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Decorating The White House White House Historical Association

Decorating The White House White House Historical Association Decorating The White House White House Historical Association

2007 White House Christmas Ornament, A President Marries in the White House

In 1853, Clark Mills’ statue of President Andrew Jackson on horseback is in the center of Lafayette Park. The park’s four…

The restoration of the exterior of the White House, which I performed from 1989 to 1996, was an exciting and challenging task….

2003 White House Christmas Ornament, A Child’s Rocking Horse

In keeping with the 2003 theme, “A Season of Stories,” Mrs. Bush took a page from the past and decorated with ornaments first used by First Lady Barbara Bush in 1989. Like many families, the First Family decorated their Christmas tree with ornaments passed down by their parents and grandparents. The ornaments were loaned to the White House from the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University.

The White House at Christmas traditionally has been a magical place for children. From the earliest times memorable parties have been held for the president’s children or grandchildren. One of the most elaborate was President Andrew Jackson’s “frolic” for the children of his household in 1834. This party included games, dancing, a grand dinner, and ended with an indoor “snowball fight” with specially made cotton balls.

To learn more about the White House Historical Association, please visit 

The Dolley Madison House, a yellow structure on the corner of H Street and Madison Place in “The President’s Neig…

The holiday season at the White House is celebrated with an abundance of glittering décor, decadent desserts, and fresh p…

In 1982, First Lady Nancy Reagan arranged the people of Second Genesis, a drug treatment program in D.C., Maryland and Virginia to make foil paper cones and metallic snowflakes. These were reused in 1983 on a tree featuring old-fashioned toys lent by the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum. In 1984, Second Genesis fashioned ornaments out of plant material to compliment natural pieces crafted by the Brandywine Museum in Pennsylvania.

2001 White House Christmas Ornament, A First Family’s Carriage Ride

First Lady Michelle Obama began her White House Christmas planning with a very simple idea: to include as many people, in as many places, in as many ways as possible.

First Lady Barbara Bush chose a theme of “family literacy” for the Blue Room tree of 1989. She had the Executive Residence staff create 80 soft-sculpture characters from literature. Tiny books completed the motif.

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy reused these ornaments in 1962 for her children’s theme tree. Set up in the North Entrance, this festive tree also featured brightly wrapped packages, candy canes, gingerbread cookies and straw ornaments made by disabled or senior citizen craftspeople throughout the United States.

Thanksgiving is a relatively quiet and personal holiday at the White House, as it precedes a very busy season of…

Every year since 1981, the White House Historical Association has had the privilege of designing the Official White House Christmas Ornament….

During the 2007 “Holiday in the National Parks,” artists decorated 391 ornaments representing national parks, memorials, seashores, historic sites, and monuments across the country. Each ornament reflected the diversity of our national landscape. In 2008, Mrs. Bush chose the patriotic theme, “A Red, White, and Blue Christmas,” and trimmed the official Christmas tree with ornaments designed by artists from around the country selected by members of Congress.

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2004 White House Christmas Ornament, A First Family’s Sleigh Ride

Versailles, Potsdam, and other grand relics of power are all imposing architecture and vistas, one always leading to another— Ossa pi…

First Lady Rosalynn Carter explored a variety of holiday themes in her years at the White House. Her 1977 Blue Room tree featured painted milkweed pods, nut pods, foil and eggshell ornaments made by members of the National Association for Retarded Citizens.

2011 White House Christmas Ornament, Santa Visits the White House

Over her eight White House holiday seasons, First Lady Hillary Clinton showcased the talents of America’s artistic communities. First Lady Laura Bush varied the decorations, including the themes of “All Creatures Grand and Small in 2002” highlighting her love of animals and the importance of pets to White House history and a patriotic “A Red, White and Blue Christmas” in 2008. The theme had been inspired by letters from Americans that began arriving after September 11th suggesting the White House have a red, white and blue Christmas. First Lady Michelle Obama announced the 2010 White House Christmas theme of “Simple Gifts” and she explained, “The greatest blessings of all are the ones that don’t cost a thing: the time that we spend with our loved ones, the freedoms we enjoy as Americans and the joy we feel from reaching out to those in need.”

In 2013, First Lady Michelle Obama chose the theme “Gather Around: Stories of the Season.” Military families created greeting cards in the shape of their home states to trim the official Blue Room Christmas tree.

The 1969 “American Flower Tree” stood in the North Entrance. For its decoration, First Lady Patricia Nixon arranged for disabled workers in Florida to make velvet and satin balls featuring each state’s flower. For the 1970 Blue Room tree, she added 53 “Monroe” fans made by disabled workers in New York. Gold foil angels joined the trimmings in 1971. Mrs. Nixon took her 1972 Christmas theme from two White House collection paintings by Severin Roesen: Still Life with Fruit and Nature’s Bounty. The tree featured 3,000 pastel satin finish balls, the state flower balls and 150 gold Federal stars. A 1973 “gold” theme tree honored James Monroe, who bought gilded tableware for the White House in 1817. Gold bead strings and balls enhanced its natural beauty.

One of the most interesting collections of sil­ver of which this country can boast is at the White House. I…

Since 1878, American presidents and their families have celebrated Easter Monday by hosting an ‘egg roll’ party. Held on the South…

The White House Historical Association and the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project present this collaboration in an effort to open a…

In 2004, First Lady Bush selected the theme “A Season of Merriment and Melody.” A symphony of musical instruments hand-painted by members of the Society of Decorative Painters adorned the official Christmas tree. The 2005 “All Things Bright and Beautiful” tree featured white lilies, crystal spheres, and light-catching garlands. In 2006, the Christmas tree sparkled with crystals and ornaments of iridescent glass to “Deck the Halls and Welcome All.”

2009 White House Christmas Ornament, First Electric Christmas Lights

1999 White House Christmas Ornament, President Abraham Lincoln’s Portrait

In May 1865, at the close of hostilities, a Grand Review throughout Washington, D.C., exhibited parading Union troops from the…

First Lady Lou Henry Hoover established the custom of decorating an official tree in the White House in 1929. Since that time, the honor of trimming the Christmas tree on the state floor has belonged to our first ladies. The tree stands in the oval Blue Room, an elegant space honored as the center of holiday splendor. In 1961 First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy began the tradition of selecting a theme for the official White House Christmas tree. That year the tree was decorated with ornamental toys, birds, angels and characters from the “Nutcracker Suite” ballet. For the American Flowers Tree in 1969, First Lady Patricia Nixon arranged for disabled workers in Florida to make velvet and satin balls featuring each states official flower.

White House history and American baseball history have been intertwined for more than a century, creating a rich legacy of…

Presidents have found different ways to escape the pressures and politics of the position. For early leaders, it was a…

The Obama family pets have also helped to spread holiday spirit each year. In 2013, the White House displayed life sized, moving replicas of dogs Bo and Sunny made of 1,000 yards of satin ribbon.

The 2011, 2012, and 2013 official White House Christmas trees continued to pay tribute to American troops, veterans and their families. Medals, badges, and patches from all of the military branches adorned the “Shine, Give, Share” Christmas tree in 2011. Military children spread “Joy to All” in 2012 by decorating ornaments in honor of their parents serving in uniform.

Get the ideal White House-inspired gift this Father’s Day. From our golf gifts and men’s jewelry, to our collectible items, such as our Framed Vintage Stamp or the Official 2018 White House Ornament, you’ll find something perfect for Dad.

President Calvin Coolidge was the first chief executive to preside over a public celebration of the Christmas holidays with the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in 1923. Today, the Christmas Pageant of Peace, a major event held annually on the Ellipse since 1954, includes the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. This celebration respects the holiday worship of all faiths and features the appearance of the first family to light the tree and host live musical and dance performances.

When people think of President Herbert Hoover and baseball, many recall the famous story from 1930, when Babe Ruth signed a…

In 1961, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy began the tradition of selecting a theme for the official White House Christmas tree. She decorated a tree placed in the oval Blue Room with ornamental toys, birds and angels modeled after Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” ballet.

President and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt hosted a “carnival” during the 1903 Christmas season for 500 children including dinner, dancing, musical entertainment, souvenirs, and a special treat in the form of ice cream formed in the shape of Santa and other Christmas novelties. President Roosevelt, an avowed conservationist, did not approve of cutting trees for Christmas decorations. However, his son Archie defied the ban and smuggled in a small tree that was decorated and hidden in a closet in the upstairs sewing room.

The Official 2018 White House Christmas Ornament honors President Harry S. Truman and the significant changes he made to the White House and the Presidential Seal.

A dozen custom packaged Titleist Pro V1 golf balls are set in sleek sleeves along with beautiful depictions of the North Portico of the White House.

In 2009, Mrs. Obama asked 60 local community groups from around the nation to “Reflect, Rejoice, Renew,” and redecorate 800 ornaments from previous White House administrations. The ornaments paid tribute to favorite local landmarks including the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, and Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

In 1990, First Lady Barbara Bush revisited “The Nutcracker” with little porcelain dancers. White House florists dressed the figurines, and a castle from the Land of Sweets was constructed by White House craftspeople. The Saintly Stitchers of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, joined with the staff on the “needle work” tree of 1991. They created a needlepoint village and 92 needlepoint figures for a wooden Noah’s Ark built by staff carpenters. For the 1992 tree theme of “Gift-Givers,” White House florists fashioned 88 different “gift-giving” characters.

John and Abigail Adams had a wealth of experience in establishing and living in official houses prior to their move…

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When Whig opponents chanted “Who is James K. Polk?” throughout the presidential election of 1844, it was more an attempt to infl…

When Commodore Stephen Decatur and his wife, Susan, moved into their new three story brick home across from the White…

2000 White House Christmas Ornament, 200th Anniversary of the White House

2008 White House Christmas Ornament, A Victorian Christmas Tree

In 1978 First Lady Rosalynn Carter decked an “antique toy” tree with Victorian dolls and miniature furniture lent by the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum. In 1979 she honored American Folk Art of the Colonial period, asking students of the Corcoran School of Art to create imaginary symbolism pieces from balsa wood, fabric and dried flowers. She revisited a Victorian theme in 1980 with dolls, hats, fans, tapestries and laces.

In 2001, First Lady Laura Bush chose “Home for the Holidays” as the White House Christmas tree theme. Artists from all 50 states and the District of Columbia designed model replicas of historic homes and houses of worship to hang as ornaments. In 2002, Mrs. Bush adopted the theme of “All Creatures Great and Small.” Perched on the boughs of the official tree were finely crafted representatives of America’s favorite birds.

Compiled by the White House Historical Association. Please credit the Association by its full name when using this as background material. Specific sources consulted available upon request.

First Lady Nancy Reagan chose the themes for eight White House Christmases. Her official 1981 Blue Room tree was trimmed in ornaments lent by the Museum of American Folk Art. For all the following years, she arranged for the people of Second Genesis, a drug treatment program in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, to help decorate her trees.

The White House observance of Christmas before the twentieth century was not an official event. First families decorated the house modestly with greens and privately celebrated the Yuletide with family and friends. The first White House Christmas tree, decorated with candles and toys, was placed in the second floor oval room, then used as a library and family parlor, in 1889 for President Benjamin Harrison and his family. In 1894, three years after electricity was introduced in the White House, the first electric lights on a family tree delighted the young daughters of President Grover Cleveland. In 1909, President William H. Taft’s children helped decorate the first tree on the state floor in the Blue Room.

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It was President Thomas Jefferson who first established the traditions of a Fourth of July celebration at the White House….

The Lyndon B. Johnson Administration began during a time of great uncertainty. In November 1963, the assassination of President Kennedy had stunned America. New First Lady Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson certainly felt a desire to help the nation heal. She chose comforting and nostalgic holiday decor during her White House years. Her 1965 and 1966 Blue Room Christmas trees were decorated in an early American theme. They featured thousands of small traditional ornaments, including nuts, fruit, popcorn, dried seedpods, gingerbread cookies and wood roses from Hawaii. Paper mache angels graced the tops of the trees. For the 1967 holiday season, Mrs. Johnson added silver balls, silver stars and round mirrors to the previous years’ ornaments.

Today, the celebration of Halloween conjures images of costumed trick-or-treaters, sweets, and jack-o’-lanterns; but there was a time when All…

2012 White House Christmas Ornament, The First Presidential Automobile

For Christmas of 1985, the Reagan’s Executive Residence staff and Second Genesis made 1,500 ornaments from holiday cards sent to President Reagan in 1984. The residence staff and Second Genesis worked together for the next three holiday seasons. In 1986, they made 15 soft-sculpture nursery rhyme scenes and 100 geese for a “Mother Goose” tree. For the 1987 “musical” tree, they decorated miniature instruments, notes and sheet music. White House carpenters made 300 wood candles for Mrs. Reagan’s 1988 “old-fashioned” tree, which reused hand-blown glass ornaments from the Eisenhower Administration and the Nixon state flower balls from 1969.

2006 White House Christmas Ornament, Tiffany Glass in the White House

In 2010, the White House celebrated “Simple Gifts.” The Blue Room Christmas tree was themed, “Gift of the American Spirit,” and it featured prize ribbons from state and county fairs from each state and territory. First Lady Michelle Obama also added a “Military Appreciation Tree” to the White House in 2010. Located near the visitor’s entrance, the tree was decorated with glass bulb ornaments representing the five branches of the military and topped with a handmade dove.

For the politicians, civil servants, and accompanying citizenry of the new federal government—freshly arrived in 1800 from comfortable, sophisticated Philadelphia—the…

Congress has always been tasked with appropriating funds for the care, repair, refurnishing and maintenance of the White House and its grounds. Each incoming president has found furnishings that were worn out and in need of replacement due to everyday wear and tear.

Congress approved funds enabling a new president to carry out structural improvements and purchase new furnishings from auctions, private sales and other sources, as well as occasionally authorizing the sale of furnishings that were out of repair or unfit for use.

The amount of allowances for redecorating of the residence has risen over time. The $14,000 appropriated to John and Abigail Adams in 1800 remained steady until it was raised to $20,000 in 1833 for Andrew Jackson’s second term; it was raised to $50,000 in 1925 during Calvin Coolidge’s term; and to $100,000 in 1999 during Bill Clinton’s second term.

This allowance covers both the private residence and the oval office. The regularly allotted money from Congress was given per administration and not by term. Occasionally presidents and their wives spent so much on new furnishings that they exceeded the moneys Congress had originally appropriated.

In some cases they were able to make up the difference out of their own pockets, but not every president had the financial resources to do so.Congress had established a special $20,000 furniture fund in 1817 for incoming President James Monroe to revamp the recently rebuilt White House.

 Monroe and his wife Elizabeth nearly spent this entire amount on furniture shipped from France alone.  When Monroe asked for additional funds Congress appropriated another $30,000, some of which paid for Monroe’s tour of the southern states in 1819.

 When Samuel Lane, Commissioner of Washington, D.C., and Monroe’s furnishings agent died in 1822, Monroe was surprised to learn that he owed Lane’s estate $6,500.Mary Lincoln’s $20,000 allowance quickly evaporated during 1861 as she purchased carpets, china, cut glass, draperies, wallpaper and other items at the finest department stores of Boston, New York City and Philadelphia.

Mrs. Lincoln ended up with a cost overrun of $6,858, which she unsuccessfully tried to conceal from the president. With the help of some budgetary legerdemain from commissioner of public buildings Benjamin Brown French and an additional $4,500 from Congress, she was eventually able to pay for her spending spree.

As of late, most Presidents rely on the White House collections of furniture, rugs, portraits, and objects to furnish the residence and the Oval Office.  Others, such as Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, have declined to use the appropriated money in favor of using private funds.

In 1961 Congress enacted Public Law 87-286 declaring that the furnishings of the White House were the inalienable property of the White House, legislating the White House’s status as a museum and extending legal protection to donated period furnishings and all White House objects.

In March 1964, to continue the efforts of Jacqueline Kennedy, President Lyndon Johnson issued Executive Order 11145, establishing the advisory Committee for the Preservation of the White House to guide the maintenance of the museum character of the State Rooms, and a permanent position for a White House curator.

The color of the White House is protected by a matter of tradition rather than law. President Teddy Roosevelt made the name “White House” official in 1901 by using it in official correspondence. The White House as a building was designated a historic site in 1960.

As a National Heritage Site/National Historic Landmark in the care of the National Park Service, extensive regulations would govern attempts to institute any significant changes.In 1979 First Lady Rosalynn Carter helped create the White House Preservation Fund, which provides an endowment for new acquisitions and for the refurbishing of state rooms.

First Lady Barbara Bush appointed curators and art historians to a revived Committee for the Preservation of the White House to establish procedures to review objects for the collection, and she also worked to activate the White House Endowment Fund under the White House Historical Association.

The goal was to raise an endowment for acquisitions, the refurbishing of the public rooms, and conservation of the collection.

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy envisioned a restored White House that conveyed a sense of history through its decorative and fine arts. She sought to inspire Americans, especially children, to explore and engage with American history and its presidents. In 1961, the White House Historical Association was established to support her vision to preserve and share the Executive Mansion’s legacy for generations to come. Supported entirely by private resources, the Association’s mission is to assist in the preservation of the state and public rooms, fund acquisitions for the White House permanent collection, and educate the public on the history of the White House. Since its founding, the Association has given more than $45 million to the White House in fulfillment of its mission. 

Many presidents have used ships for both relaxation and diplomacy. From fishing to meetings with foreign dignitaries, water travel provides…

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