Ceremonial Key

Smithsonian Institution
October 19, 2015
Media Photo/Video

Photos for News Media Use Only

Addthis Share Tools

Smithsonian Institution

The tradition of passing the Smithsonian key to the incoming Secretary originated for the 1964 induction of S. Dillon Ripley as the eighth Secretary of the Smithsonian. In lieu of the administration of an oath of office, outgoing Secretary Leonard Carmichael proposed a key-passing ceremony based on similar ones frequently used in the inauguration of university presidents. The key was presented in 1964 to Ripley by Chief Justice Earl Warren, Chancellor of the Smithsonian. The large brass key dates to the mid-19th century. (Image courtesy Smithsonian Institution)