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Tag: White House

A Very Special “Make It Work” Christmas Story

Tim Gunn will be at the National Archives on December 11, hosting “Deck the Halls: Holidays at the White House.” Join us in person or watch live on our YouTube channel. Details at the bottom of this blog post!

It was 40 years before his famous catchphrase, but Tim Gunn knew he needed to “make it work” if he wanted to get the Christmas tree decorated in time at the White House.

First Lady Rosalynn Carter holds an ornament designed by Tim Gunn. (Carter Presidential Library and Museum)

First Lady Rosalynn Carter holds an ornament designed by Tim Gunn. (Carter Presidential Library and Museum)

The future Project Runway star had recently begun teaching three-dimensional design at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC, when the call came in. The White House was asking for students to make original ornaments for the tree in the Blue Room.

But just like a challenge on Project Runway, there was a catch: they had one week.

In Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making It Work, Gunn recalled that they were excited to have the opportunity—and intensely curious about how the White House had come to be in this situation. “We heard a rumor,” he wrote, “that the Jimmy Carter White House perceived the work of this original ornament maker to be “inappropriate,” and we had a wonderful time trying to imagine what in the world those ornaments had looked like.”

His second-year students … [ Read all ]

Fala and Barkers for Britain, 1941

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Fala in the White House Study, Washington, DC, 12/20/1941. (National Archives Identifier 6728526)

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Fala in the White House Study, Washington, DC, 12/20/1941. (National Archives Identifier 6728526)

Today’s post commemorates National Dog Day, which celebrates dogs everywhere on August 26. Bow-wow!

Calling all dog lovers—arguably history’s best known Presidential pet was Franklin Roosevelt’s Scottish terrier, Murray the Outlaw of Falahill (Fala for short), who was named after FDR’s famous Scottish ancestor, John Murray. He was given to Roosevelt in 1940 as a Christmas gift by his cousin Margaret Suckley. Not long after entering the White House, fame encompassed Fala’s life as he began to appear in political cartoons, news articles, movie shorts, and even FDR’s campaign speeches.

He was beloved by all White House staff, so much so that he was hospitalized after his first few weeks at the White House from being overfed by the kitchen staff. Due to this incident, FDR issued an order to his staff stating that Fala was to be fed by the President alone—talk about royal treatment. Furthermore, Fala was so well known that Secret Service agents called him “The Informer” because, during secret wartime Presidential trips, the dog was instantly recognized while out on his walks.

Fala Photographing the Photographers at the White House, Washington, DC, 04/07/1942. (National Archives Identifier 6728525)

Fala photographing the photographers at the White House, Washington, DC, 04/07/1942. (National Archives Identifier 6728525)

Aside from being President Roosevelt’s right hand man, Fala’s political side was put to good use in … [ Read all ]

Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooal!

Today’s post celebrates the international sporting event that captivates billions of people every four years: the World Cup!

Brazilian icon Pele is one of the world’s most recognized footballers. He is one of the few players to appear in four World Cup finals and the only player to win three World Cup titles (1958, 1962, and 1970).

After he retired from international soccer, Pele dazzled New Yorkers from 1975 to 1977 playing in the North American Soccer League for the New York Cosmos. He’s widely credited with sparking American interest in the beautiful game.

In addition to being the world’s ambassador to football, Pele has been a frequent visitor to the White House.

In 1973, President Richard Nixon hosted Pele and his then-wife Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi. During the visit, the President told Pele “You are the greatest in the world,” and when Pele explained to the President that soccer differed from American football, Nixon replied “Do I know that! The main thing is to use your head.”

President Nixon meeting with Edson "Pele" Arantes do Nascimento, retired professional Brazilian soccer player and Director of the International Soccer Program sponsored by PepsiCo. Pele autographs a soccer ball for President Nixon, 05/08/1973. (National Archives Identifier 194508)

President Nixon meeting with Edson “Pele” Arantes do Nascimento, retired professional Brazilian soccer player and Director of the International Soccer Program sponsored by PepsiCo. Pele autographs a soccer ball for President Nixon, 05/08/1973. (National Archives Identifier 194508)

Two years later, Pele again visited the White House—this time in the Rose Garden. President Gerald Ford took the opportunity … [ Read all ]

State Dinners at the White House

Today’s post comes from the National Archives Office of Presidential Libraries.

King David Kalakaua of Hawaii was the first head of state to be honored with a White House state dinner on December 12, 1874, by President and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant. In the years that have followed, state dinners have come to signify the utmost respect for visiting heads of state. Each state dinner is a historic event with the power to cement friendships with allies and foster cooperation.

8_GRF_State-Dinner-invitation-1976

Invitation to the state dinner for President Giscard d’Estaing of France, May17, 1976.

Months of meticulous planning go into a state dinner. The guest of honor’s country, culture, and favored preferences are thoroughly researched. The First Lady often chooses the décor and entertainment to highlight a certain aspect of American culture. Together, these considerations are translated into invitations, menus, guest lists, and entertainment. The results can be a form of diplomatic dialogue between the host and guest cultures.

In 1976, First Lady Betty Ford chose “light” as the theme for the state dinner honoring French President Giscard d’Estaing. The theme was inspired by France’s Bicentennial gift to the United States, a sound and light show staged at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. Centerpieces were designed for each table using early American lighting items loaned from the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont. These included a … [ Read all ]

A big cheese for the Big Cheese in 1837

In 1836, President Jackson accepted 1,400-pound wheel of cheese from Col. Thomas Meacham, a dairy farmer near Sandy Creek, NY. The cheese was mammoth, and it sat, ripening, in the White House for over a year. Eventually, Jackson invited everyone in Washington, DC, to stop by and help consume the massive wheel. He threw the doors open, and in just two hours, the cheese was gone.

Patent for a cheese press, given to Luke Hale in June, 1838. National Archives.

Patent for a cheese press, given to Luke Hale in June, 1838 (National Archives at Kansas City). This patent shows a cheese press from around the same year as Jackson’s cheese giveaway.

Even members of Congress went crazy for cheese and were absent from their seats. From the Vermont Phoenix, March 3, 1837:

Mr. Alford opposed the motion for a recess. He said it was time, if they intended to do any public business this session, that they forthwith set about it, for they had wasted enough time already.  As for the battle with the great cheese at the White House, he was for leaving it to those whose tastes led them there, and to-morrow they might receive a full account of the killed and slain.  The gentleman from Maine, (Mr Jarvis) could as well finish the speech he was making to the few members present, as not.

Mr. Wise remarked that it was pretty well understood where

[ Read all ]