White House Christmas tree

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The 2005 Blue Room Christmas Tree

The White House Christmas Tree, also known as the Blue Room Christmas Tree, is the official indoor Christmas tree at the residence of the President of the United States, the White House. The first indoor Christmas tree was installed in the White House sometime in the 19th century (there are varying claims as to the exact year) and since 1961 the tree has had a themed motif at the discretion of the First Lady of the United States.

Contents

History

President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy with the first themed Blue Room tree in 1961.

First tree

Depending on which sources are consulted, the White House never had a Christmas tree until the 1850s or 1889.[1] There are two claims to the "first" genuine White House Christmas tree. President Franklin Pierce is said to have had the first indoor Christmas tree at the White House during the 1850s,[2] variously reported as 1853[3] or 1856.[4] Others claim the first tree was during President Benjamin Harrison's administration (either in 1888,[5] 1889,[6][7] or 1891[2]). First Lady Caroline Harrison helped decorate the tree, which was installed in the second floor oval parlor today's Yellow Oval Room.[6] There is an 1880 reference to [President Tyler] in the 1840s hosting a children's party at which there was a Christmas tree with gifts.[8]

General

Following the Harrison administration indoor trees were not always used at the White House. First Lady Lou Henry Hoover began the tradition of presidential wives decorating the White House tree with the first "official" White House Christmas tree in 1929.[6] In 1961 First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy began the tradition of selecting a theme for the White House Christmas tree by decorating with a Nutcracker motif.[9]

Years without a tree

As stated, there were years where no indoor White House Christmas tree was installed at all. It is verifiable that there was no Christmas tree in the White House in 1902,[10] 1904,[11], 1907,[12] and 1922.[13] The lack of a tree in 1902 was due to the fact that President Theodore Roosevelt had not ordered one by December 23.[10]

Additionally, other presidents never displayed a tree in the White House. First U.S. President George Washington held office at a time when there was no White House, thus it is impossible for him to have displayed a tree there.[14] There is no evidence that Abraham Lincoln ever displayed a Christmas tree in the White House.[15] In 1922 First Lady Florence Harding's illness led to a more subdued Christmas celebration at the White House and no Christmas tree.[13]

Controversy

The 1995 Blue Room Christmas tree – one of its ornaments was a source of political controversy for some.

The official White House Christmas tree has several times been seen as controversial by some. In 1899 the White House of President William McKinley received letters urging the president to forgo participation in the "Christmas tree habit".[16] The letter writers, which the Chicago Daily Tribune noted had taken up the "forestry fad", referred to "arboreal infanticide", according to the Tribune.[16] Those opposed to a tree in the White House that year also termed Christmas trees "un-American" because it was a historically German tradition.[16] At least one tree was displayed in the White House that year, in the kitchen department, for the maids.[16]

The Nixon administration's choice of tree topper, the atomic symbol of peace rather than a traditional star, was criticized.[17] The 1995 Blue Room Christmas Tree sought ornaments made by architecture students from across the United States.[18] Rene Spineto stirred up some controversy when she designed an ornament that depicted two stockings, one marked "Bill" and the other marked "Newt" (in reference to President Bill Clinton and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich).[18] While the stocking marked "Bill" was filled with candy and presents, the one marked "Newt" was filled with coal.[18] The Clinton administration hung the ornament on the tree without censorship.[18]

In his 1998 book Unlimited Access, former-FBI agent Gary Aldrich describes what he claims he saw in the White House during the Clinton administration. The book, published by an established conservative publishing house, Regnery Publishing,[19] states that the 1994 White House Christmas Tree was decorated with condoms and drug paraphernalia.[20] George Stephanopoulos called the book a "work of fiction";[19] it has also been called "infamous".[21]

In 2008 one of the ornaments designed by a Seattle artist, Deborah Lawrence, was rejected for inclusion on the Blue Room Christmas Tree.[22] The rejected ornament was a red and white striped 9-inch ball with the words "Impeach Bush" emblazoned on it.[22] The ornament was the only one of about 370 submitted that was rejected.[22]

Tree

The 2007 Blue Room Christmas tree arrives by horse-drawn carriage

Description

The White House Christmas tree is selected from various growers nationwide.[23] Growers in the state of North Carolina have provided 11 trees, more than any other state. The states of Washington and Wisconsin, as of 2011, share the second highest total of trees provided for the White House with seven. The White House Christmas tree has been displayed in the Blue Room many times since 1961. It has also occasionally been displayed in the Entrance Hall.[9][24]

Generally, there is more than one Christmas tree in and around the White House, for instance, in 1997 there were 36,[25] in 2008 there were 27.[26] Traditionally, the tree in the Blue Room is the official White House Christmas tree.[25][27] The White House Christmas tree usually stands nearly 20 feet tall and the crystal chandelier in the Blue Room must be removed for the tree to fit the room.[27] Frequently, the tree's height is reported as 18[28][29] or 18½ feet tall.[30][31] The Blue Room tree is donated each year by the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA).[27] The NCTA has donated the tree since 1966;[32] it is chosen through a contest among members of the trade group.[32]

List of White House Christmas trees (1961–2012)

YearSpecies and location grownOrnamentation notesFirst LadyLocationTheme
2012Michelle ObamaBlue Room
2011Balsam fir, Neshkoro, Wisconsin[33]Medals, badges, and patches from all of the military branches were displayed on ornaments.[34]Michelle ObamaBlue Room[33]Shine, Give, Share[34]
2010Douglas fir,[35] Lehighton, Pennsylvania[36]The Blue Room tree had a specific theme within the overall theme – "Gift of the American Spirit."[37] It honored state and county fairs and featured prize ribbons from each state and territory.[38]Michelle ObamaBlue Room[35]"Simple Gifts"[38]
2009Douglas fir, Shepherdstown, West Virginia[39]"We took about 800 ornaments left over from previous administrations, we sent them to 60 local community groups throughout the country, and asked them to decorate them to pay tribute to a favorite local landmark and then send them back to us for display here at the White House."[40]Michelle ObamaBlue Room[39]Reflect, Rejoice, Renew[40]
2008Fraser fir, Crumpler, North Carolina[41]Ornaments designed by artists from around the country selected by members of Congress. The ornaments had a patriotic theme.[41]Laura BushBlue Room[41]A Red, White, and Blue Christmas[41]
2007Fraser fir, Laurel Springs, North Carolina[42]Each ornament represented one of the 391 National Park Service sites.[24]Laura BushBlue Room[24]Holiday in the National Parks[42]
2006Douglas fir, Lehighton, Pennsylvania[43]Crystals and ornaments of iridescent glass[43]Laura BushBlue Room[43]Deck the Halls and Welcome All[43]
2005Fraser fir, Laurel Springs, North Carolina[44]White lilies, crystal spheres and light-catching garland[44]Laura BushBlue Room[44]All Things Bright and Beautiful[44]
2004Noble fir, Rochester, Washington[45]Musical instruments hand-painted by members of the Society of Decorative Painters.[45]Laura BushBlue Room[24]A Season of Merriment and Melody[24]
2003Fraser fir, Wisconsin[46]Ornaments first used by Barbara Bush in 1989.[46]Laura BushBlue Room[46]A Season of Stories[46]
2002Noble fir, Elma, Washington[47][48]An artist from each state designed an ornament based on a native bird.[47]Laura BushBlue RoomAll Creatures Great and Small[47]
2001Concolor fir, Middleburg, Pennsylvania[49]An artist from each state designed miniature replicas of historic houses from their region.[49]Laura BushBlue Room[49]Home for the Holidays
2000Douglas fir, Auburn, Pennsylvania[30]Ornaments were from the First Lady's past.[50]Hillary ClintonBlue Room[50]Holiday Reflections[50]
1999Noble fir, Elma, Washington[51]Doll makers fashioned toys of American historical figures for this tree.[50]Hillary ClintonBlue Room[51]Holiday Treasures at the White House[50]
1998Balsam fir, Endeavor, Wisconsin[52]Knitting Guild of America and the Society of Decorative Painters worked together with fabric artists from each state on the ornaments.[50]Hillary ClintonBlue Room[53]Winter Wonderland[50]
1997Fraser fir,[25] Grassy Creek, North Carolina[54]Members of the National Needlework Association and Council of Fashion Designers of America joined with glass artisans to design the trimmings.[50]Hillary ClintonBlue Room[55]Santa's Workshop[50]
1996Colorado blue spruce, Coshocton, Ohio[56]Woodcraft artisans and professional ballet companies helped with the ornaments.[50]Hillary ClintonBlue Room[56]Nutcracker Suite[50]
1995Fraser fir, North Carolina[18]Ornaments contributed by American architecture students and members of the American Institute of Architects.[50]Hillary ClintonBlue Room[57]A Visit From St. Nicholas[50]
1994Blue spruce, Missouri[58]Ornaments contributed by American art students.[50]Hillary ClintonBlue Room[50]The Twelve Days of Christmas[50]
1993Fraser fir, North Carolina[58]More than 1,000 artists contributed angel-themed ornaments.[59]Hillary ClintonBlue Room[59]Angels[59]
1992Grand fir,[58] Oregon[60]White House florists made 88 gift-giving characters.[61]Barbara BushBlue Room[60]Gift-givers[61]
1991Noble fir, Salem, Oregon[62]Saintly Stitchers of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston created a needlepoint village and 92 pieces for a White House staff built Noah's Ark.[61]Barbara BushBlue Room[62]Needle work tree[61]
1990Fraser fir, North Carolina[58]Used miniature porcelain dancers.[61]Barbara BushBlue Room[24]Nutcracker Suite[61]
1989Fraser fir, Pennsylvania[58]White House staff created 80 soft-sculpture literary characters.[61]Barbara BushBlue Room[61]Family literacy[61]
1988Balsam fir, Montello, Wisconsin[63]Reused hand-blown glass ornaments from the Eisenhower administration, and reused Nixon's state flower balls. White House carpenters made 300 wood candles.[64]Nancy ReaganBlue Room[63]Old-fashioned tree[64]
1987Fraser fir, West Virginia[58]Miniature instruments, notes and sheet music made by patients at Second Genesis, drug-treatment program.[64]Nancy ReaganBlue Room[65]Musical theme[64]
1986Fraser fir, Washington[58]15 soft-sculpture nursery rhyme scenes and 100 geese made by patients at Second Genesis, drug-treatment program.[64]Nancy ReaganBlue Room[66]Mother Goose theme[64]
1985Blue spruce, Michigan[58]1,500 Ornaments made by patients at Second Genesis, drug-treatment program.[64]Nancy ReaganBlue Room[67]Ornaments made from Christmas cards sent to the Reagans in 1984.[64]
1984Fraser fir, North Carolina[58]Ornaments made by patients at Second Genesis, drug-treatment program.[64]Nancy ReaganBlue Room[68]Ornaments made from plant material and other handcrafted natural ornaments.[64]
1983Noble fir, Orting, Washington[69]Reused 1982 ornaments and added old-fashioned toys lent by Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum.[64]Nancy ReaganBlue Room[69]Old-Fashioned toys.[64]
1982Fraser fir, North Carolina[58]Ornaments made by patients at Second Genesis, drug-treatment program.[64]Nancy ReaganBlue Room[70]Foil paper cones and metallic snowflakes[64]
1981Douglas fir,[71] Pennsylvania[58]Nancy Reagan's first tree did not involve Second Genesis. The ornaments were loaned by the Museum of American Folk Art.[64]Nancy ReaganBlue Room[64]Ornaments from the Museum of American Folk Art.[64]
1980Douglas fir, Bristol, Indiana[72]Dolls, hats, fans, tapestries and laces.[73]Rosalynn CarterBlue Room[74]Victorian theme[73]
1979Douglas fir, West Virginia[75]Corcoran School of Art created ornaments from balsa wood, fabric and dried flowers.[73]Rosalynn CarterAmerican folk art of the colonial period[73]
1978Veitch fir, New York[58]Victorian dolls and miniature furniture lent by the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum.[73]Rosalynn CarterBlue Room[76]Antique toys[73]
1977Noble fir, Washington[58]National Association for Retarded Citizens made eggshell ornaments.[73]Rosalynn CarterBlue Room[73]Painted milkweed pods, nut pods, foil and eggshell ornaments.[73]
1976Balsam fir, Wisconsin[58]Natural ornaments made by the Garden Club of America.[77]Betty FordBlue Room[77]"Love that is the spirit of Christmas"
1975Douglas fir, New York[78]Used ornaments from 1974 plus experts from Colonial Williamsburg made ornaments from paper snowflakes, acorns, dried fruits, pinecones, vegetables, straw, cookies and yarn.[77]Betty FordBlue Room[24]Old-fashioned children's Christmas[77]
1974Concolor fir, Michigan[58]Ornaments made by Appalachian women and senior citizens groups.[77]Betty FordBlue Room[77]Handmade crafts, thrift and recycling[77]
1973Fraser fir, North Carolina[58]In honor of James Madison[79]Pat NixonGold theme[79]
1972Noble fir, Washington[58]Reused 1969 ornaments, added 3,000 pastel satin finish balls, and 150 gold federal stars.[79]Pat NixonStill Life with Fruit and Nature’s Bounty, paintings by Severin Roesen[79]
1971Fraser fir, North Carolina[58]Reused 1969 ornaments, added Monroe fans, and gold foil angels.[79]Pat NixonAmerican Flower Tree[79]
1970White spruce, Wisconsin[58]Reused 1969 ornaments, added 53 Monroe fans.[79]Pat NixonBlue Room[79]American Flower Tree[79]
1969Blue spruce, Ohio[58]Disabled workers from Florida made velvet and satin balls featuring each state's state flower.[79]Pat NixonNorth Entrance[24]American Flower Tree[79]
1968White pine, Indianapolis[80]19th century American style with gingerbread cookies.[81]Claudia 'Lady Bird' JohnsonBlue Room[81]19th century gingerbread tree[81]
1967Blue spruce, Ohio[58]Same as 1965–66 but with silver baubles, silver stars, and round mirrors added.[82]Claudia 'Lady Bird' JohnsonBlue Room[82]Early American[82]
1966Balsam fir, Wisconsin[58]Traditional ornaments: nuts, fruit, popcorn, dried seedpods, gingerbread cookies and wood roses from Hawaii.[82]Claudia 'Lady Bird' JohnsonBlue Room[82]Early American[82]
1965Traditional ornaments: nuts, fruit, popcorn, dried seedpods, gingerbread cookies and wood roses from Hawaii.[82]Claudia 'Lady Bird' JohnsonBlue Room[82]Early American[82]
1964Balsam fir[83]Claudia 'Lady Bird' JohnsonBlue Room[84]
1963Claudia 'Lady Bird' Johnson
1962Reused ornaments from 1961 plus other ornaments made by disabled and senior citizens.[9]Jacqueline Kennedy[9]North Entrance[9]Childhood[9]
1961Balsam fir[81]Toys, birds, and angels modeled after Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite ballet.[9]Jacqueline Kennedy[9]Blue Room[9]Nutcracker Suite[9]

List of other known White House Christmas trees

YearSpecies and location grownGeneral notesFirst LadyLocationTheme (if any)
1960"Presents were piled high under the magnificent tree and stretched for yards into the East Room."[85]Mamie EisenhowerEast Room[85]
1959Of the 26 trees there were trees in the laundry room, the maid's sitting room and David Eisenhower had his own private tree in the children's quarters.[81]Mamie Eisenhower26 trees throughout the White House[81]
1958". . . decorated with electric candle lights, glass balls and large amounts of tinsel."[86]Mamie Eisenhower27 trees throughout the White House[86]
1954Silver tinsel, Eisenhower grandchildren opened presents under this tree.[87]Mamie EisenhowerEast Room[87]
1947Bess TrumanEast Room[88]
1944Elliot Roosevelt: ". . . the Christmas tree was in place and decorated, the piles of presents were ready for the unwrapping – each person's pile heaped on a separate chair."[1]Eleanor RooseveltFamily quarters[1]
1937". . . gleamed with snow and silver trimming."[89]Eleanor RooseveltEast Room[89]
1936Eleanor RooseveltEast Room[90]
1934Multiple trees were installed in the White House, some for public viewing and others for private enjoyment of the Roosevelts.[89]A large tree was installed in the White House East Room.[91]Eleanor RooseveltEast Room[91]
1929First "official" White House tree.[6]Lou Henry Hoover
1926Mrs. Coolidge chose to display three Christmas trees at the White House.[92]Grace Coolidge
1923Norway spruce[93]White House had two Christmas trees.[93]Grace CoolidgeBlue Room, and family quarters[93]
1917[94]Edith Bolling Galt Wilson
1916Edith Bolling Galt WilsonLibrary[95] The tree was for Wilson's great niece Josephine Cothran.[96]
1915Laden with gifts from members of the family and household.[97]Edith Bolling Galt WilsonLibrary
1914noneWhite House library[98]
1912Helen TaftBlue Room[99]
1908The first time there was a tree in the Roosevelt White House that was not attributed to young Archie Roosevelt.[100]Edith Roosevelt
1905Tree decorated and set up by Archie Roosevelt, as the only member of the family who had "a fondness" for Christmas trees he distributed the presents "through this medium".[101]Edith Roosevelt
1903Tree decorated solely by young Archie Roosevelt.[102]Edith RooseveltLiving Room (The President's Den)[102][103] (then Archie Roosevelt's bedroom)[102][103]
1896Decorated with red, white and blue electric lights.[104]The decorating was supervised by Mrs. Cleveland and included tinsel ornaments and toys.[16]Frances ClevelandLibrary[104]
1895Cedar[105]Tree featured electric lights.[7]Frances ClevelandLibrary[105]
1894"Beautifully trimmed and decorated".[106] Decorated with "tiny parti-colored electric lamps instead of the old-time wax candles."[107]Frances ClevelandLibrary[106]
1893Frances ClevelandLibrary[16]
1891Caroline HarrisonLibrary[108]
1890At least one tree was displayed "for the little ones".[109]Caroline Harrison
1889Foxtail hemlock[110]Glass balls and pendants, gold tinsel.[110] Four-sided-lanterns[110] used candles used for lighting.[6] Credited as the first White House Christmas tree though the claim is disputed (see above).Caroline HarrisonYellow Oval Room[6]
1853[1] or 1856[4]Decorated for a group of Washington, D.C. school children.[111] Credited as the first White House Christmas tree though the claim is disputed (see above).Jane Pierce

See also

References

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Further reading

External links