AMERICAN NOTES: Ticket to the Coronation

Since the U.S. has no official royalty, its leaders try to compensate by crowning their Presidents amid as much hoopla as they can devise. James and Dolley Madison set the tone back in 1809 with the first official inaugural ball in Washington—at $4 per couple.

Since then, American inaugurations have become progressively extravagant.

Because the ceremonies must pay for themselves—this year's total bill will be around $4,000,000—they have also grown plutocratically expensive. Tickets for the Nixon ball on Jan. 20 are $40 a throw, with boxes for eight going for $1,000.

Spread over three days is a series of concerts, variety shows...

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