from Cleveland, a stop was scheduled in Pittsburgh in order to welcome the Martins and the Romigs aboard. The group even carried its very own live baby elephant on the train.
     Excitement soon gave way to confusion nearing panic when it came to coordinating an appropriate wardrobe for the momentous occasion. The black velvet and gold brocade gown pictured had been purchased from “French Room” at Stone & Thomas in 1949. Mrs. Martin settled on a black peau de soie version of a Martha Washington-type dress trimmed with black velvet for the tea dance. She had a small black velvet hat made by local milliner, Christine Oftedinger. The men were outfitted in midnight blue tuxedos and hombergs.
     Their three days in Washington were filled with parties and sight-seeing, embassy tours, and church services at the National Cathedral. The Martins and Romigs had excellent seats for the Inaugural Ceremony and also for the parade.
     “Such excitement! Such fun! Such wonderful memories! Lew and I have always been grateful for the once-in-a lifetime opportunity offered us.” wrote Mrs. Martin.