The White House Historical Association

The White House Historical Association The White House Historical Association: to enhance the understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the White House.
The White House Historical Association is a charitable nonprofit institution whose purpose is to enhance the understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the White House.

In 1961, when the National Park Service suggested that the White House Historical Association be formed, the idea received First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy's ready approval. In July 1962, The White House: An Historic Guide was delivered to a public that had already ordered 10,000 copies. The guide is now in its 23rd edition. The association also sponsors lectures, exhibits and other outreach programs. Thousands of schools, universities and libraries have received free educational materials about the White House. Traveling exhibits and videos are circulated to the presidential libraries and museums.

Mission: The White House Historical Association is a charitable nonprofit institution whose purpose is to enhance the understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the White House. To fulfill its purpose, the White House Historical Association produces educational literature and films, develops special programs, and maintains this website interpreting the White House and its history and the persons and events associated with it. From private funding and the sale of its educational products, the Association supports the acquisition of artwork and objects for the White House collection and contributes to the conservation of the public rooms.

Historian William Seale described presidential protection as a learning process, with presidents and their families and ...
05/12/2020
Secret Service and the Presidents

Historian William Seale described presidential protection as a learning process, with presidents and their families and the Secret Service sometimes straining to adjust to one another. In today's article, learn the history of the Secret Service and the presidents.

A White House policeman standing at the North Entrance of the White House, c. 1890.

There have been many unique pets at the White House. You may know of Calvin Coolidge’s raccoons, Theodore Roosevelt’s po...
05/11/2020

There have been many unique pets at the White House. You may know of Calvin Coolidge’s raccoons, Theodore Roosevelt’s pony, or Woodrow Wilson’s sheep . . . but have you heard of Louisa Adams’ silkworms?

First Lady Louisa Catherine Adams, wife of President John Quincy Adams, suffered from depression and loneliness, as well as multiple physical ailments that made the role of first lady particularly difficult.

She called the Executive Mansion a “dull and stately prison in which the sounds of mirth are seldom heard and where dullness presides . . .” Louisa much preferred solitude to acting as White House hostess, and she enjoyed reading, playing the harp, and sewing.

She also found solace in caring for silkworms. On June 23, 1828, President John Quincy Adams wrote in his daily diary that “Mrs. Adams is winding silk from several hundred silkworms that she has been rearing . . .”

Using these silkworms, which grew on mulberry trees on the White House Grounds, she harvested silk and used it in her own sewing projects. The mulberry trees were an outdoor hobby of President Adams, who spent “summers during the term of the Presidency . . . in planting and starting young trees of various kinds.”

Sericulture, or silkworm breeding, has a long history in America—the creatures were first shipped to Jamestown in 1613. The mulberry tree was a particular craze among nineteenth-century Americans, as they were easy to cultivate and promised significant financial return.

After Adams’ presidency, he returned to politics in the U.S. House of Representatives and lobbied for the promotion of sericulture across America.

This oil painting, created by Louis S. Glanzman in 1970, depicts First Lady Louisa Adams winding silk while her husband works near the fire.

Happy Mother’s Day! Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was an important first mother of the United States, supporting her children ...
05/10/2020

Happy Mother’s Day! Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was an important first mother of the United States, supporting her children in their public and private lives. In her own words, “children should be stimulated by their parents to see, touch, know, understand and appreciate.”

Rose and Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. had nine children, several of whom became household political names across the country. Mrs. Kennedy was no stranger to politics; by watching her father’s political career during her childhood, she learned how to conduct political campaigns herself.

She was heavily involved in President John F. Kennedy’s political career from his first congressional campaign in 1946 to his presidential campaign in 1960. She listed her son’s inauguration as one of the greatest thrills of her life before she passed away in 1995.

Image Credit: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum / NARA

Growing up in the White House spotlight can be difficult for the children of presidents, but many have found ways to mak...
05/09/2020

Growing up in the White House spotlight can be difficult for the children of presidents, but many have found ways to make it fun. On May 10, 1969, Tricia Nixon, daughter of President Richard Nixon and First Lady Patricia Nixon, did just that when she held a masked ball at the White House.

Twenty-three-year-old Tricia hosted an unusually young crowd; almost five hundred guests between the ages of twenty and thirty arrived at the White House for a night of dancing, music, and dinner.

Inside the Executive Mansion, White House social aides distributed masquerade masks to bare-faced visitors—though rather than donning them, eager guests reportedly opted to hold the masks “or put them in a pocket, [as] they got to figuring out who was who in the guest list.”

Understandably so—the star-studded list included former first children such as David and Julie Eisenhower, and President Lyndon Johnson’s daughters Lynda and Luci, as well as the children of politicians and ambassadors.

Tricia Nixon, escorted by Representative Barry Goldwater, Jr. of California, received these special guests wearing a gown of “white lace embroidered with silver thread and strewn with pearls.”

As the ball began, Miss Nixon and her guests enjoyed musical performances by the Marine Band, The Turtles, and The Temptations in the East Room and on the West Terrace, surrounded by balloons, beaded décor, and bouquets of geraniums, petunias, and ivy.

At midnight, a dinner of “beef stroganoff, chicken Tetrazzini, beans amandine, garden salad, fruit… and pastry” was served in the State Dining Room. With tired feet and full bellies, Tricia Nixon’s guests headed home—but not until after 2:00 in the morning!

Image Credit: Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum / NARA

Today marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of Germany’s unconditional surrender to the Allied powers on May 8, 1945— know...
05/08/2020

Today marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of Germany’s unconditional surrender to the Allied powers on May 8, 1945— known as Victory in Europe or VE Day. President Harry S. Truman gave a radio address from the Oval Office that morning, reporting:

“This is a solemn but a glorious hour . . . General [Dwight] Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations. The flags of freedom fly over all Europe.”

Though the war with Japan would continue until August, America was jubilant upon hearing the news, much-needed after the devastating passing of President Franklin D. Roosevelt only a few weeks earlier. Truman told the American people during his address, “I only wish that Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to witness this day.”

Germany’s surrender was one cause of celebration that day, as it was also President Truman’s 61st birthday! On that rainy Tuesday, President Truman and his family were just beginning to settle down at the White House after moving in the evening before.

Following his address to the nation, the president went back to work taking calls, meeting with diplomats and journalists, and above all, turning his attention to the ongoing war in the Pacific.

Fortunately, President Truman’s birthday did not go uncelebrated, and he took a break from his presidential duties to enjoy a small birthday party at the White House that evening.

He is pictured here with his birthday cake, which he shared with “secretaries, military and naval aides, and other close friends among his official family.” May 8, 1945 turned out to be a special day of personal and patriotic triumph for President Truman and the American people.

Image Credit: Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum / NARA

05/07/2020
New Podcast: Founding Mother, Mary Ball Washington

George Washington might not have become the Founding Father we know today if not for the influence of his mother.

In January, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin hosted an event with biographer Craig Shirley about his new book “Mary Ball Washington: The Untold Story of Washington’s Mother.”

For our Mother’s Day 1600 Sessions podcast, we are releasing this discussion about how our first president’s life and personality was shaped by the unique character of his mother.

Even presidents can have a sweet tooth. President Ronald Reagan’s personal favorite? Jelly beans!Reagan first became a f...
05/06/2020

Even presidents can have a sweet tooth. President Ronald Reagan’s personal favorite? Jelly beans!

Reagan first became a fan of the candies during his time as governor of California and used them to help him quit smoking. He quickly became a jelly bean fanatic, ordering monthly shipments to his office from the Goelitz Candy Company (now Jelly Belly).

As governor, he wrote the company to say that the candies “have become such a tradition with this administration that it’s gotten to the point where we can hardly start a meeting or make a decision without passing around the jar of jelly beans.”

In 1981, Jelly Belly supplied three-and-a-half tons of red, white, and blue (cherry, coconut, and blueberry flavored) jelly beans for Reagan’s presidential inauguration. Though a fan of all flavors, the president’s personal favorite was licorice!

While in office, Reagan had 720 bags of jelly beans delivered to the White House monthly, where they were served in specially-designed glass jars marked with the Presidential Seal.

President Reagan loved them so much that he gave jars of the flavored beans away as gifts to politicians and foreign diplomats. He even had a special jar made for Air Force One, designed to withstand turbulence while in flight. In Reagan’s own words: “Once you get on jelly beans, you never outgrow them.”

Image Credit: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum / NARA

05/05/2020
Slavery at the White House: Five Untold Stories

Historian Lina Mann discusses five previously untold stories about the role of enslaved people in White House history. The program is part of the White House Historical Association’s Slavery in the President's Neighborhood research initiative.

On this day in 2007, the first family and their guests enjoyed a Cinco De Mayo celebration in the Rose Garden.President ...
05/05/2020

On this day in 2007, the first family and their guests enjoyed a Cinco De Mayo celebration in the Rose Garden.

President George W. Bush remarked: “Cinco de Mayo is an . . . opportunity to celebrate the warm ties between Mexico and the United States. Geography has made us neighbors, but our friendship is based on shared values of family, democracy, and faith.”

After the president’s remarks, the first family and those in attendance enjoyed traditional mariachi music from Los Hermanos Mora Arriaga from Monterrey, Mexico.

At the next year’s Cinco de Mayo celebration, guests enjoyed tequila-flamed gulf shrimp escabéche and fruitwood-smoked tenderloin, as well as performances from Spanish vocalist Shaila Dúrcal and traditional mariachi band Campanas de America.

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Track and field star Jesse Owens became a household name after his dominant performance at the 1936 Olympic Games in Ber...
05/04/2020

Track and field star Jesse Owens became a household name after his dominant performance at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany. In August 1976, he received the highest civilian honor possible: The Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Owens’s path to the ceremony at the White House, however, was not an easy one.

In 1936, Owens astonished spectators as he disproved the Nazi doctrines of a “superior Aryan race,” winning four gold medals for the United States and breaking multiple world records. Owen’s incredible performance in the Olympic Games shocked the international public, including Adolf Hitler who was in attendance.

Despite his talent, Owens faced intense discrimination and outright racism both before, during, and after the Olympic Games. After his success in Berlin, enormous crowds and celebratory parades greeted Owens when he returned to America, but he was still treated differently than the white members of the American Olympic team.

In New York City, Owens was invited to a reception in his honor at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, but hotel policy prohibited him from using the front door. Jesse Owens was also denied the opportunity to visit President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House, though his white teammates were invited.

Owens told reporters that: “Hitler didn’t snub me—it was our president who snubbed me . . . the president didn’t even send me a telegram.” Owens may have prevailed over racism abroad but could not escape it at home.

Four decades later, Jesse Owens finally received the recognition he deserved. President Gerald R. Ford awarded the star athlete the highest civilian honor possible: The Presidential Medal of Freedom. In a ceremony held in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden on August 5, 1976, President Ford celebrated Owens for his courage, talent, and athletic prowess. Owens told ceremony attendees that:

“I don't care where anybody lives, I don't care what they do, because you can be born into anything in this nation, as I was born in the cotton fields of Alabama, and today I stand before you and shake hands with the Commander-in-Chief of our Nation. This is America.”

Image Credit: National Archives and Records Administration

Presidents often correspond with foreign leaders pertaining to matters of state — but sometimes, they communicate about ...
05/03/2020

Presidents often correspond with foreign leaders pertaining to matters of state — but sometimes, they communicate about matters of the stomach. On January 24, 1960, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain wrote to President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the White House in order to share a special recipe.

The Queen began her letter with an apology: “Seeing a picture of you in today’s newspaper standing in front of a barbecue grilling quail, reminded me that I had never sent you the recipe of the drop scones which I promised you at Balmoral. I now hasten to do so, and I do hope you will find them successful.”

Queen Elizabeth II was referring to a visit from the Eisenhowers several months earlier. In August 1959, President Eisenhower and First Lady Mamie Eisenhower departed the White House and visited the Queen and her family at Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands.

It was the first time that an American president had visited Balmoral, and the British Royal Family celebrated the occasion by welcoming the Eisenhowers with a bagpipe salute, an estate tour, and a picnic lunch on the loch. After their visit, President Eisenhower traveled to London for policy negotiations with British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan.

On that day in Scotland, the president and first lady must have tasted the Queen’s famous drop scones and asked for the recipe to try it themselves. Five months later, the Queen finally sent the promised baking instructions, pictured here, along with some of her own baking tips, like using “golden syrup or treacle instead of only sugar.” The recipe can serve sixteen guests!

Why not try Queen Elizabeth’s recipe yourself and eat like royalty?

Image Credit: Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum / NARA

On June 18, 1991, President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush hosted a State Dinner for Brazilian President F...
05/02/2020

On June 18, 1991, President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush hosted a State Dinner for Brazilian President Fernando Collor de Mello and his wife First Lady Rosane Collor de Mello. The events of the day followed the traditional protocol for State Dinners.

President Bush welcomed the Brazilian president with an Arrival Ceremony on the White House South Lawn before the pair broke off for diplomatic discussions. Later that afternoon at 5:00 pm, President Bush delivered a speech in a Rose Garden ceremony outlining a new trade agreement between the United States and Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. At Collor’s suggestion, the pact was named “The Rose Garden Agreement.”

Following the day’s negotiations, the Brazilian president and first lady returned to the White House for the State Dinner that evening. In President Bush’s light-hearted toast, he praised the relationship between the two countries and joked about Collor’s skills as a pilot:

“I hear that, yesterday, en route from Brasilia to Washington, the President himself piloted the plane and even helped land it. I'm glad he didn't pull a barrel roll over the South Lawn. [Laughter] But all our Brazilian guests are here tonight, so I guess the passengers weren't too much in danger. Captain Collor got them here a half-hour early, and nobody lost their luggage -- [laughter] -- so things are going very well to start off our visit.”

After dinner, singer Gloria Estefan brought down the house with a high-energy performance. She brought along a pared down version of her Miami Sound Machine, performing with six musicians and three back-up singers. In between songs, she remarked to the audience:

“We were afraid to play some of the things we play for fear of bringing the roof down so we’ve toned things down a little bit.” A newspaper report from the Chicago Tribune even noted that the performance “had the East Room crystal chandeliers vibrating.”

In this photograph, Estefan leaves the stage and dances along the front row as the president and first lady look on.

Image Credit: George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum / NARA

In today’s article, explore the extraordinary life of William Costin—a free African-American activist and scholar who su...
05/01/2020
William Costin

In today’s article, explore the extraordinary life of William Costin—a free African-American activist and scholar who successfully challenged Black Codes in the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia.

William Costin live and worked in Washington, D.C. for many years, becoming a prominent member of the free Black community.

On this day in 1789, George Washington took the oath of office in New York City and became the first president of the Un...
04/30/2020

On this day in 1789, George Washington took the oath of office in New York City and became the first president of the United States. Later, he said of this new presidential role, "I walk on untrodden ground."

Since that day, inaugural ceremonies have evolved considerably. In today’s gallery, review a few images of presidential inaugurations that have culminated in the events we recognize today.

In 1818, during the presidency of James Monroe, congressional appropriations designated money for landscaping and mainte...
04/29/2020

In 1818, during the presidency of James Monroe, congressional appropriations designated money for landscaping and maintenance work on the White House Grounds. Monthly payroll records reveal the names of thirty-two enslaved individuals working on these construction projects.

In today’s article, explore some of the enslaved people—Peter, Charles Shade, Sampson Nutter, Thomas Nutter, Andrew Elzey, Leven Elzey, and William Elzey—who labored on the White House Grounds.

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