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an intimate glimpse into the social and 
domestic aspects of the presidential life 



. . . from Washington to the Eisenhowers 

Ona Griffin Jeffries 


Copyright 1960 by Ona Griffin Jeffries 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 60-6700 

Printed in the United States of America 

Designed by Joan Siegel 


It is my pleasure to extend thanks to the following friends 
who have been helpful in the preparation of this book : To 
Lowell Mellett, former editor of the Scripps-Howard News- 
paper Alliance and the Washington Daily News, a great man, 
a great editor, and a great believer in freedom of the press; to 
Col. Robert S. Allen, columnist and lecturer, and his wife, Ruth 
Finney, columnist for the Scripps-Howard newspapers and spe- 
cial correspondent for the San Francisco Daily News ; to Mrs. 
Henrietta Nesbitt, and others in official capacity, who made 
possible an authentic picture of White House life during Frank- 
lin D. Roosevelt's administration and the beginning of Harry S. 

To the Library of Congress, and particularly to Dr. Eliza- 
beth G. McPherson of the Manuscript Division; Edwin A. 
Thompson, head of the Reader Service; Frederick Kline, head 
of the Issue Desk; Miss Virginia Daiker, Mr. Carl E. Stange, 
and Messrs. Hirst D. Milhollen and Milton Kaplan (co- 
authors of Presidents on Parade), of the Prints and Photo- 
graphs Division; and Mrs. K. Lillian Takeshita, Reference 
Librarian of the Japanese section, Orientalia Division. 

To the District of Columbia Public Library, especially Mrs. 
Helen R. Thompson, Coordinator Central Library Reference 
Service ; Miss Georgia Cowan, Chief of the Biography Divi- 


slon; Miss Edith Ray Saul, Chief of the Washingtoniana Di- 
vision; and Mr. Marchal E. Landgren of the Art Division. To 
Mrs. Ruth Pratt, Librarian at the Takoma Park, Maryland, 
Library. To Mrs. Margaret Brown Klapthor, Associate Cura- 
tor, and Mr. Charles G. Dorman, Assistant Curator, Division 
of Political History, Smithsonian Institution, and to Mrs. 
Jewell S. Baker, Administrative Assistant, National Collec- 
tion of Fine Arts. To Miss Josephine Cobb, Archivist in 
Charge, Still Picture Branch of the Audio-Visual Record 
Division, National Archives; to Mr. Stanley W. McClure, 
Assistant Chief Park Historian, and Mrs. Carol J. Smith, 
Chief, Information Section, National Capital Parks. 

To Mr. Laurence Gouverneur Hoes, President, James Mon- 
roe Memorial Foundation; to Mrs. Kathleen Sproul, writer 
and editor, and Margaret Davis, Associate Director of Public 
Relations, George Washington University, without whose en- 
couragement this work probably would not yet be finished; to 
Mrs. Katharine Kennedy Everett, my editor, who has done a 
wonderful job; to Mrs. Maibelle Lemon, who kept a sharp 
eye out for political views that would pop up. To Mrs. 
Lelah Magan Kendrick, fellow member of my chapter of the 
Daughters of the American Revolution, who suggested the 
title for the book. 

My debt of gratitude is great indeed to the late William 
Philip Simms, Foreign Editor of the Scripps-Howard news- 
papers; to the late Raymond Clapper, the great political col- 
umnist, and his wife, Olive ; to the late Thomas L. Stokes, an- 
other top-honor political journalist; and to the late George 
W. Morris, correspondent for the Memphis, Tennessee Com- 
mercial Appeal. 

The preparation of this work has been a tremendous task, 
but a wonderful one I Not one minute of the years spent on re- 
search is begrudged, and this book is offered with the hope that 
my readers will share, as I did, in the experiences of White 
House life down through the history of our country. 


Acknowledgments v 

Introduction xi 

i A Tenable System of Etiquette 


ii The First White-House Hosts 


in The Pell-Mell System 


iv The Golden Age of Queen Dolly 


v Tempest in the Social Teapot 


vi Puritan Heritage vs. Popular Parties 


vii Old Hickory and the Social Whirl 


vin Keep the Public Out 


ix President for a Month 


x Southern Hospitality 


xi No Dancing, Cards, or Frivolities 


xii Grandma and Her Corncob Pipe 


xiii Regime of Conveniences 


xiv Pall of Gloom 


xv Bachelor President 


xvi The Great Emancipator 


xvii Plain People from the Mountains 


xvin Breakers of Precedent 


xix Lemonade Lucy 


xx Tragedy in Washington 


xxi Twenty-four Wagonloads . . . 


xxii Wedding in the White House 


xxiii A Devoted Family 


xxiv Protocol Flare-up 


xxv Rough Rider 


xxvi Four Years of Strife 


xxvn No Politics at the Dinner Table 


xxviii Garden Parties 


xxix Economy Enters the Mansion 


xxx The Medicine-Ball Cabinet 


xxxi New Deal in the White House 


xxxn Strawberry Festival 


xxxin A Soldier, and a Soldier's Wife 


Index 397 


Since the beginning of our history as a nation, Americans 
have had a very special interest in both the informal and the 
official social life of our capital. Indeed, many of our social 
customs have been modeled on those of official Washington, 
and especially on those established by presidential families. 

Social customs, like language, are constantly changing; the 
so-called "rules" of etiquette (whose purpose is to make the 
world a more pleasant place to live in) both reflect and are 
shaped by the times. As this book shows, every one of our Presi- 
dents has made changes in White House etiquette to suit the 
times he lived in. During George Washington's administration, 
when his official residence was in New York, he called a Cabinet- 
level conference to determine etiquette for the new govern- 
ment and its leaders. Today the housekeeping staff of the 
White House, which copes with Easter egg rolling as well as 
congressional dinners, is supplemented by the huge Protocol 
Staff of the State Department in order to manage the visits of 
foreign dignitaries and heads of state. 

Mrs. Jeffries has done a remarkable job of gathering mate- 
high time that such a history appeared. 
New York The Emily Post Institute 



A Tenable System 
of Etiquette 

George and Martha Washington 

Washington was at Mount Vernon when courier Charles 
Thomson, secretary of Congress under the Articles of Con- 
federation, arrived April 14, 1789, to deliver the summons 
of his election as President of the United States. Two days 
later the General, accompanied by Mr. Thomson, Colonel 
David Humphreys, and Tobias Lear, left Mount Vernon by 
carriage for New York, arriving there after a triumphal tour 
on Thursday, April 23, one week before the inauguration 
was to take place. 

The President-elect was at once escorted to the temporary 
palace of the President. This, the former home of Walter 
Franklin, was one of the handsomest edifices in the city, and 
was located at Number 3 Cherry Street. Here Colonel Hum- 
phreys took charge of putting the house in order and making 
final preparations for the inauguration. 

The whole city was astir early Thursday morning, April 
30, 1789. At nine o'clock bells summoned the people to church 


4 A Tenable System of Etiquette 

to join in prayer; the air was gay with the rhythms of martial 
bands. People from all walks of life, traveling by foot, horse- 
back, coach, carriage, and boat, were flocking to New York 
for a glimpse of their first President. 

At the stroke of noon the inaugural procession formed in 
front of the mansion where the President-elect was staying. 
Heading the parade were military troops, followed by com- 
mittees of the Senate and House of Representatives, and de- 
partment heads under the Confederation. Washington's coach, 
drawn by four white horses and surrounded by a uniformed 
escort, came next, and Colonel Humphreys and Tobias Lear 
followed in the carriage which had brought Washington from 
Mount Vernon. Various foreign ministers and distinguished 
citizens brought up the rear. 

Washington and his entourage alighted two hundred yards 
from Federal Hall, marched between lines of troops standing 
at attention, and entered the Senate Chamber. Here the Pres- 
ident-elect, after a formal welcome by the Congress, strode 
to the outside balcony to take the oath of office before a 
great concourse of people. He bowed several times to the 
cheering crowd, then seated himself beside a table covered 
with a crimson cloth, on which lay a Bible lent by St. John's 
Masonic Lodge. 

A hush fell as Washington rose to his feet. John Adams 
stood to his right and Robert B, Livingston, Chancellor of 
the State of New York, to his left. With great dignity, the 
chancellor asked the President-elect: "Do you solemnly swear 
that you will faithfully execute the office of President of the 
United States, and will, to the best of your ability, preserve, 
protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States?" 

Slowly, Washington repeated the oath. Then, bending to 
kiss the Bible held before him on a crimson cushion, he said 
in a firm voice, "So help me God." 

Immediately Chancellor Livingston turned to the people 
and cried: "Long live George Washington, President of the 

TO*, rm HO. ia. 

. M8, by BWM 


Library of Congress 

Domestic arrangements at Mount Vernon and the slowness of coach travel 
prevented Martha Washington s arrival in New York for the inauguration. 
The ball was postponed for one week, but Martha was delayed four! This 
drawing from Harper's Bazar shows Washington at the ball "leading Mrs. 
Maxwell in the minuet" 

6 A Tenable System of Etiquette 

United States I" The crowd cheered; the American flag with 
its thirteen stars waved proudly from the cupola ; guns boomed 
and bells rang. Notables on the balcony returned to the Sen- 
ate Chamber to hear the new President deliver his inaugural 
address. Then the procession re-formed and moved down 
Broadway to St. Paul's Chapel of Trinity Parish, where spe- 
cial services were held. The historic day ended with a succes- 
sion of dinner parties and fireworks. 

The inauguration ceremonies were barely over when Wash- 
ington was besieged by callers. Some had legitimate business ; 
others, curious to see what the new President looked like, 
simply wanted to shake his hand. They came at all hours of 
the day, even before breakfast, disrupting his household and 
leaving him little time for official duties. 

When John Adams suggested that the President hold 
levees, somewhat after the European fashion, Washington, 
according to Jefferson, "resisted them for three weeks," 
mainly because he was loath to adopt any custom that smacked 
of royalty. As the situation became critical, however, the 
President sent Vice President John Adams a questionnaire 
covering these problems: his necessary exclusion from com- 
pany; weekly visits of compliment; receiving businessmen; 
official dinners; anniversary entertainments; his informal so- 
cial visits and how he should be distinguished on such occa- 
sions in his private character ; his appearance at tea and other 
social events; and the making of occasional tours over the 
country to study its resources, its needs, and its people. 

A Cabinet conference was called, which Vice President 
John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John 
Jay, and Colonel Humphreys, Washington's master of cere- 
monies, attended. Using the questionnaire as a basis, "a ten- 
able system of etiquette" for the President's Palace was 
drawn up, according to which the President would return no 
visits; invitations to dinner would be given only to official 
persons and strangers of distinction; and visits of courtesy 

Library of Congress 

This drawing of the first President's Palace, located at Number 3 Cherry 
Street in New York, was obviously made so?ne years after the nations capital 
had been moved. Earlier sketches show an intact roof-railing, several trees, 
a side entrance, and (of course) no signs. 

8 A Tenable System of Etiquette 

would be confined to Tuesday afternoons. Foreign ministers, 
heads of departments, and members of Congress, however, 
were to be received on other occasions, and the President was 
to be accessible to persons whose business was important, 

Washington's levees, stag affairs held on Tuesdays between 
three and four in the afternoon in the large dining room of 
the presidential mansion, were attended without invitation. 
It was generally understood that it was the President of the 
United States, not George Washington the man, who was 
being visited. 

As the guests entered they saw the tall, erect figure of the 
President, surrounded by members of his Cabinet, standing 
before the fireplace. His powdered hair was worn gathered 
behind in a silk bag ; his coat and breeches were of black vel- 
vet, and his silver knee and shoe buckles glittered in the fire- 
light. A dress sword sheathed in a polished white leather 
scabbard protruded from underneath his coat; he wore a 
white vest and yellow gloves, and carried a cocked hat under 
his arm. 

Guests were introduced by Washington's first Secretary, 
Tobias Lear. Washington rarely forgot the name of a person 
who had once been introduced to him, often delighting those 
who met him the second time by addressing them by name. 
He never shook hands, even with his most intimate friends. 
According to Rufus Griswold, author of The Republican 
Court, or American Society in the Days of Washington, "The 
visitor was received with a dignified bow and passed on to 
another part of the room." At a quarter past three the door 
was closed; the gentlemen present moved into a circle, and 
the President (beginning at his right) proceeded to exchange 
a few words with each. When the circuit was completed, 
Washington resumed his first position; as the visitors were 
ready to leave they approached him, bowed, and retired. 

The President himself described the levee in a letter to 
his friend, Dr. Stuart: 

George and Martha Washington 

Gentlemen, often in great numbers, come and go, chat with each other, 
and act as they please. A porter shows them into a room and they 
retire from it when they choose, with ceremony. At their first entrance 
they salute me, and I them, and as many as I can I talk to. 

The one levee Washington failed to hold was the one which 
would have taken place on Tuesday before New Year's Day, 
1790. Since New Year's Day fell on Friday, the regular day 
for Mrs. Washington's reception, it was decided to combine 
the two levees and hold a single reception from noon to three 
o'clock. This established a precedent for New Year's Day 
that continued to the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, 
although it was always dropped temporarily during wars. 

Martha Washington, who remained at Mount Vernon to 
supervise the packing, arrived in New York on May 27, 1789, 
four weeks after her husband's inauguration. The following 
day the President gave an informal dinner in her honor, in- 
viting en famille Vice President Adams, Governor George 
Clinton of New York, the ministers of France and Spain, the 
governor of the Western Territory, the Speaker of the House, 
and others. Senator Paine Wingate of New Hampshire, one 
of the guests, wrote that u the dinner was the least showy of 
any he had seen given by the President. There was no clergy- 
man and the President himself said grace upon taking his seat. 
He dined on leg of mutton, as it was his custom to eat only 
one dish. After dessert a single glass of wine was offered each 
guest." When the dinner was over, the President sat at the 
table for ten or fifteen minutes; he then joined Mrs. Wash- 
ington and the ladies for coffee, leaving his secretaries to tarry 
with the convivial diners. 

Martha Washington, as observant as her husband in mat- 
ters of dress and decorum, was almost as much admired as 
he, and there probably never has been a busier First Lady. 
The principal ladies of New York City lost no time in paying 
their respects to the amiable consort of the President. Calling 

io A Tenable System of Etiquette 

was the foremost social observance, not only for the ladies but 
for the men as well. Senator William Maclay of Pennsylvania 
wrote three days after Mrs. Washington's arrival: 

The gentlemen of Congress have, it seems, called on Mrs. Washington 
and all the congressional ladies. Speaker Synkoop and self called on 
Mrs. Morris half after ten. Not at home. Left our cards. . . . Being 
in the lady way, we called to see Mrs. Langdon and Mrs. Dalton. 
Found Mr. Langdon; the Ladies abroad. . . . 

Mrs. Washington began returning calls the third day after 
arriving in the city. A neighbor who lived across the street 
from the presidential mansion wrote that a footman first 
knocked loudly on the door to announce his mistress. Then, 
in company with Mr. Lear, the First Lady entered. 

The Washingtons held a reception on July 4, 1789, which 
Senator Maclay described in his Journal: 

Independence Day was celebrated with much pomp. The Cincinnati 
[a society of officers of the Continental Army] assembled at St. Paul's 
Church, where an oration was pronounced by Colonel Hamilton in 
honor of General Greene. The Church was crowded. The Cincinnati 
had seats allotted for themselves; wore their eagles at their button- 
holes, and were preceded by a flag. The oration was well delivered ; the 
composition appeared good, but I thought he should have given us 
some account of his virtues as a citizen as well as warrior, for I sup- 
posed he possessed them, and he lived some time after the war, and 
I believe commenced farming. 

On July 29, 1789, the notation, "Mrs. Washington will be 
at home every Friday, at eight o'clock p.m., to see company/ 7 
appeared in the papers. Full dress was mandatory for her 
drawing-rooms, and it was "the usage of all persons in good 
society to attend." Abigail Adams, wife of the Vice President, 
took the place of honor at Mrs. Washington's right on these 
occasions. Mrs. Adams wrote to her daughter, Abby, in 1790: 

George and Martha Washington 1 1 

My station is always at the right of Mrs. Washington. I find it some- 
times occupied, but on such occasions, the President never fails to see 
that it is relinquished for me, and having removed ladies several times, 
they have now learned to rise up and give it to me! 

An English visitor, describing Mrs. Washington's drawing- 
room, wrote that a u nice-looking and well-dressed servant" 
received guests at the door and turned them over to an army 
officer, who ushered them into the drawing room. The First 
Lady was "matronly and kind, with perfect good breeding. 
She at once entered into easy conversation, asked how long 
I had been in America and how I liked the country." 

The President, who always attended his wife's drawing- 
rooms as a private gentleman, usually wore black knee breeches 
and a colored coat, then the height of fashion. The coat best 
recalled was brown (his favorite color), with bright buttons. 
He also liked gray. He carried neither hat nor sword. 

Washington, who liked people and enjoyed talking with 
them, was popular with the ladies particularly the younger 
ones, who had little opportunity of seeing him except at social 
affairs. They made the most of such opportunities by trying 
to engage him in animated conversation, and while the Presi- 
dent accepted their adulation gracefully he was always care- 
ful not to neglect other guests. Some of the ladies enjoyed 
special privileges; when the widows of Generals Nathanael 
Greene and Richard Montgomery took leave, Washington 
personally conducted them to their carriages. Other unaccom- 
panied ladies were escorted to their conveyances by his sec- 

According to George Washington Parke Custis (Martha 
Washington's grandson) it was customary to serve "refresh- 
ments of all kinds" at these social functions. Specific beverages 
and foods mentioned are coffee, tea, punch, lemonade, cakes, 
and sweetmeats. Robert Lewis, the President's nephew and 
third secretary, and Thomas Nelson, son of Governor Thomas 

12 A Tenable System of Etiquette 

Nelson of Virginia, also a third secretary, kept busy seeing to 
it that the table was well supplied, the guests well served, 
and that things moved smoothly. 

After the government moved to Philadelphia in December, 
1790, receptions and levees continued to be brilliant. "I should 
spend a very dissipated winter," wrote Abigail Adams, "if I 
were to accept one-half the invitations I receive." Another 
correspondent wrote: "I never saw anything like the frenzy 
which has seized upon the inhabitants here. They have been 
half mad ever since this city became the seat of Government, 
and there is no limit to their prodigality." The President and 
Mrs. Washington continued their Fourth of July and New 
Year's Day receptions, at which they usually served wine, 
punch, and cakes. 

Henry Wansey, an English manufacturer, who breakfasted 
with Washington and his family on the eighth of June, 1794, 
was greatly impressed with the President, who was then in his 
sixty-third year but had little appearance of age. Wansey 
wrote : 

[Mrs. Washington] made tea and coffee for them; on the table were 
two small plates of sliced tongue and dry toast, bread and butter, 
but no broiled fish, as is generally the custom. Miss Eleanor Custis, 
her granddaughter, in her sixteenth year, sat next to her, and next, 
her grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, two years older. 
There were but few slight indications of form; one servant only 
attended who wore no livery. 

Mrs* Washington struck him as something older than the 
President, although he understood they were both born the 
same year. She was "short in stature, rather robust, extremely 
simple in her dress, and wore a very plain cap, with her hair 
turned under it." 

When the Continental Army made its headquarters in New 
York during the Revolution, Washington and his officers had 
frequently dined at a tavern operated by Samuel Fraunces, a 

The Smithsonian Institution 

In 1782 Count Adam Philippe Custine presented a set of china to George 
Washington. This bowl from the set is now in the U. S. National Museum. 
Count Custine was quartermaster general of the French forces in America 
from 1778 to 1783, and was present at the surrender of Yorktown. 

14 A Tenable System of Etiquette 

West Indian of French descent called "Black Sam" because of 
his complexion. Washington had great confidence in Black 
Sam, and good reason to be grateful to his daughter, Phoebe, 
who kept house for him at the time. Phoebe had saved the 
General's life in 1776 by exposing a plot by one of his guards 
to poison him. So, when he was elected to the Presidency, 
Washington asked Black Sam to recommend a steward. Black 
Sam, unable to find anyone whom he considered capable of the 
task, accepted the stewardship himself, because of his deep 
devotion to Washington. Four days after Washington's inaug- 
uration, the following notice appeared in the New York papers : 

Whereas, all servants and others appointed to procure provisions 
or supplies for the household of The President of the United States 
will be furnished with monies for these purposes: Notice is therefore 
given, that no accounts, for the payment of which the public might be 
considered as responsible, are to be opened with any of them. 

May 4th, 1789 

SAMUEL FRAUNCES, Steward of the Household. 

Although ambitious and fond of display, the new steward 
was not unmindful of the dignity of his position. Clad in black 
silk knee breeches and white ruffled shirt, his black hair care- 
fully powdered, he would announce: "Dinner is served up\" 
During the meal he stood with his back to the sideboard, his 
shoe-button eyes following the footmen as they attended to 
the needs of the guests. 

Black Sam, extravagant only insofar as delicacies for his 
beloved employer were concerned, watched the expense rec- 
ords, which he submitted weekly, with an eagle eye. The cost 
of food for the presidential table in New York ranged from 
$143 to $165 weekly, exclusive of wines and liquors, which 
amounted to $1700 during the seventeen months Washington 
remained in that city. The President himself, let it be said, 
was all his life a temperate man. 

Black Sam, who received an annual salary of $150, re- 

George and Martha Washington 15 

signed when his wife, who ran her own tavern, insisted that 
she could no longer manage alone. He was succeeded by Mr. 
and Mrs. John Hyde, who received respectively $200 and 
$100 annually. But the two combined could not match Black 
Sam's efficiency. Hyde thought himself above the tasks in 
which Sam had taken such pride ; also, his food bills were much 
larger. "Fraunces," Washington wrote, "besides being an ex- 
cellent cook, knew how to provide genteel dinners. He gave 
aid in dressing them, prepared the dessert, made the cakes 
and did everything that is done by the new steward and his 
wife together." 

The upshot of this was that Black Sam returned to Wash- 
ington's household in Philadelphia in April, 1791, at $300 
a year twice his original salary and remained with the 
President for the rest of his administration. 

When the President and his family moved to Philadelphia 
they took along two of their New York footmen, James and 
Fidas, and their wives. Washington ordered liveries for the 
footmen in the colors of his coat of arms white with "trim- 
mings and facings of scarlet and a scarlet waistcoat." They 
were paid eight dollars a month, and the speed and efficiency 
with which they carried out their duties are said to have made 
a deep impression on the guests. 

Fifteen employed white servants and about seven slaves 
made up the household staff. Maids and washerwomen, who 
were paid four dollars a month in New York, had their wages 
increased to five dollars when the government moved to Phila- 

Washington tried vainly in New York and Philadelphia to 
find a cook on a par with Uncle Harkless (Hercules) at Mount 
Vernon, and was finally compelled to send for him. Uncle 
Harkless became the celebrated dandy of the President's 
kitchen. George Washington Parke Custis said he was at his 
greatest when preparing the congressional dinner on Thurs- 
day. "The order and discipline observed in so bustling a scene 

1 6 A Tenable System of Etiquette 

were surprising/' he wrote, and "assistants flew in all direc- 
tions executing his orders while he seemed to be everywhere 
at the same time." 

A congressional or "publick" dinner was given every 
Thursday at four, and private dinners on other days at three 
o'clock. Once the food was placed on the dinner table Uncle 
Harkless' labors were ended and Black Sam took over. Shortly 
after Uncle Harkless left the kitchen he would emerge from 
his quarters dressed for his evening promenade in linen u of 
exceptional whiteness and quality" which set off his black silk 
knee breeches and waistcoat and long black cotton stockings. 
His shoes were always highly polished, the buckles so large 
they covered a considerable portion of his foot. His blue cloth 
coat was adorned with a velvet collar and bright metal but- 
tons, and a long watch chain dangled majestically from a fob. 
To complete the picture of elegance, he wore a black cocked 
hat and carried a gold-headed cane. 

Apparently all this glory was too much for Uncle Harkless, 
for when Washington's Presidency ended he ran away, and 
was never seen again, although Washington searched many 
months for him. Of his disappearance, Washington wrote: 

The running off of my cook has been a most inconvenient thing to 
this family; and what renders it more disagreeable is, that I had re- 
solved never to become the master of another slave by purchase, but 
this resolution I fear I must break. ... I have endeavoured to hire 
black or white, but am not yet supplied. 

Washington looked upon his five young secretaries as mem- 
bers of the family; each served in some capacity in connection 
with the presidential household. Their salaries varied accord- 
ing to their duties. Tobias Lear, first secretary, a graduate of 
Harvard, was paid $800 a year; in addition to his regular 
work, he supervised the household staff and also issued dinner 

The handsome Major William Jackson, third secretary, 

George and Martha Washington 17 

delivered the invitations. On July 5, 1790, Maclay wrote: 
"Jackson gave me this day the President's compliments and 
an invitation to dinner on Thursday." The Major was paid 
$600 annually. 

Colonel David Humphreys, second secretary, a poet and 
writer of note with a master's degree from Yale, drew the 
same salary as Major Jackson: $600. Acting as master of 
ceremonies, he is credited with having established the rules 
of precedence. The Colonel, who had served as aide-de-camp 
to Washington, knew the General so well that it was said he 
even looked and acted like him. Tall, broad-shouldered, and 
handsome, well trained for the post which called for tact and 
a knowledge of diplomacy, he had served as Secretary to the 
American Commission for Negotiating Commerce Treaties in 
Europe and lived with the polished Jefferson in Paris, where 
he was received in the best social and literary circles in the 
French capital. He wrote General Washington from Paris on 
July 17, 1785: 

My public character puts it in my option to be present at the King's 
Levee every Tuesday, & after the Levee to dine with the whole Diplo- 
matic Corps at the Cte de Vergennes it is curious to see forty or 
fifty Ambassadors, Ministers or other strangers of the first fashion 
from all the nations of Europe, assembling in the most amicable man- 
ner & conversing in the same language; what heightens the pleasure 
is their being universally men of unaffected manners & good dis- 
positions. . . . 

Thomas Nelson and Robert Lewis, the latter a nephew of 
the President and aide to Mrs. Washington, were paid $300 
a year as junior secretaries. 

It was only a short time before Washington became Presi- 
dent that the Dutch fashion of alternating men and women 
at the table became fashionable. The year before the first 
inauguration John Trusler wrote in his u Honors of the Table" 
that the fashion of having ladies seated at one end of the 

1 8 A Tenable System of Etiquette 

dinner table and the gentlemen at the other was being super- 
seded by alternating a gentleman with a lady. 

Seating arrangements at Washington's table depended upon 
circumstances. The President and his secretaries did the carv- 
ing and serving, and occupied places where they could see and 
wait on guests to best advantage : the President at the center 
of one side, a secretary on the opposite side (when Mrs. 
Washington did not occupy that space) , and a secretary at each 
end of the table. 

A favorite dessert served at Washington's dinners was 
"Trifle." Here, from Mary Randolph's The Virginia House- 
Wife, is the recipe : 


Put slices of Savoy cake (sponge) or Naples biscuit at the bottom 
of a deep dish ; wet it with white wine, and fill the dish nearly to the 
top with rich boiled custard; season J^ pint of cream (heavy) with 
white wine and sugar; whip to a froth as it rises, take it lightly off, 
and lay it on the custard ; pile it up high and tastily decorate it with 
preserves of any kind, cut so thin as not to bear the froth down by 
its weight. 


Scald one quart milk, one-half cup sugar and a good pinch of salt. 
Beat six eggs and add half cup cold milk to them, stir and add gradu- 
ally to hot milk mixture. Cook over water until custard coats spoon. 
Add flavoring when cold. 

Washington felt that his table decorations should be in 
keeping with the dignity of his office, so he had his silver 
melted and recast into u more elegant and harmonious forms 7 ' 
and stamped with the family crest. Its value at that time is 
said to have been $30,000. 

Instead of the usual epergne or castor, Washington pre- 
ferred a mirrored plateau as a centerpiece. He wrote Gouver- 

Courtesy Mount Vernon Ladies' Association 

The mirrored plateau purchased by Washington is far less ornate than the 
Monroe plateau, which is still in use in the White House. The Washington 
plateau is now at Mount Fernon; shown here are three of its nine sections. 

20 A Tenable System of Etiquette 

neur Morris, then minister to France, asking him to purchase 
one for him. His letter, dated New York, October 13, 1789, 
reads in part: 

Will you then, my good Sir, permit me to ask the favor of you to 
provide and send to me by the first Ship, bound to this place, or Phila- 
delphia, mirrors for a table, with neat and fashionable but not expen- 
sive ornaments for them; such as will do credit to your taste. The 
mirrors will of course be in pieces that they may be adapted to the 
company (the size of it I mean) ; the aggregate length of them may 
be ten feet, the breadth two feet. The frames may be plated ware, or 
anything else more fashionable but not more expensive. If I am de- 
fective recur to what you have seen on Mr. Robert Morris's table 
for my ideas generally. Whether these things can be had on better 
terms and in a better style in Paris than in London I will not under- 
take to decide. I recollect however to have had plated ware from 
both places, and those from the latter came cheapest; but a single 
instance is no evidence of a general fact. 

The plateau, which cost Washington 468 livres, or $90 in 
American money, duly arrived. It was in nine sections, easily 
adjustable to the size of the table. Theophilus Bradbury, in 
a letter to his daughter, described the ornament as he saw 
it at a dinner given in the President's Palace on Christmas 
Eve, 1795: 

Last Thursday I had the honor of dining with the President in 
company with the Vice-President, the Senators, the Delegates of 
Massachusetts, and some other members of Congress, about 20 in all. 

In the middle of the table was placed a piece of table furniture 
about six feet long and two feet wide, rounded at the ends. It was 
either of wood gilded or polished metal, raised about an inch with a 
silver rim around it like that around a tea board; in the center was 
a pedestal of plaster of Paris with images upon it, and on each end 
figures, male and female, of the same. It was very elegant and used 
for ornament only. The dishes were placed all around. . . . 

The plateau shown on the table in the Mount Vernon pic- 

George and Martha Washington 21 

ture contains three of the original nine sections. The old Wa- 
terford candelabra on the plateau belonged to Washington. 
Perhaps the best available description of one of Washing- 
ton's u publick" dinners is that given by Senator William 
Maclay of Pennsylvania about four months after Washing- 
ton's first inauguration, and before the plateau had been or- 
dered. The guests included Vice President and Mrs. Adams; 
the Governor and his wife; Mr. Jay and wife; Mr. Langdon 
and wife; Mr. Dalton and a lady "perhaps his wife," the 
Senator wrote; and a Mr. Smith, Mr. Basset, Senator Maclay, 
and two secretaries, Lear and Lewis. 

The President and Mrs. Washington sat opposite each other in the 
middle of the table, the two secretaries, one at each end. It was a 
great dinner, and the best of the kind I ever was at. The room, how- 
ever, was disagreeably warm. 

First was the soup; fish, roasted and boiled,* meats, gammon, fowls, 
etc. This was the dinner. The middle of the table was garnished in 
the usual tasty way, with small images, flowers (artificial), etc. The 
dessert was, first apple-pies, puddings, etc.; then ice creams, jellies, 
etc.; then water-melons, musk-melons, apples, peaches, nuts. [Ac- 
cording to De Voe's Market Book, 1866, other fruits available in 
Washington's time were lemons, limes, nectarines, wild plums, prunes, 
oranges, pineapples, sickle pears, berries, and olives.] 

It was the most solemn dinner ever I sat at. Not a health drank; 
scarce a word said until the cloth was taken away. Then the President, 
filling a glass of wine, with great formality drank to the health of 
every individual by name round the table. Everybody imitated him, 
charged glasses, and such a buzz of "health, sir," and "health, madam" 
and "thank-you, sir," and "thank-you, madam," never had I heard 
before. . . . The ladies sat a good while, and the bottle passed about ; 
but there was a dead silence almost. Mrs. Washington at last with- 
drew with the ladies. 

I expected the men would now begin, but the same stillness re- 
mained. The President told of a New England clergyman who had 
lost a hat and wig in passing a river called the Brunks. He smiled, 
and everybody else laughed. He now and then said a sentence or two 
on some common subject, and what he said was not amiss. . . . The 
President kept a fork in his hand, when the cloth was taken away, 

22 A Tenable System of Etiquette 

I thought for the purpose of picking nuts. He ate no nuts, but played 
with the fork, striking on the edge of the table with it. We did not 
sit long after the ladies retired. The President rose, went up stairs 
to drink coffee; the company followed. . . . 

George Washington Parke Custis confirmed Senator Mac- 
lay's story that the President, with old-fashioned courtesy, 
drank to the health of each guest, and that this one toast was 
to everyone: "All Our Friends." 

The custom of toasting guests, or host, in wine originated 
as a gesture of friendship; strangers never toasted each other. 
Toasts, once started, kept on until host and guests ended up 
under the table, although seasoned hands sometimes managed 
to walk home. When the French revolutionary Jacques Pierre 
Brissot de Warville, who after a visit to this country astounded 
his compatriots by wearing his hair unpowdered and assum- 
ing Quaker dress, visited the United States, Washington told 
him that people were drinking less ; that guests were no longer 
forced to drink, and it was not fashionable to send them home 

Benjamin Franklin is credited with one of the most clever 
toasts ever proposed by an American. The great Quaker, then 
minister to France, was dining with the English and French 
ambassadors. The Englishman rose and proudly said: "Eng- 
land the Sun whose beams enlighten and fructify the remot- 
est corners of the earth 1" The Frenchman, glowing with na- 
tional pride, toasted: "France the Moon whose mild, steady, 
cheering rays are the delight of all nations, consoling them in 
darkness and making their dreariness beautiful!" Franklin, 
with his quaint humor, responded: "George Washington the 
Joshua who commanded the sun and moon to stand still, and 
they obeyed him." 

Th6 President's sixty-fifth birthday, February 22, 1797, 
was both a happy and a sad occasion, according to author 
Rufus Griswold: 

Washington s state dinner service was 'white Sevres china with a gold rim. 
The matching bowl shown is Angouleme china. It was not until Wilson's 
administration that American ware was purchased for formal service. 

The Smithsonian Institution 

24 A Tenable System of Etiquette 

The sixty-fifth anniversary of the birthday of Washington was cele- 
brated with an unusual but saddened enthusiasm. Everyone felt that 
it was the last occasion of the kind on which he would be present in 
Philadelphia. The ships in the harbor displayed their gayest colors; 
the bells of the churches every half hour during the day rang merry 
peals, and the members of Congress and official characters and private 
citizens waited on the President at his residence to offer in person 
their homage and congratulations. In the evening there was a ball at 
the amphitheatre. Both the President and Mrs. Washington attended. 

Washington declined a third term he would not have sur- 
vived it. The last dinner he gave as President was held in 
Philadelphia on the day before John Adams' inauguration. 
As many guests as could be seated at the President's table 
were invited. Among them were President-elect Adams and 
his wife, Abigail, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, 
Bishop William White, and the heads of the diplomatic mis- 
sions and their wives, including British Minister and Mrs. 
Robert Liston. 

During the dinner "much hilarity prevailed," wrote the 
Episcopalian Bishop White, Chaplain to Congress, but on re- 
moval of the cloth it was u put to an end by the President 
certainly without design. Having filled his glass, he addressed 
the company, with a smile on his countenance, saying: 'Ladies 
and gentlemen, this is the last time I shall drink your health 
as a public man. I do it with sincerity, and wishing you all 
possible happiness.' " 

When he had finished, the Bishop, happening to glance at 
Mrs. Liston, wife of the British minister, saw tears stream- 
ing down her cheeks. 

George Washington returned to Mount Vernon now a na- 
tional shrine to enjoy its domestic ease. In 1800, a few 
months after his death, the Federal Government was firmly 
established in the city of Washington, and the President's Pal- 
ace, still incomplete, received its first occupants John and 
Abigail Adams. 


The First WTiite-House Hosts 

John and Abigail Adams 

The President's Palace like the Capitol was still under 
construction when President John Adams and his wi'fe, Abi- 
gail, moved into it. Three and a half years of his four-year 
term had already expired for the second President. However, 
since Congress was due to reconvene, for the, first time in 
Washington, on November 17, 1800, it was imperative that 
the President take up residence in the Federal City. 

Adams had left Philadelphia, the temporary capital, in 
May, arriving in Washington on the third of June. Abigail, 
in the meantime, had gone home to Braintree (now Quincy), 
Massachusetts, for the summer. She rejoined her husband in 
November. When they moved into the Executive Mansion, 
Abigail found only six of the rooms habitable (a rather broad 
term, as the walls were newly plastered, the fireplaces were cold, 
and the rooms were damp), and of these six rooms two were 
used as offices by the President and his secretary. 

George Washington had selected the site for the new man- 


28 The First White-House Hosts 

sion on a plan for the "Federal City" designed by the French 
engineer Pierre L'Enfant. The location of the Federal City 
itself had been settled by compromise after years of rivalry 
for this honor between North and South. James Hoban, an 
Irish-born architect, designed the house, and its cornerstone 
was laid on October 13, 1792, 

The plan of the building provided for reception rooms on 
the first floor and the President's apartments on the second. 
On the first floor were the East Room, nearly forty feet wide 
and seventy-nine feet long (the full width of the building), 
to be used for public receptions. The adjoining Green Room, 
considerably smaller, was designated in the original plans as 
the "Common Dining Room 5 '; the centrally situated Oval 
Room (now the Blue Room) was indicated as the "Drawing 
Room." It opened onto the Green Room on the east and the 
Red Room on the west side of the entrance. The Red Room 
is traditionally used by the First Lady when she receives guests, 
but it served John Adams as an "anti-chamber" to the Cabi- 
net Room, which was located in the southwest portion of 
what is now the State Dining Room. Today's family dining 
room was the "Public Dining Room" in the early days; it 
adjoins the State Dining Room on the west end of the building. 

The entrance was then on the south side, and led into the 
Oval Room. The north ends of the Green, Oval, and Red 
Rooms opened onto the corridor running from the East 
Room to the State Dining Room. 

At the time the Adamses moved in, Abigail needed all her 
ingenuity, tact, charm, and housewifely skill to meet the de- 
mands of her role as First Lady. Accustomed as she was to 
"Richmond Hill," their beautiful New York residence during 
Adams' Vice Presidency, and to the other comforts of Phila- 
delphia, she found the President's Palace barnlike and inhos- 
pitable. Not a single apartment, not even the East Room 
(which she put to use for drying clothes), was finished. The 
grounds were rough and muddy. The house had no water 

30 The First White-House Hosts 

supply anc l S o, of course, no bathroom and there was no 
wood for the fireplaces. Coal was available, but grates were 
no t "nor," wrote Abigail at the time, u were there enough 
lusters' or lamps, so candles were stuck here and there for 
light neither the chief staircase nor the outer steps were 
completed, so the family had to enter the house by temporary 
wooden stairs and platform." Servants were on hand, but 
there were no bells to summon them ! 

At that time the capital, later to be dubbed the "City of 
Magnificent Distances," had a population of only three thou- 
sand, with a scattering of about four hundred and fifty houses, 
the greater number of which were in Georgetown. Travel was 
by coach and carriage, mostly over foot- and cow-paths. Ladies 
drove three and four miles to call on Mrs. Adams, and often 
carried or sent gifts of meat, vegetables, yeast, and milk. 
George Washington Parke Custis, Mrs. Washington, and 
Mrs. Lewis sent a haunch of venison by a servant, together 
with a congratulatory letter and a special invitation to visit 
them at Mount Vernon. Abigail soon found the greater part 
of her time being spent returning calls, sometimes as many 
as fifteen a day. 

The ladies became impatient for Mrs. Adams to hold a 
drawing-room, but her tea china, over half of which had been 
broken or stolen in transit from Philadelphia, had to be re- 
placed before Abigail could arrange this. 

On New Year's Day, 1801, the President's Palace was for- 
mally opened to the public. Abigail, in brocade and velvet, 
sat in a chair and greeted her guests. The President, dressed 
in black velvet, silk stockings, silver knee and shoe buckles, 
and high stock collar, his hair powdered and tied in a queue, 
stood at her side. After the guests paid their respects to the 
President and Mrs. Adams they were served refreshments 
and entertained by the Marine Band, which made its official 
debut at that same housewarming. 

The Adamses received in the Oval Room, where furniture 



. S 




32 The First White-House Hosts 

upholstered in crimson damask had been placed. Logs crack- 
ling merrily in the open fireplace, a piano, a harp, and a guitar 
which the hosts had brought with them, an Aubusson rug, little 
side tables, and damask draperies, all combined to bring 
warmth and cheer to the big room. Only Abigail's closest 
friends knew the careful planning that had gone into the re- 
freshments: tea, coffee, punch, and wine; cakes and tarts 
baked in the ovens on each side of the huge kitchen fireplace; 
curds and creams, jellies, trifles, floating island, syllabub, 
sweetmeats, fruits. 

Abigail soon found that her experience abroad her hus- 
band had been commissioner to France and minister to Hol- 
land and England during the Revolution had more than pre- 
pared her to meet the exigencies of taking up residence in the 
new "Federal City," as Washington was then called. 

Born in Massachusetts, the daughter of a Weymouth min- 
ister, Abigail was a capable housekeeper. In Paris she had 
found the servant problem far more complicated than in 
America. There, each servant had his special department from 
which he refused to deviate. The Adamses had had to hire 
a coachman, a maitre d'hotel (who graciously offered to act 
as footman to save the expense of another servant if his mis- 
tress would buy him a "gentleman's suit" in lieu of livery) ; 
a gardener; a frotteur to take care of the floors; a charwoman, 
and a laundress. Abigail had brought along two of her own serv- 
ants, who served as valet de chambre and femme de chambre, 
and, according to their mistress, this couple was worth more 
than a dozen of the others. The Adamses had even had to hire 
their own hairdresser; powdered hair being the fashion, they 
found it cheaper to employ someone than to have this cosmetic 
service done outside. 

John Adams unlike George Washington had never been a 
wealthy man ; during his stay abroad the United States Govern- 
ment had been forced to curtail expenses, and Adams had found 
his salary reduced from 2,500 to 2,000 guineas a year. Abi- 

Library of Congress 

Abigail Adams is one of the most prominent First Ladies in American history. 
This is a silk-screen reproduction of a portrait by Christian Schussele. 

34 The First White-House Hosts 

gall, hard put to it to keep expenses down, eliminated suppers 
and attended as few functions as possible. She found formal 
dinners (which averaged one a week) quite expensive, costing 
approximately one guinea per guest. There were always from 
fifteen to twenty, and occasionally twenty-seven, guests, but 
Abigail, who considered such dinners important, wrote : "More 
is to be performed by way of negotiation many times at one of 
these entertainments, than at twenty serious conversations. " 

The Adamses' guest list, impressive by American standards, 
usually included such dignitaries as the Marquis de Lafayette, 
the Chevalier de la Luzerne, Messrs. Franklin and Jefferson, 
diplomats and high-ranking Frenchmen and, occasionally, their 
wives. And, of course, there was the indispensable Cblonel 
Humphreys, then secretary to the American Commission. 

Abigail disliked French etiquette, which required the new- 
comer to make the first call; her inherent honesty rebelled at 
elaborate compliments which she thought stupid. The dancing 
in the French theaters shocked her, and at first she was 
ashamed to be seen watching the dancers though she admit- 
ted that the costumes and the beauty of the performers were 
"enchanting." Eventually, as she became accustomed to the 
productions, she wrote: "I now see them with pleasure." 

The Adamses were popular in Paris, and it was with re- 
gret that their French friends saw them depart for London, 
where Adams was to be stationed as the first American Min- 
ister to the Court of St. James's. 

Arriving in London May 28, 1785, after eight months in 
Paris, Abigail was quick to sense the antagonism of the Eng- 
lish toward the "Colonials" from America. "The Tory venom," 
she wrote, "has begun to spit itself forth in the public papers; 
bursting with envy that an American Minister should be re- 
ceived here with the same marks of attention . . . which are 
shown to the ministers of any other foreign power." 

King George III and his queen, however, showed no out- 
ward resentment over the loss of their American colonies 

John and Abigail Adams 35 

when John Adams was presented to them. When Abigail and 
Abby, her daughter, were received at court and Lord Onslow 
introduced the King, the eyes of that monarch brightened 
with interest. Abigail had removed her white glove in order 
to shake hands, but "His Majesty saluted my left cheek," 
Abigail wrote, "then asked me if I had taken a walk today. 
I could have told his Majesty that I had been all the morning 
preparing to wait upon him; but I replied: c No, Sire.' 'Why? 
Don't you love walking?' he said." 

When Abigail was presented to the Queen, she sensed that 
her Majesty was slightly embarrassed at meeting so recent an 
enemy. She herself, she wrote, was conscious of u a disagree- 
able feeling," although everything was "said affably with the 
ease and freedom of old acquaintance." The Queen politely 
inquired: "Mrs. Adams, have you got into your house? Pray, 
how do you like the situation of it?" 

The Princess Royal, observing the full drawing room, did 
her mother one better. She looked at Abigail compassionately 
and inquired if she were not much fatigued. 

Of the Prince of Wales, Mrs. Adams wrote : "His Highness 
looked much better than the King. He is a stout, well-made 
man and would look very well if he had not sacrificed so much 
to Bacchus." 

Later, when the Adamses attended the ball given in honor 
of the Queen's birthday, Colonel Humphreys, in a letter dated 
February n, 1786, wrote General Washington: "In honour 
of America Mrs. Adams appeared to good advantage, being 
an extremely decent Lady and that Miss Adams, in beauty and 
real taste in dress, was not excelled by any young lady in the 


Card playing was then fashionable in both England and 
France, the players usually going in for high stakes. On April 
5, 1786, Abigail attended a party for two hundred at the 
Swedish minister's. She described it as "a stupid rout" in a 
letter to her sister, Mrs. Cranch. Although she observed that 

36 The First White-House Hosts 

three large rooms were filled with card tables, she was op- 
posed to gambling for high stakes and had made up her mind 
not to participate in a game. But hardly was the curtsying 
over when she was asked by the hostess: "Whist, cribbage or 
commerce ?" and before she quite realized it, Abigail was sit- 
ting at a table with three strangers. 

u The lady who was against me/' she wrote, ''started the 
game at half a guinea apiece. I told her I thought it full high ; 
but I knew she designed to win, so I said no more but ex- 
pected to lose." To her surprise, Abigail won four games 
straight. "I paid for the cards, which is the custom here," 
her letter continued, "and left her to attack others." 

Lady Luck seems to have dogged the footsteps of the charm- 
ing Abigail. On the eve of a dinner for the diplomatic corps 
invitations had gone out ten days before her good friend 
Captain Hay returned from the West Indies bringing a gift 
of a hundred-and-fourteen-pound turtle. "Though it gave us a 
good deal of pain to receive so valuable a present," Abigail 
wrote, u we could not refuse it without affronting him. And it 
certainly happened in a most fortunate time!" 

Mrs. Adams liked England and felt at home with the Eng- 
lish, among whom she had many friends. She liked the simi- 
larity of American and English etiquette, particularly "when 
she was called on as a stranger" instead of having to make 
the first call, as in Paris. However, it was her opinion that an 
American would appreciate a diplomatic post there far more 
after the antagonisms of the war had worn off. 

Before leaving Europe, Mrs. Adams wrote : 

I have learned to know the world and its value; I have seen high 
life; I have witnessed the luxury and pomp of state, the power of 
riches and the influence of titles, and have beheld all ranks bow be- 
fore them as the only shrine worthy of worship. Notwithstanding 
this, I feel that I can return to my little cottage, and be happier than 
here, and, if we have not wealth, we have what is better, integrity. 

* & ' "^ 

Smithsonian Institution 

This white Sevres china decorated with blue cornflowers was used for state 
dinners in the White House during John Adams' administration. It is now in 
the collections of the U. S. National Museum. 

38 The First White-House Hosts 

Abigail Adams, the first wife of an American minister to 
be introduced at the Court of St. James's and the first Presi- 
dent's Lady to reside in the President's Palace, also had the 
distinction of being the mother of a President. Though her 
residence at the mansion was a short one (Thomas Jeffer- 
son was to take over the President's Palace within four 
months after the Adamses moved in), Abigail has gone down 
in history as one of the most brilliant women of her time and 
one of the most charming of America's First Ladies. 

In contrast to Abigail's warmth, grace, and gentle dignity, 
John Adams was sometimes described by eyewitnesses as u cool 
and wary." He liked the pomp of royal etiquette, and his 
"grasping of titles" was called by observers of the time "No- 
biliamania" Senator Izard of South Carolina, after describ- 
ing Adams' air, manner, and deportment (and personal figure 
in the chair), concluded by applying to him the descriptive 
mock title, "Rotundity." On occasion, members of the House 
of Representatives lampooned Adams before his face with the 
satiric nickname of "Bonny Johnny Adams." 

A somewhat dour but doubtless candid eyewitness portrait 
of Adams is given by William Maclay, a Scotsman and lawyer 
from Pennsylvania, who, nettled because Adams did not pos- 
sess the "sedate and easy air" he associated with a person of 
Adams' exalted position in the nation, complained that Adams 
(in the chair) would "look on one side, then on the other, 
then down on the knees of his breeches, then dimple his visage 
with the most silly kind of half-smile, which I cannot well ex- 
press in English. The Scotch-Irish have a word that hits it 
exactly smudging." 

After that first big reception at the mansion the Adamses 
did little formal entertaining, for Adams had failed in his bid 
for reelection and Thomas Jefferson was due to enter the 
President's House March 4, 1801. But when Abigail Adams 
returned to Massachusetts she left behind a social system which 
even the unceremonial Jefferson could not permanently upset. 


The Pell-Mell System 

Thomas Jefferson 

Thomas Jefferson succeeded to the Presidency on the fourth 
of March, 1801. He was the first President to be inaugurated 
in the new city of Washington, which had become the capital 
of the nation only the year before. At that time the city on 
the Potomac was still a wilderness of unpaved roads and 
scattered houses. The President's Palace stood unfinished 
in the middle of an open field. 

Jefferson, whose service to the new nation as Governor of 
Virginia and as Secretary of State under President Washing- 
ton had uniquely equipped him for the presidential office, was 
fifty-seven years old and a widower when he succeeded John 
Adams. At the time of his inauguration he was living in the 
Conrad boarding house on the west side of New Jersey Ave- 
nue, between B and C Streets, one block from the Capitol 
grounds. It was his express desire that this first presidential 
inauguration in the "Federal City" be kept simple and de- 
void of ceremony. 


40 The PellMell System 

At an early hour on Wednesday, the city of Washington 
presented a "spectacle of uncommon animation, occasioned 
by the addition to its usual population of a large body of 
citizens from the ... adjacent districts," the National In- 
telligencer tells us (March 6, 1801). A discharge from the 
Company of Washington Artillery ushered in the day; at 
about ten o'clock the Alexandria Company of Riflemen, with 
the company of artillery, paraded in front of the President's 

At high noon Jefferson tall, raw-boned, freckled, his sandy 
hair now snow-white wearing his usual dress, that of a plain 
citizen without any distinctive badge of office, left the board- 
ing house in the company of five or six of his fellow boarders 
(who happened to be senators and representatives). He 
walked up New Jersey Avenue to the Capitol, where he was 
met by a Committee of the Senate. To a thundering blast of 
artillery he entered the Senate Chamber, where were assem- 
bled the Senate, members of the House of Representatives, 
and as many citizens as could crowd in. All present rose as 
Jefferson, followed by Secretaries of the Navy and Treasury, 
entered; then Aaron Burr, who had taken his seat in the Sen- 
ate as Vice President the day before, vacated his chair to Jef- 
ferson. After a few moments of silence, the new President 
rose and began to speak. 

"Friends and fellow citizens . . ." The manner in which 
he delivered the speech was "plain, dignified, and unostenta- 
tious; the style . . . chaste, appropriate and eloquent; the 
principles . . . pure, explicit and comprehensive," the Na- 
tional Intelligencer reported. When the cheers and ovation fol- 
lowing his address had subsided, Jefferson seated himself again 
for a short period. He then rose and walked to the clerk's 
table, where the oath of office was administered by Chief Jus- 
tice John Marshall (who was, incidentally, a cousin of Jeffer- 

After congratulations by friends and statesmen Jefferson is 

Thomas Jefferson 41 

said to have walked back to his lodgings accompanied by the 
Vice President, the Chief Justice, and various heads of de- 
partments and citizens. At dinner he occupied his usual seat 
at the foot of the table. Outside, the new capital city was vocif- 
erously celebrating with "festivities and illuminations." 

It was the middle of March before Jefferson could bring 
himself to give up his rooms in Conrad's crowded lodging 
house on Capitol Hill and move to the still-unfinished Presi- 
dent's Palace, which he promptly rechristened "President's 

One of the new President's acts was to abolish levees and 
drawing-rooms and limit public ceremony to the traditional 
Fourth of July and New Year's Day receptions. He even re- 
fused to celebrate his own birthday April 13 with the 
customary ball. Instead, he began preparations for the "only 
birthday which he wished to commemorate" that of the 
Declaration of Independence. 

The dawn of Saturday, July 4, 1801, was announced in 
Washington by a "salute from the frigates," upon which all 
ordinary business was suspended. The doors of the unfinished 
President's House stood open for Jefferson's first reception; 
the worn and faded furniture which had been used by George 
and Martha Washington was polished and tastefully arranged. 
The grounds outside the President's House (sometimes used 
as a pasture for foraging herds) were colorful with tents and 
booths as crowds thronged in from the city and nearby coun- 
try districts. It was to be, as one eyewitness wonderingly re- 
ported, "a day of joy to our citizens and of pride to our Pres- 
ident!" In the distance far down Pennsylvania Avenue, 
"beyond the alder bushes" the faint sound of martial music 
announced the first of the great historic processions that were 
to pass along that thoroughfare. 

Inside the President's House, Jefferson stood surrounded 
by his guests of honor : five chiefs of the Cherokee tribe who 
had come to Washington on a mission and who, in their 

42 The Pell-Mell System 

feathered attire, mingled in colorful dignity with the civil and 
military officers, foreign diplomats, and citizens of Wash- 
ington and Georgetown who had come to celebrate the na- 
tion's birthday. 

Some time after the company had assembled, Colonel Bur- 
rows, at the head of the Marine Corps, saluted the President 
and struck up a new song, "The President's March." As the 
band began to play, a handsome naval officer, Captain Tingey, 
commandant of the newly-established Washington Navy Yard, 
began to sing. Soon the crowds outside began to echo the 
words, and the new song now known as "Hail Columbia" 
which had been specially written for the occasion, caught the 
fancy of the guests so much that "many rose, fell in behind the 
band and joined in a grand march through the rooms and 
corridors of the White House, returning at last to the place 
from which they had started to resume their feast of good 
things." At intervals the band played martial and patriotic airs, 
then "fired sixteen rounds in platoons, and concluded with a 
general feu-de-joie." ' 

Jefferson, his manners "good, natural, with a frank and 
friendly . . . expression on his red, freckled face," invited 
the company of about one hundred into the dining room, where 
four large sideboards covered with refreshments such as cakes, 
wine, and punch waited. The celebration lasted from noon 
until about three o'clock. 

Jefferson's democratic spirit and natural kindliness of heart 
soon won the love and admiration of all who met him. He 
mingled freely with all citizens and conversed with any that 
came his way, and opened the house to all comers each morn- 
ing. He introduced the custom of shaking hands instead of 
bowing. His dinner invitations read, "Th. Jefferson invites," 
instead of "The President of the United States invites" (which 
Washington had used). If Jefferson saw a guest seemingly at 
a loss in the gay company, he would give him special attention 
until he had overcome his diffidence. 

Jefferson refused to celebrate his own birthday with a ball. The "only birth- 
day which he wished to commemorate" was that of the United States, so on 
July 4, 1801, he gave his first public reception. The President's House was 
still unfinished, and the open field surrounding it was still in use as a pasture. 

44 The PellMell System 

Jefferson's desire to carry on the American tradition of true 
democracy once led him to invite his butcher to dinner. The 
man appeared with his son in tow; he had heard, he explained, 
that one of the guests was ill, and since there would be an 
extra plate, he thought he might as well bring his son along. 
Without raising an eyebrow, the President introduced the 
butcher and his son to his distinguished guests, and kept an 
eye on them during the meal to be sure they were well served. 

Jefferson's wife, the beautiful Martha Wales Skelton, had 
died at the age of thirty-three, leaving him with two little 
girls: Martha, later to become Mrs. Thomas Mann Ran- 
dolph, and Mary, who married her cousin, John Wayles Eppes. 
Mary, the younger, was inclined to be shy and retiring, but 
the Paris-educated Martha tried to spend as much time as she 
could with her father and served as his official hostess on occa- 
sion, though she had twelve children to care for. Her eighth 
child, James Madison Randolph, was the first child born in 
the White House. 

President Jefferson soon established his own system of eti- 
quette, referring to it as the "pell-mell" system. The formali- 
ties which had prevailed during the Washington and Adams 
administrations were abolished and no distinction of persons 
was recognized at the White House. In fact, in order to nul- 
lify the question of rank and protocol, he introduced a circular 
table, so that no guest could outrank another. 

Jefferson's decision to abolish the levee and the drawing- 
room is said to have caused an uproar among the Washing- 
ton elite. A delegation of women who called to protest took 
him by surprise, but he received them courteously, listened 
gravely to their complaints, and then, with the famous Jeffer- 
son charm, explained his position. He was a widower, liv- 
ing in the President's House (more or less as a bachelor) with 
his two congressmen sons-in-law and his secretary. His lady 
callers were so entranced with his manners they left completely 

Library of Congress 

Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, while young lawyers, spent many hours 
together playing violin duets. Jefferson continued his interest in the violin 
throughout his life, and was considered a fairly good musician. Below is the 
piano in use in the Executive Mansion during his tenure. 

46 The Pell-Mell System 

Actually, the "pell-mell" etiquette system aroused so much 
bitterness in diplomatic circles that the new British minister 
and Mrs. Merry, accustomed to the old school of etiquette, 
decided that they had been insulted on their first visit to the 
President's House shortly after Jefferson came into office. 

It all began when dinner was announced and the President 
offered his arm to Mrs. James Madison his honored hostess 
when his daughter was not there. Secretary of State Madison 
then offered his arm to the lady next to him, and other Cab- 
inet members followed suit as the bewildered Englishman, 
unaware of the new custom, stared in amazement. Guests had 
found their way to the dining room before he realized what 
had transpired and offered his arm to Mrs. Merry. After a 
similar experience at the Madisons, the minister and Mrs. 
Merry were so incensed that no apology had been offered, or 
even considered necessary, that they refused to accept further 
invitations from Jefferson and the Madisons. Jefferson, whose 
rule was "first come, first served," promptly forgot the matter. 

Jefferson's penchant for French and Italian cookery, a taste 
developed while serving as Treaty Commissioner to France 
from 1785 to 1789, brought the wrath of Patrick Henry upon 
his head. The President, Henry declared, was "a man unfaith- 
ful to his native victuals." Even after he left France, his sec- 
retary, who remained behind, sent him a mold for macaroni, 
his favorite Italian dish. 

During his Presidency, Jefferson employed a French stew- 
ard, Etienne Lemaire, who did the buying, and a French chef, 
Julien. He had brought back Petit, who served as his valet in 
Paris, with him when he returned to America. He also brought 
eleven servants from Monticello, including two Negro slaves, 
Edy and Fanny, who were to be instructed in French cooking 
by the chef, and Annette, his Virginia cook who knew just 
how he liked batter cakes, fried apples, and hot breads served 
with bacon and eggs at breakfast. 

The President took his desserts seriously; among the many 

Library of Congress 

Martha Jefferson Randolph, the President's elder daughter, sometimes served 
as his official hostess. She had twelve children; her eighth, James Madison 
Randolph, was the first child born in the Executive Mansion. 

48 The Pell-Mell System 

recipes he brought back from France was one for ice cream, 
or "cream-ice" as it was originally called by the Parisian artist 
who first served it to the due de Chartres in 1774- The deli- 
cacy was not unknown in America, for Martha Washington 
had purchased a "cream machine for ice" in 1784 for use at 
Mount Vernon, and according to William Maclay the delicacy 
was served along with the desserts during Washington's ad- 
ministration. While in Philadelphia, Mrs. Washington pur- 
chased molds for more attractive serving, but she did not, 
insofar as is known, leave a recipe. So to Jefferson goes the 
credit of popularizing ice cream as a White House dessert, 
for he served it so often that Washington hostesses followed 
suit. Sometimes it was brought to the table in the form of 
small balls enclosed in cases of warm pastry. By 1 8 12 ice cream 
took precedence over other desserts. Mrs. Seaton, wife of the 
owner of the National Intelligencer, wrote at the time : "Pastry 
and puddings are going out of date and wines and ice creams 
coming in." Jefferson's table also provided dishes as Amer- 
ican as the flag itself. His persimmon beer recipe was so highly 
recommended by one of his close friends that it was printed in 
the first issue of the American Farmer, dated April 2, 1819. 


Gather the persimmons perfectly ripe and free from any roughness, 
work them into large loaves, with bran enough to make them con- 
sistent, bake them so thoroughly that the cake may be brown and 
dry throughout, but not burnt, they are then fit for use; but if you 
keep them any time, it will be necessary to dry them frequently in an 
oven moderately warm. Of these loaves broken into a coarse powder, 
take 8 bushels, pour over them 40 gallons of cold water, and after 
two or three days draw it off; boil it as other beer, hop it; this makes 
a very strong beer. By putting 30 gallons of water to the same pow- 
der, and letting it stand two or three days longer, you may have a 
very fine small beer. 

Jefferson's pound cake, and his sponge cake which he always 

Thomas Jefferson 49 

had on hand to serve with wine, were as famous as his per- 
simmon beer. The pound cake was a great Southern favorite ; 
the identical recipe is found in both The Virginia House-Wife, 
by Mary Randolph (a cousin of Thomas Jefferson's) and 
Martha Washington's Rules for Cooking, by Ann Marshall. 

POUND CAKE (Monticello) 

One pound of unsalted butter, rub soft as cream; have ready a 
pound of flour, a pound of powdered sugar. Add 12 eggs well beaten. 
Put alternately into butter and sugar and the froth of eggs, continuing 
to beat well until all the ingredients are in and cake is light. Add 
some grated lemon peel, a nutmeg and a gill of brandy. Butter the 
pan and bake. Serve with melted butter, sugar and wine as a sauce, 
or dry with wine. 


One dozen eggs, whites and yolks beaten separately; one pint of 
sugar; one pint of flour; juice and grated rind of one lemon. Mix 
yolks, sugar, flour and lemon ; add whites. This is a good cake. 

(Martha Jefferson) 

While Jefferson was in residence at the President's House 
he kept in constant touch with affairs at Monticello. His grand- 
children had to be as thoroughly schooled in the art of cooking 
as they were in Latin, music, and French. Many of his favorite 
recipes which he collected from friends and from Messieurs 
Lemaire, Julien, and Petit were copied in his own fine hand 
and made up in individual booklets for his granddaughters to 
take with them as brides to their new homes. 

Although a light eater, Jefferson was one of the great con- 
noisseurs of his day. Nothing but the best available was good 
enough for his guests. He entertained so extensively that his 
bills at the Georgetown markets frequently averaged fifty 
dollars a day. Often he accompanied Etienne Lemaire to the 
market, hoping to find some delicacy he particularly desired. 

50 The Pell-Mell System 

He was fond of olives, figs, mulberries, crabs, oysters, par- 
tridges, venison, pineapple, and light wines. His marketing 
was not confined to Georgetown. He kept wagons moving 
from Baltimore, Richmond, and Monticello to pick up foods 
not obtainable in Georgetown. 

History records his wine bill for his two terms in office as 
$10,000, the greater part of which was spent during the first 
four years. Coffee and tea were served after big dinners 
coffee as a settler and tea, usually green, to awaken and excite 
the senses after they had been lulled by wine. 

John Adams, a onetime close friend who never forgave 
Jefferson for defeating him in his run for reelection, and who 
criticized him for wasting so much time entertaining, wrote: 

I held levees once a week that all my time might not be wasted by 
idle visit. Jeifersons whole eight years were a levee. ... I dined a 
large company once or twice a week; Jefferson was for liberty and 
straight hair; I thought curled hair just as democratic. 

Jefferson realized the value of the dinner table for political 
discussions as did our First President, who frequently took 
advantage of such occasions. In fact, it was at Jefferson's table 
when he was Secretary of State that it was finally settled that 
the capital city would be located on the banks of the Potomac, 
and that it would be called "Washington." 

To preclude the danger of being overheard by talkative 
servants, Jefferson invented "dumbwaiters" (tiered tables) 
to hold everything necessary for the rneal. He also installed 
revolving shelves in the wall between the small dining room 
and the pantry. These were operated by the touch of a spring; 
the shelves loaded with food would swing into the dining 
room and those stacked with empty dishes would move out- 
ward into the pantry. 

Jefferson took great pride in the floors of the President's 
House. On the day of a dinner a green canvas cover would 

Thomas Jefferson 51 

be spread over the dining-room floor to protect it from grease 
or anything that might happen to be dropped from the table. 
The canvas was removed after dinner. 

Jefferson usually rose at dawn. He is said to have bathed his 
feet in cold water every morning in the belief that this kept 
off colds. He wrote and read until breakfast, spent some hours 
in the afternoon playing the violin, riding horseback (six or 
eight miles a day), gardening, or taming birds; at one time 
he had a tame mockingbird which he allowed the freedom of 
his rooms. He drank water only once a day, a single glass, 
when he returned from his horseback ride. 

He is said to have preferred French cooking "because the 
meats were more tender"; he ate heartily of vegetables but 
little meat, and never drank strong liquors; malt liquors and 
cider were his table drinks. 

The President enjoyed entertaining savants and men of 
letters; distinguished foreigners were received with informal 
but generous hospitality. Two famous visitors who visited the 
capital city during Jefferson's Presidency were Jerome Bona- 
parte, who spent a great deal of time in Washington, and 
Baron Alexander von Humboldt, the German explorer and 
scientist. Bonaparte, the youngest brother of Napoleon, was 
the lion of the day in social circles ; attentions were showered 
upon him from all sides. Young and impressionable, he suc- 
cumbed to the charms of Miss Elizabeth Patterson of Balti- 
more, whose father, the president of the Bank of Baltimore, 
was the wealthiest man in Maryland. 

Baron von Humboldt was a "charming Prussian baron." 
Mrs. Madison tells us "all the ladies say they are in love with 
him, notwithstanding his lack of personal charms. He is the 
most polite, modest, well-informed and interesting traveler we 
have ever met, and is much pleased with America." 

Perhaps the social event that eclipsed all others in Jeffer- 
son's administration was the reception given for the Ambassa- 
dor from Tunis, who arrived in "silk robes, a plaster-of-Paris 

52 The Pell-Mell System 

turban, and slippers that curved at the toes." All Washington 
buzzed about his u taking off the slippers in order not to defile 
the sacred floors of the President's Palace," and about his 
taking off the turban to show the assembled Osage Indian 
chiefs in full ceremonial regalia that "his head was shaved just 
like theirs!" 

In Jefferson's administration, the first landscaping of the 
White House grounds was done, and plans were developed 
for the addition of the north and south porticoes. The east 
and west terraces, which Jefferson himself is said to have 
planned the architect for the project was Benjamin H. La- 
trobe made provision for service quarters on each side of 
the: house, stables, saddle rooms, an ice house and a hen house. 

Toward the end of Jefferson's eight-year administration he 
grew weary of company, and of the dinners that began at four 
and lasted until nightfall. When he stepped aside to make 
way for James Madison he said, "I am now a very happy 


The Golden Age 
of Queen Dolly 

James and Dolly Madison 

For weeks before the inauguration of James Madison in 1809 
stagecoaches rumbled over roads from New England to the 
Carolinas, all heading toward the new capital city. One 
tavern keeper declared he saw as many as three coaches pass 
in a single day. Madison's inauguration brought the greatest 
influx of people that Washington had seen up to that time. 

Dolly Madison, the "brilliant, sunny-hearted, witty little 
Quakeress from Philadelphia," who had on occasion acted as 
hostess for Jefferson in the Executive Mansion after Jefferson 
had made "Jemmy" Madison his Secretary of State, stepped 
into her role as First Lady with elegance and a delightful dig- 

The new President, who had entered Princeton College at 
the age of eighteen and carried such a heavy schedule that for 
months he had slept only three hours a day, had married 
Dorothy Payne Todd, the widow of a Philadelphia lawyer, 
in September, 1794. 


54 The Golden Age of Queen Dolly 

Dolly was forty years old when she entered the White 
House as First Lady. Washington Irving described her as "a 
fine, portly, buxom dame, who has a smile and a pleasant word 
for everybody . . . but as for Jemmy Madison ah! 
poor Jemmy! He is but a withered little apple- John." 

But Jemmy was famous, and Dolly was an astute politician 
who exercised her graciousness, charm, and femininity to fur- 
ther her husband's career; she was careful never to make an 
enemy. Her political dinners were well timed and well served, 
and she had an amazing memory for names and faces. Above 
all, Dolly had a natural vivacity that drew people to her as 
to a magnet. 

Her costume for her husband's inauguration was compara- 
tively simple for Dolly. According to Mrs. Samuel Harrison 
Smith, wife of the publisher of the National Intelligencer, 
she wore a plain cambric dress with a long train, without hand- 
kerchief, and a bonnet of purple velvet and white satin with 
white plumes. "Today, after the inauguration, we all went 
to the Madisons we had to wait near a half-hour before we 
could get in, house filled, parlours, entry, drawing room and 
bed-room. Near door of drawing room Mr. and Mrs. Mad- 
ison received." 

Madison was the first President to give an Inaugural Ball 
in Washington. The new First Lady's gown for the occasion 
was magnificent; it had been ordered long beforehand. To 
Dolly, this was truly a great occasion. Her costume of "hand- 
some light yellow or buff velvet, full as was the fashion of the 
day, and with a long train," and her turban (a headgear for 
which she was famous) of buff velvet combined with white 
satin and topped off by a bird of paradise which came from 
Paris and would have done a maharajah credit, gave her a 
regal appearance. Her jewels were pearls. 

Extra fiddlers had come all the way from New York to 
play for the guests. Socialites from New York, Boston, Balti- 
more, and Philadelphia joined Washington elite at the ball, 

James and Dolly Madison 55 

which also drew many members of the diplomatic corps, Cab- 
inet officers, and Justices of the Supreme Court. 

Dolly was escorted to supper by the French minister, and 
sat in sparkling grace between him and the British minister 
at the center of the table, opposite her husband. She and the 
President left the ball immediately after supper. 

The Madison administration's eight years in the White 
House became known as "The Golden Age," mainly because 
of Dolly's style of entertaining and the lavishness of her 
gowns, jewels, and turbans (on which she is said to have spent 
$1,000 a year). Her evening shoes were fabulous. The aver- 
age lady of her class would have had three pairs; Dolly had a 
dozen. There were slippers of gold and of silver and slippers 
heavily beaded or buckled, all designed to show to best advan- 
tage her tiny feet. 

The principal change made in the President's House at the 
beginning of the Madison administration was in the drawing 
room, which she had decorated in yellow satin and hung with 
damask draperies of yellow. (Yellow was Dolly Madison's 
favorite color.) 

To improve house service, Dolly had bells installed in every 
room, increased the number of servants to thirty Jefferson 
had had fourteen and gave Jean Pierre Sioussant (who had 
worked for British Minister Merry) the position of master 
of ceremonies. 

Dolly made it a practice to serve refreshments to all vis- 
itors, regardless of their business or the brevity of their stay. 
During the first year of her husband's administration she sur- 
prised and delighted the new British minister by interrupting 
his conference with the President by sending in a Negro serv- 
ant with glasses of punch and seed cake. She also introduced 
the comforting practice of serving bouillon at afternoon re- 
ceptions when the weather was cold and dreary and her layer 
cake is famous to this day! 

Here are the three recipes : 

56 The Golden Age of Queen Dolly 


i Ib. butter i lb. flour 

6 eggs M oz - caraway seeds 

54 lb. sifted sugar i wineglass of brandy 

Pounded mace, and grated nutmeg to taste 

Beat the butter to a cream; dredge in the flour; add the sugar, 
mace, nutmeg and caraway seeds, and mix these ingredients well to- 
gether. Whisk the eggs, stir into them the brandy, and beat the cake 
again for 10 minutes. Put it into a tin lined with buttered paper, and 
bake it from ij4 to 2 hours. 

(This cake is equally nice made with currants, and omitting the 
caraway seeds.) 


Four pounds of juicy beef, one knuckle of veal, two small turnips, 
two small carrots, one soup bunch, one small pod of red pepper, two 
small white onions, salt, six quarts of water. Simmer for six hours, 
then strain through a fine sieve. Let stand overnight to congeal. Skim 
off all the grease; put in a kettle to heat and just before serving, add 
sherry to taste. 


The whites of eight eggs beaten stiff, two and a half cups of sugar, 
one small cup of butter, one cup of milk, three quarters of a cup of 
cornstarch, three cups of flour, two and a half teaspoonfuls of vanilla. 
This amount makes four layers. 

CARAMEL (for between layers) 

Three cups of brown sugar; one cup of sweet cream; butter the 
size of an egg; one teaspoon of vanilla just before removing from the 
fire. Cook in double boiler for twenty minutes. If not as much as de- 
sired add sugar. 

James and Dolly Madison 57 

Receptions held on New Year's Day and on the Fourth of 
July are said to have brought "sturdy patriots from near and 
far." The one held on January i, 1813, was one of the most 
imposing ever held in the Executive Mansion, according to 
biographers. The French minister arrived in a huge coach 
that resembled a great golden ball on wings. His footmen 
were resplendent in gold livery and gilded swords. The cloth- 
ing of the guests was "rich and elegant" and the affair "widely 

Dolly apparently outdid her own former magnificence on 
that occasion, for she wore a gown of rose-colored satin 
trimmed in ermine, and a velvet turban of the same shade 
ornamented with a jeweled crescent and white ostrich plumes. 

It was about this time that Samuel Harrison Smith sold 
the National Intelligencer to William Seaton and his brother- 
in-law, Joseph Gales, of Raleigh, North Carolina. These 
young gentlemen (Seaton was only twenty-four and Gales 
about the same age) turned the paper from a triweekly into 
a daily. Seaton's pretty young wife, Sarah (Joseph's sister), 
became the unofficial society reporter, a position formerly 
held by Mrs. Smith. Her letters to her mother in Raleigh have 
since been of inestimable value to historians. The first of these, 
written October 12, 1812, shortly after her arrival in Wash- 
ington, informs us : 

That afternoon the first drawing-room of the season was held at 
the White House. William was much solicited to attend, but like a 
good husband, preferred remaining at home with his wife, as I have 
not yet been presented to her Majesty and it not being etiquette to 
appear in public 'till that ceremony is performed. 

Once this had been rectified, Mrs. Seaton's prolific letter 
writing established a record of the doings of the vivacious 
Mrs. Madison that was to delight writers of a future day. 

Here is her description of tea : 

58 The Golden Age of Queen Dolly 

It is customary to breakfast at nine, dine at four and drink tea at 
eight. I am more surprised at method of taking tea here than any 
other meal. In private families, if you step in of an evening, they give 
you tea and crackers, or cold bread; and if by invitation, unless the 
party is very splendid, you have a few sweet-cakes, macaroons from 
the confectioners. This is the extent. Once I saw a ceremony of pre- 
serves at tea; but the deficiency is made up by the style of dinner. 

And of the "style of dinner/' she wrote: 

On Tuesday, William and I repaired to the "palace" between four 
and five o'clock, our carriage setting us down after the first comers 
and before the last. It is customary, on whatever occasion, to advance 
to the upper end of the room, pay your obeisance to Mrs. Madison, 
curtsey to his highness, and take a seat, after this ceremony being at 
liberty to speak to acquaintances or amuse yourself as at another 
party. The party already assembled consisted of the Treasurer of the 
United States; Mr. Russell, the American Minister to England; Mr. 
Cutts, brother-in-law of Mrs. Madison; General Van Ness and fam- 
ily; General Smith and daughter from New York; Patrick Magru- 
der's family; Col. Goodwine and daughter; Mr. Coles, the private 
secretary; Washington Irving, the author of "Knickerbocker" and 
"Salmagundi"; Mr. Thomas, an European; Mr. Poindexter, William 
R. King, and two other gentlemen, and these, with Mr. and Mrs. 
Madison and Payne Todd, her son, completed the select company. 

Mrs. Madison very handsomely came to me and led me nearest the 
fire, introduced Mrs. Magruder, and sat down between us, politely 
conversing on familiar subjects, and by her own ease of manner mak- 
ing her guests feel at home. Mr. King came to our side, sans cere- 
monie, and gayly chatted with us until dinner was announced. Mrs. 
Magruder, by priority of age, was entitled to the right hand of her 
hostess, and I, in virtue of being a stranger, to the next seat, Mr. 
Russell to her left, Mr. Coles at the foot of the table, the President 
in the middle, which relieves him from the trouble of receiving guests, 
drinking wine, etc. The dinner was certainly very fine, but still I was 
rather surprised as it did not surpass some I have eaten in Carolina. 
There were many French dishes and exquisite wines, I presume, by 
the praises bestowed upon them; but I have been so little accustomed 
to drink that I could not discern the difference between sherry and 
rare old Burgundy madeira. Comment on the quality of the wine 
seems to form the chief topic after the removal of the cloth and 

James and Dolly Madison 59 

during the dessert, at which by the way, no pastry is countenanced. 
Ice creams, macaroons, preserves and various cakes are placed on the 
table, which are removed for almonds, raisins, pecan nuts, apples, 
pears, etc. Candles were introduced before the ladies left the table, 
and the gentlemen continued half an hour longer to drink a social glass. 
Meantime Mrs. Madison insisted on my playing on her elegant 
grand piano a waltz for Miss Smith and Miss Magruder to dance, 
the figure of which she instructed them in. By this time the gentlemen 
came in, and we adjourned to the tea room; and here in the most de- 
lightful manner imaginable I shared with Miss Smith, who is re- 
markably intelligent, the pleasure of Mrs. Madison's conversation on 
books, men and manners, literature in general, and many special 
branches of knowledge. I never spent a more rational or pleasant half 
hour than that which preceded our return home. On paying our com- 
pliments at parting we were politely invited to attend the levee the 
next evening. I would describe the dignified appearance of Mrs. 
Madison, but I fear it is the woman altogether whom I should wish 
you to see. She wears a crimson cap that almost hides her forehead, but 
which becomes her extremely and reminds one of a crown from its 
brilliant appearance, contrasted with the white satin folds and her 
jet-black curls. 

Ceremonious dinners were given to the members of the 
Cabinet and to the diplomatic corps, but Mrs. Madison de- 
lighted in small dinner parties made up of her intimate friends, 
mixed with distinguished guests who happened to be in the 
city. She selected her guests with care both for the sake of 
congeniality and in order to keep her social gatherings as free 
from ceremony as possible. 

At such affairs, servants were plentiful. Slave waiters from 
neighboring plantations were hired at thirty-five cents each 
for the evening, and one was assigned to each guest at the 
dinner table. Food was so plentiful at Mrs. Madison's din- 
ners that Mrs. Merry thought her table "more like a harvest- 

The first marriage in the White House took place during 
Madison's administration. Mrs. Madison's sister, Lucy Payne 
Washington, widow of Phillip Steptoe Washington, married 

60 The Golden Age of Queen Dolly 

Thomas Todd of Kentucky, then Justice of the United States 
Supreme Court, on March n, 1811. Dolly, according to 
Charles Bagot, the new British minister, apparently stole the 
show, for he described the First Lady as "looking every inch 
the queen." 

The u most profuse" ball given in Washington up to Janu- 
ary, 1813, was not held at the White House. It was given by 
the Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin, at his resi- 
dence. According to Mrs. Seaton, Gallatin went all out as far 
as food was concerned. Wrote the twenty-three-year-old 
Sarah : 

I am sure not ten minutes elapsed without refreshments being 
handed, ist, coffee, tea, all kinds of toast and warm cakes; 2nd, ice- 
creams; 3rd, lemonade, punch, burgundy, claret, curacao, champagne; 
4th, bonbons, cakes of all sorts and sizes; 5th, apples, oranges; 6th, 
confectionery, denomination divers; 7th, nuts, almonds, raisins; 8th, 
set supper, composed of tempting solid dishes, meats, savory pasties 
garnished with lemon; 9th, drinkables of every species; 10th, boiling 
chocolate. . . . The assembly was more numerous, more select, and 
more elegant than at any time ever before seen in the city. 

The War of 1812 had little effect on presidential enter- 
taining until the British burned the Executive Mansion on 
August 24, 1814. There is an interesting, if confusing, story 
connected with the arrival of the British. According to an 
English writer named Gleig, they "found a bountiful dinner 
spread for forty guests. This they concluded was for the 
American officers who were expected to return victorious from 
the field of Bladensburg." (Naturally, the British soldiers ate 
the dinner before plundering the mansion and setting it 
afire!) This story has since been pronounced absolutely false, 
and Mrs. Madison's letter to her sister dated August 23 would 
indicate that the preparation of a large dinner was the last 
thing she would have concerned herself with at such a time. 
In part, her letter reads : 

The Smithsonian Institution 

Decorated in blue and gold, this tea set served Dolly Madison during her 
career as First Lady. The set is now in the collections of the U. S, National 
Museum in Washington, 

62 The Golden Age of Queen Dolly 

Tuesday, August 23, 1814. 
Dear Sister: 

My husband left me yesterday to join General Winder. He en- 
quired anxiously whether I had the courage or firmness to remain 
in the President's house until his return tomorrow, or succeeding 
day, and on my assurance that I had no fear but for him and the 
success of our army, he left me, beseeching me to take care of myself 
and of the Cabinet papers, public and private. 

I have since received two dispatches from him, written with pen- 
cil; the last is alarming, because he desires that I should be ready at 
a moment's warning, to enter my carriage and leave the city; that the 
enemy seemed stronger than had been reported. ... I am accordingly 
ready . . . 

Wednesday morning, twelve o'clock. Since sunrise, I have been 
turning my spy-glass in every direction and watching with unwearied 
anxiety, hoping to discover the approach of my dear husband and 
his friends; but, alas, I can descry only groups of military wandering 
in all directions, as if there was a lack of arms, or of spirits, to 
fight for their own firesides. 

Three o'clock. Will you believe it, my sister, we have had a battle, 
or a skirmish, near Bladensburg, and I am still here within sound 
of the cannon! Mr. Madison comes not; may God protect him! Two 
messengers, covered with dust, come to bid me fly; but I wait for 
him. . . . 

Her letter continues with details of the preparation: the 
wagon loaded with valuables, the removal of General Wash- 
ington's picture from the wall, the "two gentlemen of New 
York" to whom the portrait was entrusted, her own prepara- 
tions for departure. 

It would seem that no thought could have been given to 
preparing a large dinner ; but Paul Jennings, a slave belonging 
to Mr. Madison, published a book in 1865 entitled A Colored 
Man's Reminiscences of James Madison, in which he cor- 
roborates in some detail Gleig's story of the feast. Many of 
his statements conflict with Dolly Madison's, and it is not pos- 
sible to overlook the fact that he probably wrote his remi- 
niscences many years after the event ; however, he was there, 
and he says, "I set the table myself." 

This photograph of Octagon House was taken in 1936, but the building has 
not changed in appearance since James and Dolly Madison moved in in 1814 
after the burning of the Executive Mansion. 

Library of Congress 

64 The Golden Age of Queen Dolly 

While the destruction of the Executive Mansion was gen- 
erally mourned, those who had looked askance at what they 
considered the wastefulness and extravagance of the Madison 
administration expressed their opinions, one of which was: 

The destruction of the President's House cannot be a great loss 
in one point of view, as we hope it will put an end to drawing-rooms 
and levees; the resort of the idle and the encouragers of spies and 

These critics were to be disappointed, however, for al- 
though Dolly and her husband now lived in closer quarters at 
the Tayloe house which was known as the "Octagon House" 
there was no letup in entertaining, according to Mrs. Seaton : 

The winter will be extremely gay and decked with the splendor of 
polished manners . . . and the drawing-rooms will sparkle . . . Mr. 
Jefferson's granddaughter, Miss Randolph, will lead the van in accom- 
plishments and beauty. . . . There is every reason to expect a crowded 
and interesting winter, as it will be the first meeting of Congress since 
the peace. Mrs. Madison tells me that there will be a great many 
foreigners of distinction here. 

During the last year of "Jemmy" Madison's first term as 
President, one professional observer, Mrs. Seaton, gave this 
description of Washington life: 

Ladies of fifty years of age [at a state ball] were decked with lace 
and ribbons, wreaths of roses and gold leaves in their false hair, 
wreaths of jasmine across their bosom, and no kerchiefs! [Though] 
the splendid dress of these antiquated dames of the beau monde adds 
to the general grandeur, it certainly only tends to make the contrast 
still more striking between them and the young and beautiful. . . . 
This incongruity of dress extends to young girls, and is equally incom- 
patible with general propriety. Madame Joseph Bonaparte is a model 
of fashion, and many of our belles strive to imitate her, but without 
equal eclat as she has certainly the most transcendently beautiful back 
and shoulders that ever were seen. ... It is the fashion for most of 

James and Dolly Madison 65 

the ladies a little advanced in age to rouge and pearl, which is spoken 
of with as much sang-froid as putting on their bonnets. Mrs. Monroe 
paints very much, and has besides, an appearance of youth which would 
induce a stranger to suppose her age to be thirty: in lieu of which, 
she introduces them to her daughter and even her granddaughter, 
eighteen or nineteen years old. . . . Mrs. Madison is said to rouge; 
but not evident to my eyes, and I do not think it is true, as I am well 
assured I saw her color come and go at the naval ball, when the Mace- 
donian flag was presented to her by young Hamilton. Mrs. C. and 
Mrs. G. paint excessively, and think it becoming; but with them it is 
no deception, only folly, and they speak of it as indispensable to a 
decent appearance. 

Madison's inauguration for his second term on March 4, 
1813 took place in a crowded capital city. In giving his 
address, the President's u voice was so low and the audience 
so very great that scarcely a word could be distinguished. On 
concluding, the oath of office was administered by the Chief 
Justice, and the little *man was accompanied on his return to 
the Palace by the multitude; for every creature that could 
afford twenty-five cents for hack-hire was present/' wrote Mrs. 

The majority of the respectable citizens then offered him 
their congratulations, ate his ice creams and bonbons, drank his 
Madeira, made their bows, and retired, leaving him "fatigued 
beyond measure with the incessant bending to which politeness 
urged him, and in which he never allows himself to be eclipsed, 
returning bow for bow, even to those ad infinitum of Serrurier 
and other foreigners." 

The story is told that Dolly Madison offered her snuff box 
to the French ambassador, and, as he stooped over it with 
courtly grace, whipped out a red bandanna and a marvelous 
lace handkerchief! 

James Madison went out of office before the new Executive 
Mansion was ready for occupancy, and the next President, 
James Monroe, came into office in 1817. 


Tempest in the Social Teapot 

James and Elizabeth Monroe 

James Monroe was the first President to occupy the rebuilt 
mansion after its burning by the British; it was not ready 
for him, however, until the autumn of 1817, months after his 
inauguration. In the meantime he lived at 2017 Eye Street, 

Shortly before Monroe's inauguration, Congress had ap- 
propriated money for refurnishing the Executive Mansion. 
All of the pieces used since Washington's Presidency had 
been destroyed in the fire nearly three years before. Recon- 
struction of the Executive Mansion itself had begun in 1815 
under the direction of James Hoban, the original designer. 
It was a monumental job, since the entire building had been 
destroyed except for its exterior sandstone walls and the 
interior brickwork. Even these were seriously damaged, iron- 
ically, by an act of nature : the walls were still hot when a 
heavy rain came pouring down on them, resulting in extensive 
cracking. It was at the time of this restoration that the 


68 Tempest in the Social Teapot 

outside walls of the Executive Mansion were painted white. 

The East Room was still unfinished when the Monroes 
moved into the White House in December of 1817. The Pres- 
ident and his wife were, however, determined that the man- 
sion should have all the accoutrements of gracious living so, 
over and above Congress' appropriation, they sold their own 
collection of fine French pieces to the government and ordered 
additional furniture, china, and silver both ornaments and 
essentials from France. Each piece was chosen with a con- 
noisseur's eye not only to comfort and beauty, but to the lasting 
service and enjoyment of future occupants of the White House. 

When his two-term administration ended in 1825, Monroe 
repurchased his original possessions from the government at 
the price he had received for them, and today a large number 
of these pieces can be seen at the James Monroe Law Office 
Museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia, which was opened by 
Laurence Gouverneur Hoes, Monroe's great-great-grandson, 
and his mother, Mrs. Rose Gouverneur Hoes, who inherited 
the furniture. Mrs. Hoes was also the founder of the collection 
of "Dresses of the First Ladies of the Land" now in the 
United States National Museum, she herself collecting up 
through the Coolidge administration. 

The sun shone bright on the morning that Monroe took his 
oath of office, out of doors before a crowd of eight thousand 
persons, the largest inaugural crowd up to that time. But 
clouds gathered when the new First Lady courageously refused 
to be bullied into continuing customs which she considered 
burdensome and unnecessary. Among these was the practice 
established by Dolly Madison (and often regretted) of mak- 
ing the first call. Elizabeth Kortright Monroe refused not 
only to make the first call, but to return calls, a chore she 
relegated to her lovely elder daughter, Mrs. George Hay. 

So bold a flaunting of tradition brought the wrath of so- 
cially-conscious, party-loving Washington upon Elizabeth 
Monroe's head. This upsetting of an old custom proved u bit- 

James Monroe Law Office Museum 

"To the Honourable James Monroe, Esquire, from His Friends and Ad- 
mirers Associated, London, 1803" reads the inscription on this tray made 
in 1794-1795 h Peter and Ann Bateman, Silversmiths. The Sheffield punch 
bowl was probably presented to Monroe when he was minister to England 
(1803-1807). The silver ladle, initialed "M" was made in Edinburgh in 1806. 

jo Tempest in the Social Teapot 

ter to the palates of all our old citizens/' Mrs. Seaton wrote, 
and the "petty and provincial Washington" of that day took 
revenge on Mrs. Monroe, who "had the good sense to see 
that life would be intolerable to any woman in her place who 
undertook to return all the calls made upon her." To this day 
the same custom prevails much to the credit of Mrs. Mon- 
roe, who stood firm despite the criticism heaped on her. 

President Monroe actually made the social question the 
subject of a formal Cabinet consultation, because he received 
a complaint that the wife of the Secretary of State, Mrs. John 
Quincy Adams, neglected her duty in omitting to make the 
first call on the wives of senators and representatives in Con- 
gress. When the Cabinet was not able to reach an agreement 
as to "the right and wrong of this profound subject," the Sec- 
retary wrote the President that he would be "unworthy of con- 
fidence if I had a heart insensible to social obligations" ; that 
he had been "five years a member of the Senate, and thought 
I knew the duties and privileges of a Senator's wife"; that 
"formality does not appear to me congenial to the republican 
simplicity of our institutions"; and finally, that unless the 
President overruled him, "Mrs. Adams could not take upon 
herself the responsibility of making first calls." 

The straw that broke the camel's back was the marriage of 
Elizabeth's younger daughter, seventeen-year-old Maria, to 
the socially prominent Samuel L. Gouverneur of New York, 
Mrs. Monroe's nephew. Washington society, agog over the 
coming nuptials of the first President's daughter to be mar- 
ried in the White House, had planned several large balls, the 
first one to be given by the Commodore Stephen Decaturs. 
When, in February, Mrs. Seaton wrote that the wedding was 
to be "entirely private," and later asserted the reason was to 
be found "in the question of precedence and etiquette," the 
storm broke. 

The wedding took place on March 9, 1820. John Quincy 
Adams wrote in his diary: 

James and Elizabeth Monroe 71 

Samuel Lawrence Gouverneur of New York was this day married 
to Maria Hester Monroe. . . . There has been some further ques- 
tion of etiquette upon this occasion. The foreign Ministers were un- 
certain whether it was expected they should pay their compliments on 
the marriage or not, and Poletica, the Russian Minister, made the 
inquiry of Mrs. Adams. She applied to Mrs. Hay, the President's 
eldest daughter who has lived in his home ever since he has been 
President but never visits at the houses of any of the foreign Minis- 
ters, because their ladies did not pay her first calls. Mrs. Hay thought 
her youngest sister could not receive and return visits which she her- 
self could not reciprocate, and therefore that no foreign Minister 
should take notice of the marriage, which was accordingly com- 
municated to them. 

After the wedding Mrs. Seaton wrote: 

The New York style was adopted at Maria Monroe's wedding. 
Only attendants, the relatives and a few old friends of the bride and 
groom witnessed the ceremony. . . . The bridesmaids were told their 
company and services would be dispensed with until the following 
Tuesday, when the bride would receive visitors. Accordingly, all who 
visit at the President's paid their respects to Mrs. Gouverneur, who 
presided in her mother's place on this evening while Mrs. Monroe 
mingled with the other citizens. Every visitor was led to the bride 
and introduced. 

The bridal festivities received a check about two weeks 
later, when Commodore Stephen Decatur was killed in a duel 
with Commodore James Barron. The National Intelligencer 
expressed the shocked sorrow of the Capital City: 

Mourn Columbia! for one of the brightest stars has set, a son 
without fear and without reproach. 

Commodore and Mrs. Decatur had given their ball, but 
invitations sent out by Commodore Porter, Van Ness, and 
others were remanded. Even the announcement of Maria's 
wedding was simplified to a modest notice in the papers: 

72 Tempest in the Social Teapot 

Married on Thursday evening last in this city by the Rev. Mr. 
Hawley, Samuel Lawrence Gouverneur, Esq. of New York to Miss 
Maria Hester Monroe, youngest daughter of James Monroe, Presi- 
dent of the United States. 

Washington society, outraged at being deprived of the 
most important event of the season, the first wedding of a 
President's daughter in the White House, expressed its an- 
noyance by practically boycotting the Monroes during their 
entire first term. Even as early as December 18, 1819, prac- 
tically three months before the wedding, Mrs. Seaton wrote : 
"The drawing-room of the President was opened last night 
to a beggarly row of empty chairs. Only five females attended, 
three of whom were foreigners." 

The snub extended to Mrs. Adams. She had invited a large 
number to her home the previous week. Only three attended. 
The President fared no better; those attending his dinners 
usually comprised only personal friends and political sup- 
porters. John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State, worked to 
his wits' end trying to restore peace among the ladies, but it 
was not until Monroe's second term that society's resentment 
simmered down and the drawing-rooms and receptions were 
well attended. 

The New Year's Day reception of 1821 drew the biggest 
crowd that had ever attended a White House function. The 
President, with his wife and two daughters, stood near the 
door to greet their guests as they entered. Samuel Lawrence 
Gouverneur, the President's private secretary, and George 
Hay, his elder daughter's husband (who prosecuted Aaron 
Burr at his trial for treason) were much in evidence. 

But even this gracious gesture failed to stop the criticism 
of a few die-hard faultfinders. Monroe's knee breeches, silk 
hose, and silver-buckled shoes were described as "old-fash- 
ioned" in an era of pantaloons (trousers), which had come 
into fashion during Jefferson's administration. Monroe con- 
tinued to wear this type of Revolutionary clothing until his 

James and Elizabeth Monroe 73 

death on July 4, 1831. He was known as the last of the 
"Cocked Hats." 

The First Lady, however, was lovely in black velvet and 
pearls, her hair piled high in fashionable puffs and ornamented 
with ostrich plumes. u She was," Mrs. Seaton wrote, "discreetly 
rouged and very youthful looking to be the mother of grown 
daughters." Mrs. Hay wore crimson velvet, and Maria, as 
befitted a bride, was exquisite in white satin trimmed in silver 
lace. Both girls wore necklaces of pearls, and ostrich plumes 
in their hair. Wine was served on large silver salvers. 

In the Monroe household, dining was a fine art. The dinner 
hour was six o'clock and the food superb. They preferred 
French cookery and the French style of serving, although it 
was "a little Americanized," according to author James Feni- 
more Cooper, who was a frequent guest at the Monroe table. 
Cooper wrote : 

Some of the guests prefer to help themselves but usually the dishes 
are handed around. 

Of attendants there were a good many. They were neatly dressed, 
out of livery, and sufficient. To conclude, the whole entertainment 
might have passed for a better sort of European dinner party, at 
which the guests were too numerous for general or very agreeable 
discourse, and some of them too new to be entirely at their ease. 
Mrs. Monroe arose at the end of the dessert, and withdrew, attended 
by two or three of the most gallant of the company. No sooner was 
his wife's back turned than the President reseated himself, inviting 
his guests to imitate the action. After allowing his guests sufficient 
time to renew, in a few glasses, the recollections of similar enjoyment 
of their own, he arose, giving the hint to his company that it was 
time to rejoin the ladies. In the drawing room coffee was served, and 
every one left the house before nine. 

Monroe's table was formal and beautifully appointed. Like 
Washington, he preferred the mirrored plateau (surtout de 
table] as a centerpiece, and ordered one from France at a 
cost of six thousand francs. It was valued at two hundred 

74 Tempest "in the Social Teapot 

dollars in an "estimate of furniture in the President's House" 
at the time. Matching candelabra, fruit epergnes, and vases 
for flowers were also ordered. 

The plateau is in seven pieces. Extended its full length, it 
is thirteen and a half feet long and two feet wide. The rim is 
bronze decorated in garlands of fruit and vines. At equidistant 
intervals around the rim are figures of Bacchus and Bacchantes 
upholding crystal vases for flowers and crowns for candles. 
These are removable, allowing for varied decorations. 

The plateau, silver plated when purchased but later gilded 
by Van Buren, was referred to as a "silver waiter" by Mrs. 
Smith Thompson, wife of Monroe's Secretary of the Navy, 
who, in describing a dinner party, wrote: 

We had the most stylish dinner I have been at. The table was wider 
than we have and in the middle was a large, perhaps silver, waiter 
with images like some Aunt Silsbee has, only more of them. Vases 
filled with flowers made a very showy appearance as the candles were 
lighted when we went to the table. The dishes [meaning dishes of 
food] were silver and set around this waiter. The plates were hand- 
some china [President Monroe had ordered enough china to serve 
thirty people], the forks silver and so heavy you could call them 
clumsy things. 

Monroe had a recipe for a non-alcoholic mint julep : 


Yi pint grape juice 

l /2 pint orange juice 

l /2 cup chopped mint 

i pint charged water 

Juice of 6 lemons or limes 

Mix fruit juice and mint and stand on ice one hour. A dash of 
sugar to taste. Add water and pour into glasses half filled with ice. 
A sprig of mint in each glass and serve at once. 

Oak Hill 

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I '* o 

$ p_l 

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-ti'S I 

S I 

o ^ 

Tempest in the Social Teapot 

The above recipe was given to the author by Mr. Laurence 
Gouverneur Hoes, whose mother had copied it, with others, 
from the Monroe recipes as they appeared in Martha Jeffer- 
son Randolph's manuscript cookbook. Mrs. Samuel Laurence 
Gouverneur, Monroe's granddaughter, had borrowed the 
book from Mrs. Randolph's daughter; Mrs. Hoes was only 
fourteen at the time too young, she wrote, to appreciate 
the book's value. 

James Monroe established for the diplomats a protocol 
described by his Secretary of State as "exceedingly formal and 
stately." Jefferson and Madison had permitted social visits, 
but Monroe received diplomats only at private audiences 
upon request, and at the drawing-rooms and diplomatic din- 
ners held once or twice during the winter. Like the European 
sovereigns, he received standing. Ministers were required to 
appear in court dress. 

The stately etiquette upon which Monroe insisted had fa- 
vorable repercussions abroad, although it was resented in Wash- 
ington. The British and French had long awed lesser nations 
by such tactics; now, equaled at their own game, they devel- 
oped a wholesome respect for our young nation and from 
then on ceased to refer to us as "Colonials." 

When the Monroes left the White House and retired to 
Oak Hill, Virginia, they were far more popular than when 
they entered. 

Virginia Chamber of Commerce, photo by Flmrwy 

The porcelain chocolate cups and saucers are the only known remaning fum 
official china. The only known pieces of plate still extant are the 

onroe's o 

4, Joseph Wilson at approximately the same time. 
dlesticks, circa 1795. bear the Monroe family crest. 

lames Monroe Laa Office Musetim 


Puritan Heritage vs, 
Popular Parties 

John Quincy and Louisa Adams 

On March 4, 1825, John Quincy Adams took the oath of 
office as the sixth President of the United States. The White 
House, which had welcomed his father as its first occupant, 
now opened its doors to Abigail's and John's son and his 
wife, the former Louisa Catherine Johnson, daughter of the 
American consul in London, whom he had married in 1797. 

Adams, whose diplomatic career had started at the age 
of fourteen, when he was appointed to a post as secretary 
to the minister to Russia, was known as u Old Man Eloquent." 
He and the new First Lady lost no time in "taking the chill" 
off the White House. Both, no doubt, felt that the adoption 
of the Monroe social policies was a "must," since Monroe 
had been able to quell Washington's tempest in the social 

Though he was punctilious in matters of etiquette, the new 
President's doors were open to all. Both he and Louisa Adams 
had practically grown up in European courts; he had crossed 


8o Puritan Heritage vs. Popular Parties 

the ocean four times by the age of twelve, and by seventeen 
had traveled over the greater part of Europe. Louisa, who 
was born in London of an English mother and American 
father whose home was in Maryland (her uncle had been gov- 
ernor of that state and a signer of the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence), had received every educational advantage. She 
could read French, English, and Greek literature, wrote verse, 
loved music, and had a cultivated voice. Biographers give her 
no credit for beauty, but her charm was enviable though 
"she was just too retiring and scholarly to be a popular First 

The President's heritage of the simple, devout, and intelli- 
gent traits of his Puritan family and his love of gardening, 
horseback riding, and swimming no doubt explain why he 
chafed under his duties as the nation's host. He entered in 
his diary February 20, 1828: 

This evening was the sixth drawing-room. Very much crowded ; 
sixteen Senators,, perhaps sixty members of the House of Representa- 
tives and multitudes of strangers among whom were the Institutors 
of Deaf and Dumb from Philadelphia, New York and Hartford. 
The heat was oppressive and these parties are becoming more and 
more insupportable to me. 

However, when the President and Mrs. Adams did enter- 
tain it was usually lavish. The most outstanding party of their 
career was a ball given January 8, 1824 when Adams was 
Secretary of State under Monroe honoring General An- 
drew Jackson on the anniversary of his victory at New Or- 
leans. It was noted as one of the most brilliant entertainments 
that had ever been seen in Washington. 

Mrs. Adams is described as "elegantly but not gorgeously" 
dressed; her headdress and plumes were "tastefully arranged." 
Eight hundred guests attended. The ladies climbed up on 
chairs and benches to see the General. To help them get a 
better view, Louisa Adams gracefully took the General's 

The Smithsonian Institution 

This portrait of Mrs. John Quincy Adams was done by Charles Bird King. 
The harp, music books, and music stand were owned by Mrs. Adams. 

82 Puritan Heritage vs. Popular Parties 

arm and promenaded with him through the apartments. 

At ten o'clock the doors of a spacious dining room were 
opened to disclose the table loaded with "refreshments of 
every description, served up in elegant style, of which the 
company were invited to partake without ceremony." 

President and Mrs. Adams held a levee every other Wednes- 
day evening. E. Cooley, in his Etiquette at Washington City, 
published in 1829, describes the etiquette of the levee thus: 

Gentlemen and ladies both attend, arrive about 8:00 and leave 
around 10:00. No lady goes by herself, but sometimes one gentleman 
waits on two but most commonly only one. They mostly all stand, or 
move around the rooms; the ladies always resting on the left arm of 
the gentleman, when he attends to only one. The guests, on arrival, 
find the President and his Lady standing in the upper part of the 
same room (saloon), but at some distance apart with some of their 
particular friends at their side. The guests all make their way through 
the crowd, toward the President, and salute him; and those of his 
acquaintance shake hands with him, and then pass on to salute his Lady. 

There is no established rule, or formal regulation for the support 
of order, more than that which prevails in other assemblages of fash- 
ionable and genteel people, in other places of the city. 

There are three large furnished rooms, besides the two anti- 
chambers (the middle one is round, and is called the saloon) where 
the President and his Lady receive their guests; which are generally 
all so full, that it is with much delay, and edging difficulty, that a gen- 
tleman can get through to the upper end of the saloon to salute the 

The company is treated with coffee, tea and a variety of cakes, jel- 
lies, ice-cream, and white and red wine, mixed and unmixed, and 
sometimes other cordials and liquors, and frequently with West India 
fruit; all of which are carried about the rooms amongst the guests, 
upon large trays by servants dressed in livery; each one takes from it 
what he pleases, when an opportunity offers, which, at some of the 
fullest levees, may not happen very often; not because there is any 
scarcity of refreshment, but the difficulty the waiters find in making 
their way through the crowd with their trays. . . . After some part 
of the company have retired, so as to give more room for the waiters 
to move freely about the rooms with refreshments, everyone is fur- 

John Quincy and Louisa Adams 83 

nished bountifully; which shows that the articles were not wanting 
so much as an opportunity of presenting them freely to the guests. 
At the President's levees there is commonly no other amusement 
but conversation, so that those who happen to be quite strangers, are 
merely spectators; and at every levee there are many of that class, 
so that the novelty, or the presumed honour of being one of a party of 
the highest order in the United States, are all the inducements that an 
entire stranger has to go there. 

Mr. Adams usually arose between four and six o'clock, ac- 
cording to the season, and took a ride on horseback or a walk 
to the Potomac river, where he bathed. He entered in his 
diary on April 13, 1827: 

I have already been tempted by the prevailing warm weather to 
bathe in the Potomac, but have been deterred by the catarrh still hang- 
ing on me, and by the warnings of physicians, whose doctrines are 
not in harmony with my experience. I took, however, for this morn- 
ing's walk the direction of the river, and visited the rock whence I 
most frequently go into the river. It is yet adapted to the purpose; 
but all trace of the old sycamore tree, which was near it, and blew 
down the winter before last, is gone. There is yet one standing a 
little below, but it is undermined with every high tide, and must be 
soon overthrown. . . . 

The rock under the sycamore tree was the point from whence 
John Quincy Adams probably gave the most embarrassing 
interview of his career. According to Ladies of the Press, by 
Ishbel Ross, the indomitable and termagant Anne Royall, a 
newspaper woman, pursued him to the river early one morning 
to get a story. Finding the President clad only in his skin, she 
parked herself "on his clothes as he bathed . . . and refused 
to budge until he had answered her questions." 

Old books about Washington make mention of Anne. In 
1903 there were still those who could recall the crazy hag 
with the sharp, strident voice. Wearing thick worsted mittens 
from which "claws protruded," always carrying her green 
cotton umbrella and her newspaper subscription book, she was 

84 Puritan Heritage vs. Popular Parties 

a poor, ludicrous figure. Her green calash dress in summer 
and shabby shawls and cloak in winter rendered all the more 
striking the wrinkled, swarthy, rawboned face of this woman 
who had struggled so bravely against hard times. To Wash- 
ington she was a freak a combination of town character and 
town nuisance loved in the one aspect and hated in the other. 
She was an aggressive person with no mind for clothes, and 
if she had been clothes-minded, she had no money to buy them. 

"I can see her now tramping through the halls of the old 
Capitol, umbrella (it was a large green one) in hand, seizing 
upon every passerby, and offering her book for sale," wrote 
John Forney in his Anecdotes of Public Men. Any public man 
who refused to buy was certain of a severe philippic in her 

"We have the famous Mrs. Royall here,'* wrote Justice 
Story to Mrs. Story, on the eighth of March, 1827, "with her 
new novel, 'The Tennesseans,' which she has compelled the 
Chief Justice and myself to buy to avoid castigation. I shall 
bring it home for your edification." 

Sarah Harver Porter, in her book, The Life and Times 
of Anne Royall, states that Adams really "liked and respected 
the courageous woman whom he had known since the week of 
her arrival." Mrs. Porter's book also contains a letter ad- 
dressed by Anne to John Quincy Adams in which she saluted 
him as "Most Valued Friend," and ended with "Your grate- 
ful friend." The President once called Anne a "Virago errant 
in enchanted armor," but the Adamses were very nearly the 
only people of any importance who treated Anne Royall with 
courtesy. Others coldly shut the door in her face, but Adams 
took her in, subscribed to her forthcoming book, agreed to 
do his best for her pension (which she finally did succeed 
in getting) and, above all, asked her to call on Mrs. Adams. 

Short, bald, and rotund, Adams had none of the social 
graces. A man who usually began his day by reading two or 
three chapters of the Bible, with Scott's and Hewlett's Com- 

Courtesy National Park Service 

ner^t. These ma, be seen fda, in the WKte House cl*a room. 

86 Puritan Heritage vs. Popular Parties 

mentaries, he was "cold, aloof, self-centered, suspicious and 
censorious in his relations with all the world, but in his fam- 
ily relationship he was one of the most affectionate and de- 
voted of sons, husbands, and fathers," says Bennett Champ 
Clark in his John Quincy Adams. He was "negligent, some- 
times even slovenly in his dress; a proficient linguist; had a 
penchant for emphasizing the gloomy aspect of events and 
cared nothing for society, although he had passed so many 
years in the most fashionable European courts that he was as 
completely master of the intricacies of etiquette and social 
conventions as of diplomatic punctilio. 1 ' 

Benjamin Perley Poor, a noted journalist of his day, tells 
us in his Reminiscences that during Adams' administration the 
Washington assemblies were ceremonious and exclusive. Ad- 
mission was obtained only by cards of invitation, issued after 
long consultation among the committeemen and, once inside 
the exclusive ring, the u beaux and belles bowed to the disci- 
plinary rule of a master of ceremonies." No gentleman, what- 
ever his rank or calling, was permitted on the floor unless in 
full evening dress, with "pumps, silk-stockings, and flowing 
cravat, unless he belonged to the Army or Navy, in which 
case complete regimentals covered a multitude of sins." 

The Reminiscences of "Perley" continue: 

"Minuet de la cour" and stately "quadrille," varied by the "basket 
dance," and, on exceptional occasions, the exhilarating "cheat," formed 
the staple for saltatorial performance, until the hour of eleven brought 
the concluding country dance when a final squad of roysterers bobbed 
"up the middle and down again" to the airs of "Sir Roger de Coverly" 
or "Money Musk." The music was furnished by colored performers 
on the violin, except on great occasions when some of the Marine 
Band played an accompaniment on flutes and clarinets. The refresh- 
ments were iced lemonade, ice-cream, Port wine, negus, and small 
cakes, served in a room adjoining the dancing hall, or brought in by 
colored domestics, or by the cavalier in his own proper person, who 
ofttimes appeared upon the dancing floor, elbowing his way to the 
lady of his adoration, in the one hand bearing well filled glasses, and 
in the other a plate heaped up with cakes. 

" ' * f f , - j ,'' k ',* !, v "Y-'ftl'* 8 * ''3 '" ''^*''y"'!, S| -"'r- 

The Washington Star 

88 Puritan Heritage vs. Popular Parties 

The costume of a lady was a classic in scantiness, especially 
at balls and parties. The fashionable ball-dress was of "white 
India crape and five breadths, each a quarter of a yard wide 
which came to the ankles, elaborately trimmed with a dozen or 
more rows of narrow flounces. Silver or cotton stockings 
adorned with embroidered 'clocks,' and thin slippers were 
ornamented with silk rosettes and tiny buckles." 

When in full dress, men wore "dress-coats with enormous 
collars and short waists, well-stuffed white cambric cravats, 
small-clothes, or tight-fitting pantaloons, silk stockings and 

John Quincy Adams is credited with having proposed the 
first toast ever drunk at a dinner in the President's House. 
It was on September 6, 1825 (Lafayette's birthday), when 
Lafayette was the "Nation's guest." Adams rose, and as the 
scarlet-coated Marine Band broke softly into the Marseillaise, 
he bowed to his distinguished guest, saying: "The Twenty- 
Second of February and the Sixth of September." 

To this Lafayette responded gallantly: "The Fourth of 
July, the birthday of liberty in both hemispheres." 

The last New Year's Day party to be given by John Quincy 
and his wife took place on January i, 1829. Mrs. Seaton 
wrote: "On no former occasion have we witnessed a greater 
crowd, nor have we ever seen the annual tributes of good 
feeling offered with more apparent sincerity on the one hand, 
or received with more evident satisfaction and cheerfulness 
on the other. ..." 

The election of Jackson disappointed Adams, and he showed 
it by staying away from Jackson's inauguration ceremonies. 
He left the Executive Mansion on the third of March, 1829. 
The next day, the booming of cannon announcing that Jackson 
had taken the oath of office found Adams, aloof and bitter, 
on a horse, taking his daily ride. 


Old Hickory 

and the Social Whirl 

Andrew Jackson 

Twenty thousand admirers, arriving in everything from 
fringed buckskin and coonskin capes to formal attire, poured 
through the doors of the White House, and when the rooms 
became packed with them they crashed through the windows. 
They wrecked furniture, spilled food on expensive rugs, ripped 
draperies, and even tore one another's clothing as they surged 
forward for a closer glimpse of their hero. 

Andrew Jackson, a frontiersman, simple in heart and man- 
ner, whose military exploits at Talladega, the Horseshoe, 
and New Orleans had made him the idol of the people, had 
generously offered to share his triumph with the nation at a 
reception after his inauguration on March 4, 1829. But the 
new President had not anticipated that his devotees would 
almost tear him limb from limb in their intoxicated demon- 
strations of affection ! Appalled, he finally managed, with the 
help of a cordon of friends, to elude the horde and escape 
through a rear door. Eventually the merrymakers were coaxed 


9O Old Hickory and the Social Whirl 

outside by the device of tubs of punch set up on the lawn. 

Other receptions that took place during Jackson's eight 
years in office were more decorous, although they lacked the 
polish and formality of those of many earlier administrations. 
His wife, Rachel Donelson Robards, whom he married in 
1791, had died three months before he took office, and he 
had little heart for ceremonious entertaining the first year. 
Conscious, however, of his obligations, he delegated the du- 
ties of hospitality to Mrs. Emily Donelson, wife of Major 
Andrew Jackson Donelson, his wife's nephew, whom they 
had adopted as a child. The auburn-haired Emily, who came 
to the Executive Mansion as a raw country girl from Tennes- 
see, developed within a short time into one of the most charm- 
ing and capable of White House hostesses. Her husband be- 
came the President's secretary. 

Major William B. Lewis (a former neighbor and confi- 
dante) and his family also took up residence in the spacious 
Executive Mansion at the request of the lonely President, and 
Major Lewis was made Second Auditor of the Treasury. His 
pretty daughter, Delia, was married in the White House in 
1833 to Alphonse de Pageot, then Secretary of the French 
legation and later French minister to the United States. The 
wedding was notable for its simplicity. Guests were limited to 
members of the diplomatic corps, the President's Cabinet, 
Justices of the Supreme Court, and a few personal friends 
and relatives. 

The popular Mary Easten (a young cousin of Mrs. Jack- 
son's whom she had planned to bring with her to the White 
House, and a great pet of the General's), had been married 
in the mansion in April, 1832, to Lucius J. Polk, a relative 
of James K. Polk. 

Although Andrew Jackson was a soldier, accustomed to the 
privations and hardships of army life, there was nothing spar- 
tan about the food served in the Executive Mansion. An hour 
before dinner, wine and "whets" were placed on a table in 

Courtesy Emily Donelson Payne Cain 

Auburn-haired Mrs. Emily Donelson, the wife of Mrs. Jack sons nephew, 
served as Andrew Jackson s official White House hostess. Rachel Jackson had 
died of angina pectoris three months before her husband took office. 

92 Old Hickory and the Social Whirl 

the Red Room. The meals were prepared by Michael Anthony 
Guista, a French chef whom John Quincy Adams had em- 
ployed in Amsterdam in 1814 and whom he regretfully relin- 
quished when he left the White House. Jackson also brought 
several of his best slaves from the Hermitage. 

Levees were held every other Thursday during the time 
Congress was in session. Mrs. Freemont, daughter of Senator 
Benton of Missouri, who attended one at Jackson's insistence 
when she was quite young, wrote: 

President Jackson at first had suppers at the general receptions, 
but these had to be given up. He had them, however, for his invited 
receptions of a thousand or more. It was his wish that I should come 
to one of these great supper-parties, and I have the beautiful recol- 
lection of the whole stately house adorned and ready for the company 
(for I was taken early and sent home after a very short stay) ; the 
great wood-fires in every room, the immense number of wax lights 
softly burning, the stands of camellias and laurestina banked row 
upon row, the glossy dark-green leaves bringing into full relief their 
lovely wax-like flowers; after going all through this silent waiting 
fairyland, we were taken to the State Dining-Room, where was the 
gorgeous supper-table shaped like a horseshoe, and covered with every 
good and glittering thing French skill could devise, and at either end 
was a monster salmon in waves of meat jelly. 

Meat jelly, or "savory jelly," as it was also known, was a 
great favorite in those days. Indeed, it had often been served 
during Washington's time. The author offers the following 
recipe (taken from Mary Randolph's cookbook) for savory 
or meat jelly, and for "fish a-la-daub": 


Put eight or ten pounds of coarse lean beef, or the same of a fore- 
quarter of veal into a pot with two gallons of water, a pound of lean 
salt pork, three large onions, chopped, three carrots, a large handful 
of parsley and any sweet herb that you choose, with pepper and salt. 
Boil it very gently, reduce to two quarts; strain it through a sieve. 

Andrew Jackson 93 

Next day, take off the fat, turn out the jelly and separate It from the 
dregs at the bottom, put it on the fire with a half pint of white wine, 
a large spoon of lemon pickle and the whites and shells of four eggs 
beaten; when it boils clear on one side, run it through the jelly bag. 


Boil as many large white perch as will be sufficient for the dish; 
do not take off their heads and be careful not to break their skins; 
when cold, place them in the dish, and cover them with savory jelly 
broken. A nice piece of rockfish is excellent done in the same way. 

Mary Randolph also made a blanc mange fish in jelly. In this 
case she used hogs' feet to make a very light-colored and per- 
fectly transparent jelly. 


Fill a deep glass dish half full of jelly; have as many small fish- 
moulds as will lie conveniently in it, fill them with blanc mange; 
when they are cold, and the jelly set, lay them on it as if going in 
different directions; put in a little more jelly, and let it get cold to 
keep the fish in their places, then fill the dish so as to cover them. 

Mrs. Washington's "Goldfish in Jelly" is very similar to 
Mrs. Randolph's, except that she gilded the fish with gold-leaf 
after they were firm and let them dry before adding the jelly. 

During Jackson's eight years in office three children were 
born to his pretty niece. Jackson, who, like his wife Rachel, 
had bemoaned the fact that they had no children of their own, 
welcomed the youngsters with all the affection of a doting 
grandfather. However, they came very near being born in 
Tennessee, for Emily, despite her youth, was strong-willed. 
She clashed with her uncle over the gorgeous and controversial 
Peggy O'Neal, who has gone down in history as the only 
woman ever to wreck a President's Cabinet. 

Peggy O'Neal was the daughter of a Washington tavern- 

94 Old Hickory and the Social Whirl 

keeper who played host to many important members of Con- 
gress. A tavern in those days was similar to a hotel today; 
Peggy, red-haired and beautiful, was a great favorite of the 
boarders, among them John H. Eaton, who was a Senator 
from Tennessee in 1 8 1 8 and took lodging at the O'Neal tav- 
ern. When the Senator first met Peggy she was the wife of 
John Timberlake, a ship's purser. 

During her husband's frequent long absences at sea, Sen- 
ator Eaton escorted the beautiful Peggy to social functions, 
thus stirring up considerable gossip. When, in 1828, Timber- 
lake, then on duty in the Mediterranean, committed suicide 
aboard ship, scandal-mongers laid it to grief over his wife's 
"unfaithfulness." Some biographers reason, u He was short 
in his accounts" ; others, "He could not conquer his habits of 
excessive drinking." 

Whatever the cause, Eaton's continued residence at the tav- 
ern led to accusations that he and Peggy were living together. 
After Timberlake's death the Senator consulted his dearest 
and closest friend, President-elect Andrew Jackson, on the 
propriety of marrying her. 

General Jackson, who had lived at the same tavern five 
years after becoming senator, was quite fond of Peggy. He 
thought her amiable and intellectually above average (she 
had attended Mrs. Hayward's Seminary in Washington and 
Madame Day's School in New York), and had once written 
his wife that Mrs. Timberlake "plays on the piano delightfully 
& every Sunday evening entertains her pious mother with 
Sacred music to which we are invited." He sanctioned the 
marriage, hoping it would be a means of discrediting the ru- 

The wedding took place on January i, 1829. Shortly after- 
ward the President-elect appointed Senator Eaton his Secretary 
of War, thus placing Mrs. Eaton in the highest social circle 
of Washington. The female element of capital society, how- 
ever, refused to accept Peggy, and her own explosive temper 

Andrew Jackson 95 

did nothing to ease the situation. She had accidentally, or 
otherwise, bumped into the wife of a governor at a ball and 
the scene that followed only served to arouse further hostility 
toward her. Mrs. Donelson, out of respect for her uncle, had 
made a courtesy call upon Mrs. Eaton, but flatly refused to 
accept her. Shortly afterward, when Emily became ill on a 
trip down the Potomac and Mrs. Eaton offered her the use 
of her smellling salts, Emily coldly and pointedly refused. 
Peggy rushed to Jackson, who ordered his niece to either ac- 
cept the lady or return to Tennessee. She and her husband re- 
turned to Tennessee. But in about six months Jackson, who 
loved and sadly missed them, asked them to come back. 

By this time the Eaton affair had waxed so intense that 
Martin Van Buren, then Secretary of State, tendered his resig- 
nation as a hint that Eaton do likewise. He complied, after 
first talking it over with his wife. 

President Jackson had felt all along that his enemies, led 
by Vice President John C. Calhoun, were using Mrs. Eaton 
as a political weapon against him, just as they had used attacks 
on his wife's virtue during his Presidential campaign. His 
bitterness and resentment over the treatment which he felt 
had hastened his beloved Rachel's death caused him to cham- 
pion Peggy, who, he was convinced, was the essence of virtue 
and, like Rachel, a political victim. The stalwart old Hero of 
New Orleans, it is reported, often wore a look of pain on his 
thin features at this time, partly, no doubt, due to sufferings 
caused by old war wounds and rheumatism, but partly, too, 
from his sense of betrayal toward those who had slandered his 
wife, an act which he never forgave. Determined not to let his 
enemies triumph, he made Eaton Governor of Florida, and at 
the same time bluntly ordered Secretaries Barry, Branch, and 
Ingham, whose wives were openly hostile to Mrs. Eaton, to 

But Peggy didn't like Florida. She missed the social life of 
the nation's capital, disliked the Florida climate, and found 

96 Old Hickory and the Social Whirl 

herself as strongly ostracized there as she had been in Wash- 
ington. So Jackson appointed Eaton minister to Spain, and 
to everybody's relief Peggy went with him. 

President Jackson's friends celebrated the eighth of Jan- 
uary, 1835, by giving a grand banquet. It was not only the 
anniversary of the battle of New Orleans, but on that day the 
last installment of the national debt had been paid. Colonel 
Benton presided, and when the cloth was removed he delivered 
a speech. "The national debt," he exclaimed, u is paid!" 

General Jackson liked the physical excitement of a horse 
race, and he was always to be seen at the races at the National 
Course, just north of Washington. He also enjoyed cock-fight- 
ing; this was, in fact, one of his favorite home amusements. 

Up to Jackson's time the Washington newspapers con- 
tained very little of what has since then been known as local 
news. A parade, an inauguration, or the funeral of a distin- 
gui'shed person would receive brief mention. The first "Society 
Letters," as they were called, were written from Washington 
by Nathaniel P. Willis to the New York Mirror. Willis also 
introduced to Washington steel pens, made by Joseph Gillott 
at Birmingham, which he brought back from England. Up to 
this time, goose-quill pens had been used exclusively. 

In 1832 Jackson sent Buchanan to the Court of St. Peters- 
burg, in Russia, and in 1834, upon his return, Buchanan called 
at the White House with a charming English lady whom he 
desired to present to the President. Leaving his friend in the 
reception room, Buchanan entered Jackson's private quarters 
and found Old Hickory unshaved, unkempt, in his dressing 
gown, with his slippered feet on the fender before a blazing 
wood fire, smoking a corncob pipe. When Buchanan stated his 
object to Jackson, the General told him he would be very glad 
to meet the lady. But Buchanan, shocked at the idea of the 
President meeting a lady in such attire, asked if the President 
didn't intend to change his costume, whereupon the Old War- 
rior rose, his long pipe in his hand, and, deliberately knocking 

The Smithsonian Institution 

This covered silver bowl owned by President Andrew Jackson, is now in the 
collections of the U, S, National Museum. 

98 Old Hickory and the Social Whirl 

the ashes out of the bowl, said to his friend: "Buchanan, I 
want to give you a little piece of advice, which I hope you will 
remember. I knew a man once who made his fortune by at- 
tending to his own business. Tell the lady I will see her pres- 

Buchanan, who became President in 1856, often stated that 
this remark of Jackson's had humiliated him more than any 
he had ever received. He walked slowly downstairs to meet 
his fair charge, and in a short time President Jackson entered 
the room, attired in a full suit of black, cleanly shaved, with 
his stubborn white hair forced back from his face, and, ad- 
vancing to the beautiful Englishwoman, saluted her with al- 
most kingly grace. As she left the White House she exclaimed 
to her escort, "Your republican President is the royal model 
of a gentleman." 

Andrew Jackson had the knack of winning and keeping 
friends without courting the people. His ''strict integrity, gen- 
erous nature, high honor, military character and history, were 
the chief elements of his prestige," according to one observer. 

Dr. J. C. Hall, a well-known physician in Washington who 
attended General Jackson on several occasions, testified to the 
Old Hero's kindness to everyone, especially his servants. Once, 
when smallpox broke out among them, and nearly everybody 
else fled, the President remained in the White House and 
"waited on black and white with unremitting attention," ac- 
cording to John Forney, in his Anecdotes. 

The following story, titled "Recollections of a character of 
Jackson's time," was written for the Evening Star July 20, 
1901 : 

In the days that are gone, when beauty bright my heart's chain 
wove, when Roger Weightman, Jo. Gales and William W. Seaton 
were mayors of Washington . . . Washington City was "truly rural," 
a "rus in urbe." 

. . . Andrew Goddard, retired dry goods merchant on yth Street 
and the writer were recalling memories of those old times together 

Andrew Jackson 99 

the other day in his handsome home on i8th Street, N.W. Andrew is 
just three weeks and three days younger than the writer, having 
been born on the 4th of March 1829, the date of Andrew Jackson's 
inauguration, after whom he was named AJ. We both recollect 
well the tall Roman nose and bristling pompadour hair, his gray blue 
eyes, fierce as an eagle's and gentle as a lamb's ; bushy eyebrows, gath- 
ered like a gathering storm, and then dispersed like summer clouds 
in smiling sunlight. Yes, "by the eternal," we both remember him. 
We both agreed, too, that it required a lunatic like Randolph to dare 
to lay hold of that Cyrano proboscis and pull it, for which the Gen- 
eral promptly knocked the aggressor down with his hickory shilalah. 

If we remembered Old Hickory, of course we well remember his 
satellite, Jemmy Maher, the gardener. Jemmy was more Irish than 
"the Masther J> whom he adored. Jemmy had a rich brogue and "a 
janius for dhr awing the liquor and a janius for dhrinking it, too." 
Sometimes Jemmy would be rather the worse for it, when it hap- 
pened to get the better of him. After one or two of these occasions 
which had been reported at the White House, with exaggerations no 
doubt, the President reluctantly sent for the culprit. 

"How is this, Jemmy?" began the Executive, with one of his De 
Bergerac scowls. "What is this they are telling me of you, sir? They 
say you are drunk half the time or half drunk all the time, and are 
neglecting your duties, sir. Now, by the eternal " 

"Oh, don't, now, please don't, now, gineral, darling," interrupted 
Maher. "Jist hear me, now, only wan word, and listen to raison. 
Phy does your honor's rivirence pay any attintion to what the blag- 
gards does be spakin' ag'in me? Phy, your honor, gineral, dear, if I 
was to rnoind the laste in the wurreld the dommed lies they does be 
telling me all the time about you, gineral, I wud believe that you 
ought to be hung on a gallows in front of the jail, begad!" 

The brows relaxed and Jemmy was sent back to the trees, flowers 
and shrubbery, which he loved next to the General and his own family. 

Jackson, like all Presidents, past and present, received his 
share of gifts, many of them food in one form or another. 
He had been seven years in office when a constituent sent him 
a cheese weighing fourteen hundred pounds. The President 
ordered it put in the White House cellar for aging and ripen- 
ing. Shortly before going out of office he invited the public 
to share in his gift. Then, as always, the people responded 

loo Old Hickory and the Social Whirl 

with enthusiasm, some coming from as far away as Baltimore 
and Annapolis. 

Shops and offices were closed and all roads led to the White 
House. The jamboree that followed was almost as hectic as 
Jackson's first inaugural reception. The President's rough-and- 
ready admirers practically dedicated the White House in 
cheese! They ground it into the carpets, smeared it on the 
walls and furniture and even on the draperies. When the guests 
finally departed, gorged with cheese, their pockets bulging, 
all that remained besides a state of chaos was the empty 
wooden stand on which the cheese had rested. President-elect 
Martin Van Buren, viewing the debris, grimly determined to 
exclude the public from the Executive Mansion during his ad- 

The White House was modernized during Jackson's admin- 
istration, af a cost of $45,000, For the first time, water was 
piped in spring water from Franklin Park and the East 
Room came into full use. 

The north portico was also finished at this time, and, 
since the south portico had been completed in 1824, this was 
the final step in repairing the destruction wrought by the Brit- 
ish in 1814. 

Library of Congress 

Jackson received, as a gift from a constituent, a cheese weighing fourteen 
hundred pounds. Shortly before going out of office he invited the public in to 
share his gift. This sketch from Perley's Reminiscences indicates the informal 
nature of the affair. 


Keep the Public Out 

Martin Van Euren 

Cheer after cheer went up from the crowds surging up Penn- 
sylvania Avenue on March 4, 1837, as General Jackson, who 
had risen from his sick bed against the advice of his physician, 
came into view, riding at the side of President-elect Van Buren. 
Their carriage was an elegant phaeton constructed of oak from 
the original timber of the frigate Constitution, which had 
been made at Amherst, Massachusetts, and presented to the 
old hero by sixty admirers. 

The sun gleamed on the highly varnished wood and on the 
panels on either side, which represented "Old Ironsides" under 
full sail. Four iron-gray carriage horses, General Jackson's 
own, drew the phaeton from the White House to the Capitol. 

As soon as Van Buren had kissed the Bible, the pledge of 
his acceptance of the powers and responsibilities of his new 
office, General Jackson advanced and shook his hand vigor- 
ously and the Marine Band struck up u Hail to the Chief." 
President Van Buren and ex-President Jackson were then es- 


IO4 Keep the Public Out 

corted back to the White House, through which, for three 
hours, the American public surged. 

At four o'clock in the afternoon the members of the diplo- 
matic corps, in brilliant formal dress, called in a body. Don 
Calderon de la Barca, who at that time was dean of the dip- 
lomats, presented a congratulatory address. In his reply, Van 
Buren made his only known lapsus linguae, according to Per- 
ley in his Reminiscences; he addressed the diplomats as the 
"Democratic Corps." It wasn't until after his attention had 
been directed to his mistake that he corrected himself and 
stated that he had intended to say "Diplomatic Corps." 

In the evening, two inaugural balls kept the overcrowded 
city in a whirl. "There was no rest for the weary limbs that 
night," Perley tells us. The leading hotel was Gadsby's; the 
chief amusement centers were gambling houses and a mediocre 
theater. There were no public halls, except Carusi's. "Visitors 
went from boarding-house to hotel and from hotel to private 
residence, seeking lodgings in vain. 'Beds! Beds! Beds!' was 
the general cry. Hundreds slept in the market-house on bun- 
dles of hay, and a party of distinguished Bostonians passed 
the night in the shaving chairs of a barber shop!" 

In the November following Van Buren's inauguration, his 
eldest son, Colonel Abraham Van Buren, a West Point gradu- 
ate who had served with distinction in the Mexican War, and 
who also served as his father's private secretary, was married 
to Miss Angelica Singleton, daughter of a wealthy South Caro- 
lina planter, Robert Singleton. A relative of Dolly Madison, 
Angelica had been educate'd in Philadelphia and had passed 
the preceding winter in Washington in the family of her rela- 
tive, Senator Preston. 

President Van Buren's wife, Hannah, had died nineteen 
years before his entrance into the White House as our eighth 
President. Angelica fitted as perfectly into her new role as 
White House hostess at the New Year's Day reception in 
1839 as she fitted into the royal-blue velvet gown she wore, 

Library of Congress 

Two inauguration balk were held on March 4, l337> and the city of Wash- 
ington was deluged with visitors unable to find accommodations. This sketch 
from Perley's Reminiscences depicts ee a party of distinguished Bostonians" 
passing the night in a barber shop. 

106 Keep the Public Out 

which may be seen today at the Smithsonian Institution. Hoops 
had come into fashion, and they did full justice to Angelica's 
tiny waist as they billowed out the elegant folds of her ten- 
yard skirt Her "rare accomplishment, superior education, 
beauty of face and figure, grace of manner, and vivacity in 
conversation, assured her social success. " 

During Van Buren's administration, the White House was 
refurnished in the most expensive manner, and a "code of eti- 
quette established which rivalled that of a German principal- 
ity. 7 ' The polar opposite of Andrew Jackson, Van Buren re- 
fused to tolerate what he termed the "offensive scenes" Jack- 
son had endured from his rough-and-ready admirers. Nor 
would he countenance the wear and tear on White House fur- 
niture caused by those previous lusty and inconsiderate guests. 

Hardly had he been in office a week before he ordered the 
Executive Mansion repainted and redecorated (he even had 
the Monroe table service gilded) and the furniture reuphol- 
stered. He discontinued the practice of serving food at public 
receptions, prohibited eating or drinking in the mansion ex- 
cept at the table, and discontinued public receptions, except 
those which fell on New Year's Day and the Fourth of July 
holidays with which even he dared not interfere. 

While his arbitrary methods and keep-the-public-out policy 
roused a storm of protest (which he grandly ignored) it must 
be stated in fairness to Van Buren that he did make an at- 
tempt, in his own fashion, to restore the cordial relations be- 
tween the Administration and top echelons of Washington 
society which had been ruptured during Jackson's tenure. 

He gave numerous small, elaborate dinner parties, at which 
guests were carefully screened for their importance, and made 
it a point to attend dinners given by members of his Cabinet. 
Ex-President John Quincy Adams (then a member of the 
House of Representatives), the widow of President Madison, 
and the widow of Alexander Hamilton each formed the center 
of a pleasant little coterie, and Van Buren often expressed his 

Courtesy National Park Service 

Van Buren , - *". Hi, dau^ter-in-l^ the former Anglic* , ffi 
L, <ctrf ^ to o#*W hoitess. In tto Portrait b, Henry Inman sh, 
a Aurt o/ (Ae President. 

io8 Keep the Public Out 

desire that the members of his Cabinet and their principal 
subordinates each give a series of intimate dinner parties and 
evening receptions during, the successive sessions of Congress. 

The city on the Potomac, which had by now grown to a 
population of forty thousand, was intensely cold during the 
winter holidays of 1839. The streets and avenues were mis- 
erably lighted and almost impassable. Even in good weather 
travel was difficult on the swampy, rutted roads, but now 
"Snow lay deep on the ground; sleighs were the ordinary con- 
veyances; Senators and Congressmen generally huddled into 
ordinary boarding houses, in which a sort of Gipsy life was led. 
The only creditable buildings were the Capitol, the President's 
house and the Departments," wrote John Forney, a newspaper 
publisher and editor. The dinners added a needed sparkle to 
a cheerless city, but they were oh, so much alike ! according 
to one eyewitness guests at different houses often saw the 
same table ornaments and were served by the same waiters, 
while the fare was prepared by the same cook! 

Van Buren saw to it that the food served at the White 
House table, prepared by his own London-trained chef, was 
unexcelled. The table itself was often a work of art. He took 
a fancy to Monroe's mirrored plateau, which Jackson had rele- 
gated to a storeroom, and had it gilded at a cost of seventy-five 
dollars. He used the matching Monroe candelabra and fruit 
epergnes, and added supplementary compotiers and bonbon- 
meres. His flatware was gold plate; goblets, wine glasses, and 
water bottles were of finest cut glass. Guests dipped their fin- 
gers in emerald-green glass finger bowls and wiped them on 
the finest of linen napkins. 

Van Buren's extravagance, his bold steps in practically 
eliminating the public from the Executive Mansion, and his 
ostentatious display of elegance in the trying times of the new 
nation's financial panic, cost him his reelection and led the way, 
in 1840, to the election of another soldier-hero, William 
Henry Harrison. 


President for a Month 

William Henry and Anna Harrison 

The day of William Henry Harrison's inauguration, March 
4, 1841, dawned cold and cloudy. William Henry was the 
third son of Benjamin Harrison, one of the signers of the 
Declaration of Independence. His military genius at Tippe- 
canoe and at the Battle of the Thames had brought him nation- 
wide fame, and he was swept into the Presidency on a wave of 
enthusiasm which roared, "Tippecanoe and Tyler too 1" 

The crowds waiting to cheer the inauguration of the new 
President shivered in the blasts of a chilly northeast wind 
sweeping through the streets of the capital city. Harrison, 
without an overcoat, refused the closed carriage, presented 
by the Whigs of Baltimore and drawn by four horses, which 
would have given him protection against the elements. Rather 
than disappoint the throngs waiting to see him, he insisted 
upon riding his splendid white charger up Pennsylvania Ave- 
nue to the Capitol. 

"Tippecanoe" made a dashing figure indeed in his full-dress 


1 10 President for a Month 

uniform skin-tight white breeches, highly polished black 
boots, and a cocked hat which he waved to the crowd with 
one hand while managing his spirited mount with the other. 
The crowds cheered the old hero lustily. At his right, slightly 
to the rear, rode Major Hurst, who had been his aide-de- 
camp at the Battle of the Thames. Colonel Todd, another 
aide-de-camp, rode in a similar position at the left. 

The General, who delivered his inaugural address standing 
bareheaded, without overcoat or gloves, facing the cold north- 
east wind, spoke until two o'clock one and a half hours. 
Only one thing marred the ceremonies: the new President 
had caught a slight cold. The cold might not have become 
serious had not the sixty-four-year-old Chief Executive in- 
sisted upon going through with the inaugural reception with 
the widowed Jane Finley Harrison, his charming daughter-in- 
law who acted as his official hostess. There were three inau- 
gural balls that night, the price of admission suiting different 

Mrs. Harrison, who was an invalid, had decided not to come 
to Washington for her husband's inauguration; she had pre- 
viously lived in the capital city, when Harrison had served 
as Senator from Ohio, and had not been in favor of her hus- 
band's accepting the rigorous role of President of the United 

Despite the heavy cold that persisted, the ninth President 
found his first two weeks in office busy ones. Ambitious and 
energetic, he insisted upon rising early and doing his own mar- 
keting. Invariably, he refused to wear an overcoat, although 
the weather that spring continued cold and stormy. One rainy 
morning, when he was out marketing as usual, he was caught 
in a sudden shower and came back to the White House sop- 
ping wet. On March 27 he was forced to take to his bed; the 
cold had turned into pneumonia. 

He died eight days later, exactly one month from the day 
he was sworn in. At the time of his death he could not know 

William Henry Harrison rode his white charffer to the Capital instead of 
taking the protection from the elements offered by a closed carnage. He felt 
he owed it to the crowds to let himself be seen. Above, the scene at his 
inaugural address. 

^ v^lc;l|^^^i 

112 President for a Month 

that his little grandson, Benjamin (Harrison was the father 
of ten children), was destined to become the twenty-third 
President of the United States. 

The successor to William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, 
was the first Vice President to succeed to the Presidency 
through the death of the Chief Executive. 


Southern Hospitality 

The John Tylers 

Mint juleps and eggnog were the order of the day when 
John Tyler, more beloved for his Southern hospitality than 
for his politics, moved into the White House as the tenth 
President of the United States. His wife, the former Letitia 
Christian of New Kent County, Virginia, whom he had mar- 
ried on his twenty-third birthday, had been an invalid for three 
years ; the only time she appeared at a White House function 
as official hostess was when their third daughter, the beautiful 
blond Elizabeth, was married to William Waller in the East 
Room on January 31, 1842. Mrs. Robert Tyler, daughter- 
in-law of the President, wrote a description of the wedding: 

Lizzie had quite a grand wedding although the intention was that 
it should he quiet and private. This, under the circumstances though, 
was found impossible. The guests consisted of Mrs. Madison, Cabinet 
members, foreign ministers and some personal friends. 

Lizzie looked surprisingly lovely in her wedding dress and long 

114 Southern Hospitality 

lace veil, her face literally covered with blushes and dimples. She be- 
haved remarkably well, too. Any quantity of compliments were paid 
her. I heard one of her bridesmaids express to Mr. Webster her 
surprise at Lizzie consenting to give up her belleship, with all the de- 
lights of Washington society and the advantage of her position, and 
retire to a quiet Virginia home. "Ah!" said he, 

"Love rules the court, the camp, and the grove. 
And love is heaven and heaven is love." 

The new First Lady had suffered a paralyzing stroke in 
1839, from which she never fully recovered. According to her 
daughter-in-law, however, she was still beautiful, with skin as 
"smooth and soft as a baby's" and "sweet, loving black eyes." 
She was, moreover, "gentle and graceful in her movements, 
with an air of native refinement." 

Mrs. Tyler had her own private quarters in the White 
House, and spent her days quietly, seeing only her devoted 
family and relatives who sometimes came to the capital city 
to see her. She received few other visitors, and returned no 
calls. Shortly after Lizzie's marriage Letitia suffered another 
stroke. She died in the White House on September 10, and 
though she was so little known, there were few dry eyes at 
her funeral services on the afternoon of September 12, 1842. 
Letitia Tyler was laid to rest in her family plot in Virginia. 

During his wife's illness, President Tyler asked his sprightly 
and charming daughter-in-law, Mrs. Robert Tyler, daughter 
of Thomas A. Cooper and the former Miss Mary Fairlie of 
Philadelphia who was a belle in her own right and justly 
celebrated for the sparkle of her wit to act as his official 
White House hostess. It is said that Mrs. Robert Tyler en- 
joyed her role in the Executive Mansion. She particularly en- 
joyed meeting celebrities who called at the White House, 
among them the famous English author, Charles Dickens, 
who was visiting America for the first time. Though she de- 
scribed Daniel Webster as u the almost awful-looking Mr. 
Webster," she found him a witty conversationalist. 

The John Tylers 115 

Something of her irresistible verve and charm is reflected in 
the following delightful letter which she wrote to her sister: 

What wonderful changes take place, my dearest M ! Here am I, 
nee Priscilla Cooper (nez retrousse you will perhaps think), actually 
living in, and, what is more, presiding at the White House! I look 
at myself, like the little old woman, and exclaim, "Can this be I?" 
I have not had one moment to myself since my arrival, and the most 
extraordinary thing is that I feel as if I had been used to living here 
always, and receive the cabinet Ministers, the Diplomatic Corps, the 
heads of the Army and Navy, etc., etc., with a facility which aston- 
ishes me. 

"Some achieve greatness, some are born to it." I am plainly bom to 
it. I really do possess a degree of modest assurance that surprises me 
more than it does any one else. 1 am complimented on every side; my 
hidden virtues are coming out. I am considered "charmante" by the 
Frenchmen, "lovely" by the Americans, and "Really quite nice, you 
know," by the English. ... I have had some lovely dresses made, 
which fit me to perfection one a pearl-colored silk that will set you 
crazy. ... I occupy poor General Harrison's room. . . . The nice 
comfortable bedroom with its handsome furniture and curtains, its 
luxurious arm-chairs, and all its belongings, I enjoy, I believe, more 
than anything in the establishment. 

The pleasantest part of my life is when I can shut myself up here 
with my precious baby. . . . The greatest trouble I anticipate is pay- 
ing visits. There was a doubt at first whether I must visit in person 
or send cards; but I asked Mrs. Madison's advice upon the subject, 
and she says, return all my visits by all means. Mrs. Bache says so 
too. So three days in the week I am to spend three hours a day driving 
from one street to another in this city of magnificent distances. . . . 
I see so many great men and so constantly that I cannot appreciate 
the blessing! The fact is, when you meet them in everyday life, you 
forget they are great men at all, and just find them the most charming 
companions in the world, talking the most delightful nonsense, espe- 
cially the almost awful-looking Mr. Webster, who entertains me with 
the most charming gossip. 

Tyler's daughter, Letitia, who had remained at her mother's 
bedside in the first year and a half of the Tyler administration, 
was quite young when her mother died, but she assumed many 

Ii6 Southern Hospitality 

of the duties of hostess. Here is Letitia Semple's description 
of the simpler side of White House life: 

We breakfasted at eight-thirty and dined at three o'clock, except 
on state occasions, of course, and had tea served after our daily drive, 
to escape from all the environments of political and social cares and 
duties, because my father's time was rarely his own. . . . "Now, 
sing, Letty," he would say when we found ourselves far from the 
mad crowd, enjoying the quiet of some country road. And then I 
would sing his favorite songs, the old Scotch ballads we both loved 
so well. 

Tyler's household would sometimes gather in the Green 
Room for piano music and old-fashioned songs. John Tyler 
has the distinction of being, up to that time, the only President 
who composed music. He wooed Julia Gardiner with a sere- 
nade he wrote for her entitled, u Sweet Lady, Awake." 

Miss Gardiner had corne to Washington with her father to 
enjoy the social whirl of the capital after touring Europe. 
The Gardiners were impressed by their reception at the White 
House, where the "tall, slender President, with the noble Ro- 
man profile" greeted them most amiably. Julia recalled that 
he "welcomed us with an urbanity which made the deepest 
impression upon my father, and we could not help comment- 
ing . . . upon the silvery sweetness of his voice, that seemed 
in ... tune with the incomparable grace of his bearing and 
the elegant ease of his conversation." The widowed Presi- 
dent was almost instantly smitten with Julia's charms. He con- 
sidered her "the most lovely of her sex ... the most beauti- 
ful woman of the age, and . . . the most accomplished." 

Julia did not at first succumb to the President's romantic 
overtures, but tragedy hastened the courtship. Under the com- 
mand of R. F. Stockton, who in February, 1844, had invited 
a large number of important people to make a trial run on 
the brand-new U.S.S. Princeton, this first screw-propeller 
steamship for the Navy sailed down the Potomac. The National 



C .a 
Z -i" 


^ s^ 


o k 

n8 Southern Hospitality 

Intelligencer of February 29 gives this account of the trip: 

The day was most favorable, and the company was large and bril- 
liant, of both sexes, around four hundred of them, including the 
President, heads of departments and their families. . . . Some dis- 
tance below Fort Washington one of the large guns (known as the 
Peacemaker) was fired more than once, exhibiting the great power 
and capacity of that formidable weapon of war. The ladies had par- 
taken of a sumptuous repast, the gentlemen had succeeded them at the 
table, and some of them had left it; the vessel was on her return up 
the river, opposite the Fort, where Captain Stockton consented to fire 
another shot from the same gun, around and near which to observe 
its effects many persons had gathered, though by no means so many 
as on similar discharges in the morning, the ladies who then thronged 
the deck, being on this fatal occasion almost all between decks and out 
of reach of harm. 

The gun was fired. It exploded and before the smoke cleared away, 
shrieks announced a dire calamity. The gun had burst at a point three 
OT four feet from the breech and scattered death and desolation 
around. Mr. Upshur, Secretary of State; Mr. Gilmer, head of Navy; 
Commodore Kennon, an officer; Virgil Maxcy, diplomat at The 
Hague; Mr. Gardiner, ex-state senator of New York were among the 
slain; seventeen seamen were wounded. 

Tyler himself escaped injury because he was detained 
by some toast drinking below deck. (He liked champagne). 

Four months later, on June 26, 1844, John Tyler and Julia 
Gardiner were married in New York. The wedding remained 
a secret until the couple arrived at the White House. (Tyler 
had children older than his bride he was fifty-four and she 
was twenty-four.) 

President Tyler was happier in his married life than in his 
executive life. Shortly after he became Chief Executive he fell 
out of favor with the Whigs; they read him out of the party, 
and the Democrats refused to take him back. He became a 
"President without a party." He was so unpopular, in fact, 
that when a 'flu epidemic swept the country it was called the 
"Tyler Grippe." 

Courtesy National Park Service 

Four months after the death of her father on the V.S.S. Princeton, Julia 
Gardiner married President Tyler. This portrait by F. Anelli was done some 
twenty years later. 

I2O Southern Hospitality 

John Tyler had fourteen children, seven by each of his 
wives certainly the most prolific of all the nation's Presi- 
dents. His youngest child was born when Tyler was seventy 
years old. 

The following, from an old newspaper clipping not identi- 
fied by name or date, gives us an intimate glimpse into Tyler's 
times : 

"I've heard all the inaugurals from Folk's up to Grant's first," 
said Mr. Robins. . . . "My first winter in Washington was Mr. 
Tyler's last winter, in the winter of '44~'45, the winter that Mr. 
Tyler's beautiful and graceful second wife was the lady of the Execu- 
tive Mansion. ... I remember one little incident that occurred there 
at the time. The polka dance (introduced in Bohemia in 1830) 
had just been introduced into this country. A young married couple, 
named Bergh, who were friends of Mrs. Tyler's and who had just 
returned from Europe, consented, after a great deal of persuasion, 
to give the guests present at one of Mrs, Tyler's receptions an idea 
of the dance. They danced the polka in the center of the East Room." 

During the Tyler administration, Christmas was the popu- 
lar season. There was scarcely a house in Washington in which 
there was not a well-filled punch bowl. In some antique silver 
bowls was "Daniel Webster Punch," made of Medford rum, 
brandy, champagne, arrack meqschino, strong green tea, lemon 
juice, and sugar. In less expensive bowls was found a cheaper 
concoction. But punch abounded everywhere, and the "bibu- 
lous found Washington a rosy place, where jocund mirth and 
joyful recklessness went arm in arm to flount vile melancholy, 
and kick, with ardent fervor, dull care out of the window, " 
according to the inexhaustible Reminiscences of Perley, 

Although assemblies were held once a week between Christ- 
mas Day and Ash Wednesday, members of the Cabinet and 
other high officials expected to give at least one evening party 
during each session of Congress. Edna Colman, in Seventy- 
five Years of White House Gossip, gives us this happy pic- 
ture of the festivities: 

Library, of Co 

122 Southern Hospitality 

Guests assembled about eight o'clock, the younger portion devoting 
themselves to dancing, while the punch bowl attracted the older ones. 
A piano and two violins were considered a sufficient orchestra and 
one of the musicians called out the figures. At ten o'clock guests were 
invited to supper, which was often served on the back porches. Tables 
were always loaded with substantial good things, and the popular 
dainty reception menu of today would never have passed muster with 
either hostess or guests. Quantity and variety were the order in pro- 
viding the refreshments. A roast ham was usually found at one end 
of the tables, with a saddle of venison or some other heavy roast at 
the other, roast wild ducks or poultry being placed about midway. 
Quantities of homebaked cakes and puddings, with plenty of punch 
and madeira wine, were always on hand. The diplomats served cham- 
pagne. Eleven o'clock was the signal for a general scramble for hats 
and wraps. 

The second Mrs. John Tyler took her new position as First 
Lady seriously. She is said to have received guests in "almost 
regal splendor," ostentatiously seated on no less than a dais. 
Washington society, intrigued and openly amused at "her 
large armchair on a slightly raised platform in front of the 
windows opening to the circular piazza looking on the river" 
. . . and at the "three feathers in the First Lady's hair, 
and her long-trained purple gown," raised its eyebrows and 
whispered. Because Julia Tyler "drove four horses- 2 finer 
horses than those of the Russian Minister" one Washington 
newspaper wrote an open satire about "the lovely lady Presi- 
dentess . . . attended on reception days by twelve maids of 
honor, six on either side, dressed all alike . . ." while "her 
serene loveliness received upon the raised platform, with a 
headdress formed of bugles and resembling a crown. . . ." 

The President found to his discomfiture that his political 
opponents took advantage of his eager bride's lofty and some- 
what pretentious attitude to ridicule him in public. Julia Tyler's 
heady triumph was cut short, however, by the end of her hus- 
band's single term in office. He was succeeded by James K. 
Polk, eleventh President of the United States. 


No Dancing, Cards, or 

James and Sarah Polk 

Carriages had been barred from the Capitol grounds on the 
assumption that the day would be fair. Instead, it poured, 
and Washington officialdom and diplomats, their splendid 
uniforms ruined, their plumes wet and bedraggled, suffered 
along with the crowds hidden under umbrellas in the plaza 

The inauguration of James Knox Polk, eleventh President 
of the United States, was a complete washout in more ways 
than one, as far as the public was concerned. The President- 
elect, who was certainly no orator, read his speech in a monot- 
onous voice; few of the assembled people, listening in the 
dripping rain, could see or hear him. 

That night, March 4, 1845, Washington celebrated with 
two inaugural balls for the new President the price of tickets 
for one was ten dollars, for the other, two dollars. Both balls, 
however, lacked the gaiety and sparkle that usually charac- 
terized these fetes, for the new First Lady, whose Spanish- 


1 24 No Dancing, Cards, or Frivolities 

type beauty belied her strict Calvinistic upbringing, had a de- 
cided antipathy to alcohol, dancing, and other such frivolities. 

The dancing, which had already begun, came to an abrupt 
halt when the strains of "Hail to the Chief," played by the 
Marine Band, announced the arrival of the President and his 
wife. Sarah Childress Polk was strikingly attractive in a gown 
of heavy white silk, which set off her dark charm. She swept 
proudly into the room with her husband, secure in his triumph. 
Four years ago he had been defeated in his campaign for elec- 
tion to the Vice Presidency; now, she felt, he was vindicated. 

The new First Lady's ban on vain frivolities did not extend 
to the sartorial area; her usual style of dress was rich, even 
magnificent, and always expensive. She had come from a fam- 
ily of well-to-do merchants and was thus able to afford the 
elaborate materials she liked to fashion into her stunning 
wardrobe. The Presidential couple stayed at the inaugural 
ball about two hours just long enough to greet the guests. 
After they left, dancing was resumed. 

Sarah Polk, while she would not permit dancing or card 
playing at the White House, did everything else she could 
to make her husband's administration popular. At one of her 
receptions a gentleman is reported to have remarked: "Mad- 
ame, you have a very genteel assemblage tonight." The First 
Lady, who presided over all functions with great dignity, re- 
plied with perfect good humor: "Sir, I have never seen it 

Polk took his presidential duties seriously. Described as "a 
short man with a long program," he came into office when 
the country's relations with Mexico were strained. Two years 
later the United States and Mexico were at war. Until that 
time, however, the President felt that the taxpayers were en- 
titled to as much of his time as he could give them. Every 
reception, every levee, meant longer hours, sometimes working 
far into the night to make up for lost time. Mrs. Polk, the 
first White House mistress to act as her husband's private sec- 

Library of Congress 

In Folk's administration the White House was noted for its ff genteel assem- 
blages'' According to this sketch from Perley's Reminiscences, a livelier spirit 
prevailed at the Inaugural Ball held at the National Theater tickets two 
dollars on March 4, 184$. 

126 No Dancing, Cards, or Frivolities 

retary, frequently assisted him. Brilliant as well as beautiful, 
she was said to have a keener political sense than her indus- 
trious husband. 

Nonetheless, she did not neglect her own official duties. She 
held two informal receptions every week on Tuesday and 
Friday night in what has been described as the "parlour." 
Guests usually numbered about fifty persons and included dip- 
lomats, Cabinet officers, and members of the House and Senate. 
Public levees were dull, guests having to content themselves 
with promenading up and down the East Room and chatting 
with friends. No food, not even punch, was served. 

The one bright spot in the entertainment was the presence 
of the still irresistible Dolly Madison, now in her eighties. 
Her fortune gone, spent on a profligate son, she appeared in 
the same black dress and turban, and was treated with defer- 
ence by both the President and his wife. She continued to take 
snuff, and still loved to play cards and to waltz. When a fire 
almost destroyed her husband's papers Congress suddenly 
awakened to the fact that they were of historical value and 
bought them for $25,000, which Dolly had been trying to 
make them do for years. 

The money meant that Mrs. Madison could blossom forth 
in new finery, which she promptly did. When, on February 9, 
1849, ^e President and Mrs. Polk gave a reception in her 
honor, Dolly was there in her customary decolletage and tur- 
ban. According to eyewitnesses, her arms and shoulders were 
still beautiful at eighty-two. Resplendent in white satin, she 
received with the First Lady, seated on a dais. She left the re- 
ception on the President's arm shortly after midnight. 

Folk's last year in office, 1848, was notable for three his- 
toric events: the United States acquired from Mexico the 
territory comprising California, Nevada, Utah, most of New 
Mexico, and parts of Arizona, Nevada, and Wyoming, as 
well as recognition of Texas as a possession; gold was dis- 
covered in California ; and gas lighting was introduced into 

The Smithsonian Institution 

This dessert plate, representative of the china in use during the Polk admin- 
istration, is in the collections of the U. S. National Museum. It is white, with 
a mauve pink band. 

128 No Dancing, Cards, or Frivolities 

the White House. Mrs. Polk was, however, partial to the ex- 
quisite chandelier for candles in the reception hall, and re- 
fused to give them up. 

Sarah Folk's last months in the White House were spent 
planning the purchase of a home in Nashville which she and 
the President named "Folk's Ease." Her husband had come 
into office at the age of forty-nine, the youngest President to 
date; his wife was eight years younger. Nevertheless, con- 
vinced there would be no second term, they had determined 
to retire after he went out of office. 

On March I, 1849, they gave a dinner party for the Presi- 
dent-elect, General Zachary Taylor. Members of both politi- 
cal parties were invited, and the dinner is said to have been 
livelier than any of those preceding. 

The Polks left the Executive Mansion on March 3, at sun- 
set, Mrs. Polk leaving behind a reputation of goodness and 
stability that in a less comely woman would have been mere 

Polk died at the age of fifty-three, worn out from overwork 
and excessive fatigue, three months after leaving office. The 
beloved Dolly Madison, one of the grand old ladies of the 
time and one of the greatest of White House hostesses, sur- 
vived him by twenty-seven days. 


Grandma and Her Corncob Pipe 

Zachary and Margaret Taylor 

The inaugural ball of 1849 that heralded President Zachary 
Taylor a sixty-four-year-old professional soldier known as 
"Old Rough and Ready" and a hero of the Mexican War 
was described by Washington society reporters as one of the 
most brilliant affairs the capital city had ever witnessed. 

Held in a specially-built structure located in Judiciary Square 
(where the old Pension Building now stands), it was a gather- 
ing of beautiful women magnificently gowned and jeweled, 
diplomats in foreign costume, and hundreds of others who 
gladly paid ten dollars (a large sum in those days!) for the 
privilege of being present. 

The only blight on the festivities was the hot wax that 
dripped from the chandeliers onto the clothes of the dancers, 
though even this jarring note inspired one society reporter to 
write: "One man danced elegantly in such good time to Gun- 
gle's exquisite strains that the drops of candle grease falling 
on his coat looked like notes of music properly arranged!" 


130 Grandma and Her Corncob Pipe 

The new First Lady, Margaret Mackall Smith Taylor, a 
descendant of a fine old Maryland family, was a frail little 
woman who smoked a corncob pipe and preferred the quiet 
of her Baton Rouge home to the demands of social Washing- 
ton. Worn out with the strain of moving from one military 
post to another while rearing a family, Margaret, who was 
sixty-three when her husband entered the White House 
(against her wishes), lost no time in relegating the role of 
official hostess to her pretty young daughter, affectionately 
called "Betty" by members of the family. 

Betty was twenty-two, and the wife of Major W. W. S, 
Bliss, when she took over the reins as official hostess. She was 
an excellent housekeeper, and while the First Lady sat pa- 
tiently in her room, busy with her knitting or smoking her 
corncob pipe, Betty ran the Executive Mansion; she secured 
new furniture and carpeting. Preeminently qualified for the 
position by a "certain quietude of manner, which foreigners 
say American women are deficient in" according to Society 
of Washington (March 27, 1875) Betty was beautiful and 
had "perfect taste in dress, but that was not her greatest 
charm. She had that je ne sals quoi, that knowledge of how to 
be just cordial enough, and not too cordial, Never has the 
White House had a gentler, sweeter mistress!" 

In addition to her appearances at state dinners, weekly 
morning receptions, and large and frequent public entertain- 
ments, Betty presided over delightful little tea parties at 
which a succession of colored waiters carried trays heaped 
with varieties of homemade cakes and tarts. The beaux sup- 
plied the belles, according to one reporter, and were adroit at 
balancing a well-loaded plate on one knee while holding a cup 
and saucer on the other. 

Betty's older sister, Sarah, who had married the influential 
Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, had died of typhoid 
three months after her marriage. Both the President and his 
wife were very fond of their son-in-law, who was later to be- 

Library of Congress 

The original caption of this sketch, taken from Perley's Reminiscences, it 
simply, "Tea-party in Taylor's Time." 

132 Grandma and Her Corncob Pipe 

come President of the Confederate States of America, and 
when he married a second time, his wife was given a warm 
welcome as a member of the family. She attended many of 
the Taylors' small dinner parties (which the President pre- 
ferred to larger ones) and, according to biographers, took 
an animated part in the conversation. 

Zachary Taylor had spent his youth in the frontier wilder- 
ness of Kentucky and had little formal schooling or knowledge 
of White House protocol, so he sometimes found it difficult 
to accustom himself to the etiquette and the restraints of his 
new position. One day when the bachelor ex-Secretary of State 
called to present a number of fair Pennsylvania friends to the 
President, General Taylor is said to have remarked, "Ah! 
Mr. Buchanan, you always pick out the prettiest ladies!" 

"Why, Mr. President, " was the courtly reply, "I know that 
your taste and mine agree in that respect. " 

"Yes," said General Taylor, "but I've been so long among 
warriors that I hardly know how to behave myself, surrounded 
by so many lovely women!" 

The bitter political discussions engendered by the threat of 
Civil War in the first six months of 1850 put a damper on 
Washington's social whirl; though the customary receptions 
at the White House and dances at hotels were given, there 
were few large parties. The President's first levee, however, 
created considerable interest when a delegation of six Osage 
Indians chose to attend in costume. Zachary Taylor's last pub- 
lic entertainments included the annual New Year's Day func- 
tion of 1850 and a spectacular reception on March 4 of the 
same year to mark the anniversary of his inauguration. 

For relaxation the President took morning walks through 
the streets of Washington, wearing a high black hat perched 
on the back of his head and a suit of black broadcloth much 
too large for him. The suit was made according to his orders 
and he was a man who put comfort before style. 

The First Lady, who, as we have remarked, preferred the 

Library of Congress 

"President On the Str eet ." From Perl ^ Reminiscences 

134 Grandma and Her Corncob Pipe 

seclusion of her apartment and the comfort of her knitting 
and corncob pipe to public life, nevertheless saw to it that 
neither her husband nor her household was neglected, and 
often would listen, smilingly, as old "Rough and Ready" re- 
counted the day's happenings to her over a cup of tea. 

Zachary Taylor's last public appearance was on July 4, 
1850, when he accepted an invitation to sit on the platform 
on what is now known as the Washington Monument grounds 
for the big Independence Day celebration. The July sun beat 
down on the monument, then in process of construction; its 
cornerstone had been laid two years before by James K. Polk. 
Overcome by heat, the President returned to the White House 
and, according to his biographers, ate cherries and drank u iced 
milk" against the advice of his physician. A vivid description 
of his last days is given by Perley in his Reminiscences: 

The old hero sat in the sun at the Washington Monument during 
a long spread-eagle address by Senator Foote, with a tedious supple- 
mentary harangue by Geo. Washington Parke Custis exposed to 
heat nearly three hours. He had drunk freely of ice-water, and on 
his return to the White House had found a basket of cherries which 
he partook heartily, drinking at the same time several goblets of iced 
milk. After dinner, he still further feasted on cherries and iced milk 
against the protest of Dr. Witherspoon, who was his guest. When the 
time arrived to go to the Winthrop party, he felt ill and soon was 
seized with a violent attack of cholera morbus. This was on Thurs- 
day. On Sunday, he is reported to have said to his physician: "In two 
days I shall be a dead man." 

Whether the iced milk and cherries had anything to do with 
President Taylor's illness is not established, but he was vio- 
lently ill for five days before he died on the ninth of July. 

Only sixteen months after Zachary Taylor took his oath, 
Vice President Millard Fillmore was sworn in on July 10, 
1850 as the thirteenth President of the United States. Mrs. 
Taylor and the nation were in mourning; she was to follow her 
husband in death two years later. 


Regime of Conveniences 

Millard and Abigail Fillmore 

Millard Fillmore's administration (July, 1850 March, 1853) 
may well be called the "regime of conveniences," for he was 
the first President to have an iron cookstove, the first to have 
a bathtub with "centrally heated" running water, and the first 
to have a library in the White House. 

u Fo' de Lawd's sake, Mistah Fillmo' I" protested his Negro 
chef, who had prepared state dinners for thirty-six persons in 
the big kitchen's open fireplace, u who cu'd cook on sich a con- 
traptshun as dat?" The cook's sentiments were echoed by the 
public. One writer declared : 

The fireplace of a kitchen is a matter of great importance and I 
have never been so circumstanced as to witness the operations of many 
of the newly-invented steam kitchens and cooking apparatuses which 
the last twenty years have produced. . . . To say the truth, the inven- 
tors of cast iron stoves seem to me to have had every other object in 
view but the promoting of good cooking, and I am sure that meat can- 
not be roasted unless it is before a good fire. 


136 Regime of Conveniences 

But the President was adamant, although he himself had to 
engineer the drafts during the cooking of the first meal on the 
new "contraptshun." 

The zinc-lined mahogany bathtub, supplied with running 
water from a new hot water heating furnace, was the u last 
word" in 1853, although Andrew Jackson is thought to have 
had the very first installed bathtub in' the mansion. Water had 
been piped in from a spring in Franklin Park in 1833, supply- 
ing the President with "warm, cold and shower baths." Four 
years later, in Van Buren's administration, a reservoir was 
constructed in the basement and a pump supplied the kitchen, 
pantry, baths, and water closets with "fine, pure water. " Be- 
fore Jackson's time, portable tubs were used; the Madisons 
had a green tin tub (cost $30) in the basement. 

President Fillmore was in the White House when the power 
of the temperance movement, already well under way in Eu- 
rope, began to be felt in the United States. He himself was 
so "anti-alcohol" that he avoided hotels which served liquor. 
The Woman's Christian Temperance Union was not to be 
established for another twenty years, but already there were 
organizations of various kinds working all over the country. 
Fillmore was also anti-tobacco and anti-gambling. On Sundays 
the White House was closed to all visitors, and the family at- 
tended church, rested, and meditated. 

There is no record of any protest when Congress gave Mrs. 
Fillmore an appropriation of five thousand dollars for installa- 
tion of the first White House library in the second-floor Oval 
Room. The President's blue-eyed, auburn-haired wife, the 
daughter of the Reverend Lemuel Powers, a Baptist clergy- 
man, was a talented musician she played the piano, harp, and 
guitar and had been a schoolteacher; she was shocked to 
find that the White House not only lacked a library but had 
neither a Bible nor a dictionary ! Her distress was communi- 
cated to Congress, which gallantly supplied the necessary 
funds for correcting the deplorable situation. 

The Smithsonian Institution 

138 Regime of Conveniences 

Abigail Fillmore, who had not been present when her hus- 
band was sworn into office in July, 1850, had little heart for 
the duties her new position as First Lady demanded. Her 
health was delicate; also, a short time before the inaugura- 
tion, her sister, of whom she was extremely fond, had died. 
She soon managed to relegate many of her official duties to 
her daughter, Mary Abigail, named for her great-aunt, Abi- 
gail Adams. 

Mary Abigail, just eighteen, was pretty and musical; she 
had her own piano and harp, which were kept in the Oval 
Room (the Fillmores used the Oval Room as a sitting room) . 
She spoke fluent French, had youth's love of parties, and 
gladly took over from her mother such duties as calling and 
making public appearances. 

Mrs. Fillmore, however, was no recluse. She was quite 
aware of the requirements of her position, and did her valiant 
best to meet them. Years before, she had permanently injured 
an ankle in a fall ; this made standing for long hours painful. 
To enable herself to go through the strain of the receptions 
held every Tuesday morning and the drawing-rooms that took 
place every Friday evening when Congress was in session, she 
remained in bed several hours before each event. She man- 
aged to be present at many of the large dinner parties given 
Thursday evenings in the State Dining Room, and at the small 
dinners on Saturday in the private dining room, over which 
she presided with queenly grace. 

Fillmore, an astute politician and a man who did what he 
believed to be right regardless of the consequences, soon sur- 
rounded himself with a competent Cabinet: he appointed 
John P. Kennedy Secretary of the Navy; Edward Everett 
Secretary of State; Charles M. Conrad Secretary of War; 
Thomas Corwin Secretary of the Treasury; Alexander H. H. 
Stuart Secretary of the Interior; Samuel D. Hubbard Post- 
master General; and John J. Crittenden Attorney General. 
The thirteenth President of the United States knew he had 

140 Regime of Conveniences 

little chance of reelection. He and his wife nonetheless made 
the White House a home. 

They liked to have their friends around them, and shortly 
before Christmas, 1850, the President invited his former law 
partner, Solomon G. Haven of Buffalo, to spend the holidays 
at the Executive Mansion. u We have just one spare room in 
this temple of inconvenience," he wrote, u neatly fitted up 
and just the thing for you and Mrs. H. n The Havens ac- 
cepted and Mrs. Haven, in a letter to a friend, remarked that 
"The President usually succeeded in leaving the Executive 
chamber at 10:30 at night and spending a pleasant hour in the 
library with his family." 

Fillmore is said to have set a record in courtesy toward an 
incoming President. He invited the President-elect, Franklin 
Pierce, to accompany him to a lecture given by the noted Eng- 
lish author, William Makepeace Thackeray. Later he took 
Pierce and Henry Irving on a trip down the Potomac on the 
Vixen for a look at the new steamship Ericsson. Still later, he 
and Mrs. Fillmore entertained both writers at dinner, fol- 
lowed by a reception. 

Messrs. Thackeray and Irving also attended Pierce's inau- 
gural ceremonies as guests of the Fillmores, and afterward 
helped the new President receive. 

The day was bitterly cold and Abigail Fillmore developed 
pneumonia standing on the wind-swept portico of the Capitol. 
She and her husband had planned a trip abroad, but she was 
not to realize her dream. A month after leaving the White 
House she died in the same suite at Willard's Hotel as that 
used by the new President before entering the Executive Man- 


Pall of Gloom 

Franklin and Jane Pierce 

A pall of gloom settled on the White House when Franklin 
and Jane Pierce entered it in March, 1853. Shortly after 
Pierce's election, the President-elect, Mrs. Pierce, and their 
only living child had entered a railway carriage at Boston, to 
go to Concord, New Hampshire. They intended to rest awhile 
at their Concord home before undertaking the trip to Wash- 
ington. En route their train was derailed and rolled down an 
embankment. The boy was killed the only fatality; his par- 
ents were slightly injured. 

The tragic death of eleven-year-old Benjamin was the third 
such blow borne by the Pierce family. They had lost two other 
sons: the first had died in infancy and the second had suc- 
cumbed to typhus at the age of four. 

A brilliant orator, an able lawyer, and a natural leader, 
Pierce had permitted his wife, the former Jane Means Apple- 
ton, to stifle his political career for ten years before finally 
yielding to the demand that he run for President, 


142 Pall of Gloom 

Even Mrs. Pierce, who hated Washington, to which she had 
come as the bride of Congressman Pierce nineteen years be- 
fore, could not stop him this time. He had acceded to her 
request to give up politics for the practice of a circuit lawyer, 
but his great talents soon made him New Hampshire's leading 
citizen and chairman of the state temperance society. After 
his brilliant record in the Mexican War, when he rose to the 
rank of brigadier general, he was mentioned as possible vice- 
presidential timber. But he turned out to be the dark horse 
that rode into office over four seasoned campaigners, Lewis 
Cass, James Buchanan, William O. Butler, and Stephen A. 

Jane Pierce, whose father, the Reverend Jesse Appleton, 
had been president of Bowdoin College when Pierce was a 
student there, did not come to Washington until two months 
after her husband's inauguration. Her own frail health she 
was suffering from tuberculosis and the shock of Benjamin's 
death had kept her in bed. Even when she moved into the 
White House, she did not feel well enough to assume the role 
of official hostess, and appealed to her aunt-by-marriage, the 
charming and well-born Mrs. Abby Kent Means, in whose 
Amherst, Massachusetts, home she had married Pierce, to act 
in that capacity. She was fully cognizant, however, of the 
duties she owed to her husband's position and did appear at 
his side, frail and beautiful, at the annual New Year's Day 
reception in 1855. Later she presided at weekly state dinners 
and gave Friday receptions, at which she stood by her hus- 
band's side. But, writes one White House chronicler : 

Her woe-begone face, with its sunken dark eyes, and skin like yel- 
lowed ivory, banished all animation in others. She tried, but con- 
stantly broke down in her efforts to lift. Her life was over, in fact, 
from the time of that dreadful shock of her son's death. 

Mrs. Means, however, continued to assist at formal White 

Library of Congress 

During the time Congress was in session in Pierce's administration, a state 
dinner was given once a week for thirty-six guests. The table is set in the 
State Dining Room. 

144 P&M f Gloom 

House functions, and with the help of the young and beautiful 
Mrs. Jefferson Davis, the pall of gloom that seemed to have 
settled over the Executive Mansion cleared somewhat. 

Franklin Pierce's charm was such that he was able to get a 
bigger appropriation from Congress for that repairing and re- 
furnishing of the White House which each succeeding Presi- 
dent seemed to feel was essential to his well-being. That august 
body gave him $25,000, which covered the cost of painting 
the mansion inside and out, buying a carpet for the East Room 
which is said to have weighed a ton, and installing a furnace 
and a hot-water heating system. 

There is no record of any outstanding entertaining during 
Pierce's administration. During the sessions of Congress there 
was a state dinner once a week to which thirty-six guests were 
invited; on other weekdays a half-dozen or so might partake 
of the family dinner, at which no wine was served. There 
was also a morning and an evening reception every week in 
the season, at which Mrs. Pierce, dressed in deep mourning, 
received with the President. The evening receptions, which 
were the equivalent of the old drawing-rooms, were looked 
forward to with great interest by the young people of the day. 
Carriages and camellias were in demand; white kid gloves 
were kept on store counters, and Washington hairdressers 
were kept busy. 

Pierce, like many of his predecessors and successors, had to 
face up to the temperance question. It was more difficult for 
him to abstain from the use of alcohol than it had been for 
Fillmore, who hated every form of stimulating beverage. 
Nevertheless, Franklin Pierce fought his craving for liquor 
and apparently he won, because before he achieved the Pres- 
idency he had become a leader in the temperance movement. 

Franklin Pierce was "gallant, handsome, true-hearted and 
genial," John Forney tells us in his Anecdotes of Public Men. 
"He was a soldier and gentleman, one of the most striking 
men that ever sat in a saddle, and one of the truest of friends. 

146 Pall of Gloom 

Nothing in Pierce's character stands more to his credit than 
his devotion to his amiable, gentle and long-suffering wife dur- 
ing her painful invalid years. . . ." 

President Pierce's gallant and genial friendliness was ex- 
tended to James Buchanan, whom he had helped to win the 
Presidential nomination; although he remained in Washington 
for the inauguration, Pierce moved out of the White House 
so that it might be cleaned and made ready for his successor 
by Inauguration Day. 


Bachelor President 

James Buchanan 

Guests at the brilliant and elaborate Inaugural Ball of 1857 
danced until four o'clock in the morning. Social Washington, 
starved for the entertainment it had been denied during the 
gloomy days of the Pierce administration, welcomed its new 
bachelor President. The ban on dancing in the august halls of 
the White House (initiated by the Polks) was still in effect, 
but the five thousand revelers at the ball, held in a specially- 
built structure, spent the night of March 4, 1857, in a whirl 
of terpsichorean gaiety. 

The feast provided included four hundred gallons of oys- 
ters, five hundred quarts of chicken salad, five hundred quarts 
of jellies, sixty saddles of mutton and four of venison, eight 
rounds of beef, seventy-five hams, one hundred and twenty- 
five tongues, and three thousand dollars' worth of wine. In 
addition, there were pates for every taste, and twelve hundred 
gallons of ice cream in several flavors. The highlight of the 
repast was a four-foot cake ornamented with a flag bearing 


148 Bachelor President 

the insignia of each of the thirty-one states of the Union. 
The new President gallantly remained until the end of the 
festivities. The belle of the ball was his pretty niece and of- 
ficial hostess, Harriet Lane. An exquisite blonde with violet 
eyes and a tall, willowy figure, Harriet was the youngest of 
four orphaned children left to Buchanan's guardianship when 
his sister, Jane, and her husband died. She had been trained, 
according to biographers, for the role of a princess a part 
she had played, in previous years, with such grace (when her 
uncle was ambassador to the Court of St. James's) that she 
became a favorite of Queen Victoria. This young First Lady 
of the Land became the darling of Washington society during 
her uncle's term of office. 

Buchanan, however, soon ran into a storm of criticism that 
threatened his popularity when he attempted to change the 
order of the New Year's Day reception. Striving to achieve 
some semblance of order at these heretofore chaotic affairs, 
in which the public customarily wandered and lounged at will, 
he staggered diplomats, Justices of the Supreme Court, high- 
ranking officers of the army, navy, and marine corps, gov- 
ernment officials, and the public by putting police in charge to 
facilitate matters. When guests were requested by police to 
present themselves quickly and in the order in which they be- 
longed, many became so enraged they left without even seeing 
the President. The President, however, persisted; during his 
next three years in office the New Year's Day receptions were 
organized according to his wishes. 

James Buchanan had been in office almost four years when 
the first heir-apparent to the crown of Great Britain visited the 
capital of her lost colonies. When President Buchanan first 
learned that the Prince of Wales intended to visit Canada, he 
hastened to write Queen Victoria and extend to her son a 
cordial invitation to visit the United States. 

Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, who later became King 
Edward VII, traveled unofficially under the name of "Baron 

James Buchanan 149 

Renfrew." He was just nineteen, handsome and charming. 
Washington society was atwitter over this visit, and the White 
House bustled with activity. Even the President piit himself 
out to accommodate Albert Edward. The young prince never 
knew that the Chief Executive had given up his own bedroom 
and moved to a cot in the anteroom to his office, in order that 
his royal visitor might have the ultimate comfort the mansion 

Edward was already a model for diplomats, although cor- 
respondents described him as "a peachy-cheeked, beardless 
boy." When he noticed that the President wore no gloves at 
the reception, the Prince promptly removed his own and, fol- 
lowing his host's example, shook hands "American fashion." 

The highlights of the Prince's trip were the two banquets 
given in his honor by the President and Miss Lane: at 6:30 
o'clock on Wednesday, October 3, and Thursday, October 4, 
1860. On the first occasion the thirty-four guests included 
members of the President's family, the Prince's suite, the Brit- 
ish legation, and the Cabinet; the diplomatic corps was invited 
for dinner the following evening. The Prince sat at the table 
to the right of Miss Lane at both dinner parties. The musicale 
that followed the first dinner is notable chiefly because it intro- 
duced to America the song, "Listen to the Mockingbird," 
dedicated by its author, Alice Hawthorne, to the lovely Har- 
riet Lane. 

On Thursday morning following, the Prince paid a visit to 
the Capitol and passed through the legislative halls of both 
Houses of Congress, the Supreme Court room, and the Li- 
brary of Congress. The party then returned to the Executive 
Mansion, where members of the Cabinet and their wives had 
gathered. At twelve o'clock the doors of the mansion were 
opened for the President's reception in honor of his royal 
guest. The President and the Prince, with his suite, took their 
positions in the East Room, the Prince standing to the right 
of the President, with the Duke of Newcastle and Lord St. 

150 Bachelor President 

Germains to the Prince's right. Lord Lyons, the British min- 
ister, stood to the left of the President. First the officers of 
the army, navy, and marine corps were successively introduced, 
and then the public "of whom a very large portion were 
ladies/' according to the National Intelligencer whose pleas- 
ure at seeing and meeting the Prince was undisguised. With 
many of the ladies the Prince shook hands ; to the sterner sex 
he courteously bowed. 

That afternoon the Prince, with the Duke of Newcastle 
and Lord Lyons, was taken to the Department of the Interior. 
Later, the royal party, with Miss Lane and Mrs. Jacob 
Thompson (wife of the Secretary of the Interior), visited 
the Young Ladies' Institute of Mrs. Smith, where the Prince 
is said to have rolled several games of ninepins with the pupils. 

The next day, Friday, the Prince of Wales, at his own re- 
quest, made a visit to Mount Vernon. He was accompanied by 
the Duke of Newcastle, Lord St. Germains, Lord Lyons, and 
the rest of his retinue. As the party which also included the 
President, Miss Lane, members of the Cabinet and their wives, 
the diplomatic corps and wives, leading army, navy, and civil 
service officers, and the mayor of the city alighted from their 
carriages at the Seventh Street Wharf and approached the 
cutter Harriet Lane, which was to take them to Mount Ver- 
non, they were surprised to see five barges crowded with 
people waiting alongside the wharf. 

According to the National Intelligencer, which published 
the story on October 8, 1860, the patients in the local govern- 
ment hospital for the insane had become inspired with the 
same desire to see the Prince which had animated all the rest, 
and in pursuance of the policy of embracing every proper 
opportunity of breaking the routine of a life which at best 
must have many moments of seclusion and monotony, the 
convalescent patients of both sexes, with their attendants to 
the number of fifty, had crossed the river in the five barges and 
taken position in full view of the ceremony." The medical 

152 Bachelor President 

officer in charge of them, Dr. Stevens, was on the wharf, and 
as "Baron Renfrew" approached the cutter, accompanied by 
Miss Lane and under the escort of Major Ramsey, the doctor 
was introduced by the latter to "his Lordship," and presented 
him, in the name and behalf of the patients, with a handsome 
bouquet. The flowers were ''politely received and kindly ac- 
knowledged by the approach of the Prince to the edge of the 
wharf, flowers in hand, and, with head uncovered, bowing to 
the delighted occupants of the boats. The patients were in no 
means behind the Prince in politeness, which the gentlemen 
to a man evinced by raising their hats and the ladies by waving 
their handkerchiefs. The band in attendance then struck up 
God Save the Queen, and Lord Renfrew and the President 
and their suites proceeded to embark for the mecca of Amer- 
ican patriots." 

Flying the flags of the United States and Great Britain, 
the cutter steamed majestically down the Potomac to Mount 
Vernon, where the party disembarked about noon. There the 
Prince, hat in hand, stood solemnly before the tomb of George 
Washington for a few moments; then the great-grandson of 
King George III planted a tree near the grave as a remem- 
brance of his visit. 

The return trip was much gayer. The Marine Band played 
the dance tunes popular at the time. His Royal Highness 
danced first with Miss Lane, whom he had known in London 
when her uncle was ambassador there, and then with the 
other young ladies. An elegant supper was served on board 
before the steamer returned to the city around sunset. 

Soon after the return of the party to the Executive Man- 
sion the Prince and his retinue repaired to the residence of 
Lord Lyons, the British minister, who was reputed to be one 
of Washington's most generous and expert hosts. They spent 
the night with Lord Lyons, and left for Richmond the next 
morning, October 6. 

Another notable event that took place during Buchanan's 

Library of Congress 

In May of i860 the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United 
States and Japan was celebrated with a reception for the members of the first 
Japanese Embassy. Here, Buchanan presents to an ambassador an English 
copy of the first commercial treaty between the two nations. 

154 Bachelor President 

administration was the reception given May 17 the same 
year (several months before the Prince of Wales' visit) to the 
members of the staff of the first Japanese Embassy in the 
United States. The Embassy's opening marked the official be- 
ginning of diplomatic relations between the two countries. 

The Japanese Embassy, numbering seventy-one members, 
arrived in Washington on May 14, 1860. The principal mis- 
sion of the Embassy was to get an English copy of the first 
commercial treaty between Japan and the United States, signed 
by the President, since the original which had been concluded 
in 1854, was burned in the great fire at Yedo (Tokyo) in 
1858. (The Japanese-language copy had been saved.) 

The Japanese maintained their headquarters at Willard's 
Hotel (now known as The Willard), less than three blocks 
from the Executive Mansion. They made the short trip from 
the hotel to the White House in congressional carriages in a 
pageant that featured a military escort, martial music, and 
the guests' own native costumes magnificently embroidered in 
gold, crimson, and silver. 

The public was not invited to the official reception, which 
took place in the East Room. Present were congressmen and 
their wives, foreign ministers, and high officials of the United 
States government. At a few minutes to twelve the great door 
to the East Room swung open and the President entered, 
flanked by the Secretary of State on his right and the Secretary 
of the Treasury on his left. The President's cortege advanced 
and took its position at the center of the room. The Secretary 
of State then retired from the room to accompany the en- 
trance of the Embassy. 

As the clock struck twelve, the great doors swung open 
again, and three Japanese ambassadors, with the Secretary of 
State on their right and an American and Japanese interpreter 
behind, silently approached the President through a double 
row of army and navy officers. When their slow, courtly, noise- 
less procession reached the President, the Japanese made three 

James Buchanan 155 

low bows in greeting the man they considered an emperor. 

After their presentation to the President, they asked to 
meet Miss Lane and the wives of members of the President's 
Cabinet. In accordance with their wishes, the presentation 
was strictly private ; as each lady was presented, the Japanese 
bowed deeply three times. 

President Buchanan was too astute not to observe what was 
going on. "They take down notes of everything nothing es- 
capes them. They've got a long description of how I looked 
at the reception," he wrote. Later on during their visit they 
attended a Saturday band concert in front of the White House. 
The President saw a few of his friends among the group that 
had gathered, and walked down the steps to greet them. 
The Japanese were astonished that the Emperor of the United 
States would mingle and shake hands with the people; it was 
so unlike anything in their country! They themselves, the 
President learned, had specific instructions as to what they 
were to do and say. Everything had been written down for them 
in advance the course they were to take, the number of bows 
they were to make. "They are very proud/' Buchanan wrote. 
"They bow very low, but they won't do more than is pre- 
scribed for them in their instructions." The President enter- 
tained eight of the highest dignitaries at a dinner party. 

As a token of appreciation for the United States Govern- 
ment's cordial treatment of the Embassy during its thirty-day 
visit to Washington, the Japanese Shogunate sent a total of 
twenty-eight boxes of gifts to Secretary of State Lewis Cass, 
among which was a "large water basin" for President Bu- 
chanan. The basin blue with a crane-and-reed design, meas- 
uring thirty-eight inches in diameter was used as a punch 
bowl at the White House. 

President Buchanan frequently employed a French caterer, 
Gautier, to handle the food for the more elaborate receptions 
and dinners. Gautier excelled in satisfying both the eye and 
the palate. The oysters, lobster, terrapin, wild turkey, and 

156 Bachelor President 

partridge served under his instruction were said to be a gour- 
met's delight. 

Entertaining had reached the point where the Presidential 
salary of $25,000 was not sufficient to pay for such elaborate af- 
fairs. It is known that Buchanan frequently dug down into his 
own pocket to meet the bills of butcher, baker, and candlestick- 
maker, since he enjoyed entertaining and was inclined to be 
liberal about it. At his last New Year's Day reception five 
thousand persons are said to have been entertained. 

Washington society had grown increasingly competitive, 
and its leaders were rich men who thought nothing of spend- 
ing $75,000 a year on entertainment alone. Fortunately for 
the President, his niece was as practical as she was pretty. For 
all her graciousness and charm as First Lady, Harriet Lane 
kept a stern eye on the food bills. 

J. Buchanan Henry, the President's private secretary, was 
in charge of the expenditure of the library fund, payment of 
the steward and messengers, and of those household expendi- 
tures which came out of the President's own purse. 

Miss Lane and Mr. Henry issued the state dinner invita- 
tions and assigned seats, in order of precedence, to those who 
accepted. It was Mr. Henry's duty, also, in the interval be- 
tween the arrival of guests in the parlor and the procession 
into the dining room, to ascertain the name of each gentleman 
and tell him what lady he was to take in; in some cases this 
necessitated his introducing them to each other. u lt was, he 
used to say, a very mauvais quart d'heure for him, as he was 
pretty sure to find at the last moment, when the President 
was leading the procession to the table, that some male guest, 
perhaps not accustomed to such matters, had strayed away 
from his intended partner, leaving the lady standing alone 
and much embarrassed! He had then to give them a fresh 
start," according to Perley in his Reminiscences. 

Buchanan was always careful of his personal appearance 
and was, in some respects, a sort of male Miss Fribble, ac- 


cq i: 

158 Bachelor President 

cording to John Forney, "addicted to spotless cravats and 
huge collars; rather proud of a rather small foot for a man 
of his large stature." 

As a rule, he rose early, breakfasted and read the news- 
papers, and was in his office by eight o'clock. He usually set 
out for an hour's walk at five in the afternoon. Except during 
the summer months, when he resided at the Soldiers' Home 
and drove to the White House in the morning and back in the 
evening, he rarely used his carriage. (In those days the White 
House was "unfit to live in" during the summer because 
of nearby malarial swamps.) He dined at six, and held to the 
established etiquette of declining dinner invitations; he rarely 
attended outside parties or receptions, on the ground that 
acceptance of all such invitations would be impossible, and 
any discrimination would give offense. Once a week some of 
the members of the Cabinet, accompanied by their wives, 
dined at the White House en famille. 

An excellent addition to the White House which was made 
in Buchanan's time was the Conservatory. This was the work 
of Miss Lane, who loved flowers and spent a good deal of 
time in the little retreat built on the west end of the White 
House. As soon as it was completed (actually, it represented 
an enlargement of a small conservatory built earlier), the 
Conservatory was opened to visitors on reception days. Entry 
was through a long entrance hall u hung with pictures and 
adorned with graceful statues." Leslie's Illustrated Newspa- 
per carried a feature article on Miss Lane's Conservatory, 
which reads, in part : 

Here you may see orange and lemon trees loaded with fruit, rows 
of cactus plants of every size and shape, Camellia japonicas covered 
with bloom, Spirea, Ardisia, Poinsettia; running vines, including the 
celebrated South American pitcher plant whose tiny "pitchers," half- 
filled with water and covered with small green lids, hang among the 
leaves, attracting much curiosity and admiration. ... It also affords 
a pleasant promenade and lounging-place for visitors on public days, 


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160 Bachelor President 

and the universal opinion seems to be that the new Conservatory is a 
most fitting and agreeable addition to the White House. 

The interior of the White House was also renovated during 
Buchanan's administration, and American-made furniture re- 
placed many of the early French pieces. 

President Buchanan, a man of such high personal integrity 
that he made it a rule never to accept presents of any value 
from friends or supporters, had the misfortune to be in office 
when the rift between North and South opened beyond repair. 
Unwanted as the nation's leader for another term, he stepped 
aside, and Abraham Lincoln moved into the White House. 


The Great Emancipator 

Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln 

"I suppose I may take this as a compliment paid to me, and 
as such, please accept my thanks. I have reached this city of 
Washington under circumstances considerably differing from 
those under which any other man has reached it. I have 
reached it for the purpose of taking an official position amongst 
the people, almost all of whom were opposed to me, and are 
yet opposed to me, as I suppose." 

President-elect Lincoln uttered these words in response to 
repeated calls from the crowd who gathered in front of Wil- 
lard's Hotel on Friday evening, March i, 1861, when he and 
Mrs. Lincoln were holding their first levee in Washington. 
A large number of men and women, including congressmen, 
army and navy officers, and members of the diplomatic corps, 
had been invited. At ten-thirty, as the strains of "Hail to the 
Chief/' played by the Marine Band, were heard from the 
spacious parlors, the President-elect entered the front balcony 
with as many guests as could get on it ; others clamored for win- 


1 62 The Great Emancipator 

dow space. This levee probably would have been the begin- 
ning of the busiest entertainment program ever given in the 
Executive Mansion up to that time, had circumstances per- 
mitted. But circumstances, of course, did not. 

South Carolina had seceded from the Union shortly after 
Lincoln's election, followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, 
Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. By the time Lincoln was inau- 
gurated, the Confederate provisional government had been 
set up and its President, Jefferson Davis, had been inaugurated 
at Montgomery, Alabama. In little more than a month after 
Lincoln took the oath of office, the War Between the States 
would officially begin at Fort Sumter. 

Abraham Lincoln arrived in Washington unannounced at 
six o'clock Saturday morning, February 23, 1861, and went 
directly and quietly to Willard's Hotel, where he and his fam- 
ily who arrived in the evening were to remain until after 
the inauguration. They occupied five of the most elegant 
rooms, in the southwest corner of the hotel, fronting Penn- 
sylvania Avenue and overlooking the White House. 

The President-elect, accompanied by Senator William H. 
Seward of New York, called at the White House at eleven in 
the morning to pay his respects to President Buchanan. The 
President, unaware of Lincoln's arrival in the city, was called 
from a Cabinet meeting. The surprised Buchanan received 
Lincoln cordially, and after a pleasant interview invited him 
in to meet his Cabinet. That evening at ten Buchanan's Cabinet 
called on the President-elect at Willard's. 

After having dinner with Senator Seward, Lincoln returned 
to the hotel to find the long parlor hall thronged with men 
and women, young and old, who greeted him as u father and 
life." The President-elect's elation over his victory was re- 
flected in his high spirits and broad grin. As he passed through 
the crowd, shaking hands to right and left as fast as he could 
and making humorous remarks to this or that person, he was 
so excited that he forgot to take off his hat. His breach of 

Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln 163 

etiquette, however, was excused by one observer because the 
hat "was new and outshined the crowd/' 

The morning broke clear, calm, and beautiful, according 
to the press, but later clouds began hovering and enough rain 
fell to prevent the u usual heat of the past few days and the 
whirlwind of dust that otherwise could have rendered it ex- 
cessively unpleasant." 

At twelve-thirty President Buchanan, in his state carriage 
with liveried servants, alighted in front of Willard's and pro- 
ceeded to Mr. Lincoln's room. After a brief conversation the 
two entered the carriage and, accompanied by Senators Baker 
and Pearce, rode in the procession to the Capitol. The car- 
riage was so closely surrounded by marshals and cavalry as to 
hide it completely from view. The opportunity of seeing the 
President-elect was little better at the Capitol. Instead of 
walking in the open where the crowd could look at him, he 
was guided through a pineboard tunnel to the Senate chamber 
entrance; his egress was handled in the same way. All in all, 
the words "sorry sight" described the inaugural. Lincoln spoke 
clearly, but he "appeared pale and nervous, while Mr. Bu- 
chanan sat looking at his own boots, like a man disgusted . . . 
and anxious to quit and go home." 

Martial law had taken over the city for the day, and that, 
combined with public indignation and despondency, gave the 
town an extremely dismal aspect. According to a New York 
news dispatch, "The very atmosphere of Washington is 
charged with sulphur, and war is surely before us if there be 
anything reliable in the usual signs of a gathering tornado." 

Ex-President Buchanan escorted President Lincoln back to 
the Executive Mansion and, after a few courteous words of 
welcome and good-by, left him to enjoy his first White House 
dinner. The dinner was prepared by the ever-thoughtful Har- 
riet Lane, Buchanan's niece, who had everything ready when 
the Lincolns arrived at the mansion after the inauguration 
ceremony. Their party of seventeen which included the three 

164 The Great Emancipator 

Lincoln boys, two sisters of Mrs. Lincoln, Mrs. Elizabeth 
Todd Grirnsley, and other friends and relatives sat down to 
the meal with grateful hearts. Mrs. Grimsley was a favorite 
cousin and a bridesmaid at Mary's wedding. She remained in 
the White House with the Lincolns for six months, and later 
wrote down an account of this visit. 

At the Inaugural Ball held that night at the u Muslin Pal- 
ace" (so called because the walls were trimmed in muslin), 
five thousand persons jammed the rooms for a glimpse of the 
new Chief Executive and his wife. The President, plainly un- 
comfortable in new boots and white kid gloves, led the grand 
march with one of the female guests on his arm. The new 
First Lady, the former Mary Todd, was radiant in white 
satin, her light brown hair ornamented with trailing jessamine 
and clustering violets. Her necklace, earrings, and bracelets 
were of pearl. She followed on the arm of her onetime beau, 
Stephen A. Douglas, with whom she danced a single quadrille. 
Guests who managed to reach the supper table around mid- 
night found an elaborate buffet. 

The Ball called the "Union Ball" in defiance of those 
states that had already seceded was a grand success. Mary 
Todd Lincoln, who had at long last realized her lifelong am- 
bition to move into the White House, was now prepared to 
enjoy her new role to the utmost. Complications, however, 
soon arose. 

Mary Lincoln felt that it was her prerogative as First Lady 
to hold the first levee, and that the William H. Sewards (he 
was now Secretary of State) were presumptuous in their pro- 
posal to precede her in holding this typically Washington af- 
fair. The President's wife won her point, and their first White 
House reception was given on Friday evening, March 8, 1861. 
When the day rolled around, however, it found the First Lady 
in tears ; the new gown, ordered because she had spilled cof- 
fee on the one she originally intended wearing, had not yet 
arrived. As she walked the floor, wringing her hands, Eliza- 

Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln 165 

beth Keckley, the talented Negro seamstress who made the 
dress, was announced. She had, she explained, worked on it 
until the last minute. 

"Now, don't you worry," she soothed, "I can dress you in 
time!" A short time later Mrs. Lincoln, resplendent in the 
new creation of magenta watered silk with a lace cape, her 
abundant brown hair tastefully bedecked with a wreath of a 
half-dozen red (and white japonicas, triumphantly entered the 
East Room on 1 her husband's arm. However, the belle of the 
evening turned out to be Mrs. Stephen A. Douglas. Mrs. 
Douglas, simply dressed in white, appeared in fine relief 
against the darker colors around her. 

The reception was almost as much of a hodgepodge as Jack- 
son's first reception. The White House driveway was blocked 
with carriages, and the entrances with those who had come 
on foot. Ladies who wore the enormous hoop skirts that were 
all the rage had difficulty getting out of and later back into 
their carnages. Their escorts were almost inundated by 
yards and yards of heavy silks and satins. 

The East Room looked more like a political get-together 
than a presidential reception. Many of the guests were country 
folk from Lincoln's own state, Illinois; others were back- 
woodsmen from elsewhere. Many women, clad in hoopless 
woolen dresses, wore their sunbonnets, while many a wide- 
awake man, not finding a place for his hat and overcoat, car- 
ried the one aloft in his hand and the other on his back until 
exhaustion compelled him to retreat from the heaving current 
of people. 

But Lincoln was glad to see them. Clad in the same suit he 
had worn at his inauguration, and with a fresh pair of white 
kid gloves, he, a head taller than the others, stood at the head 
of the receiving line for four hours, joking and shaking hands, 
using both right and left at the same time in order to hurry 
the line along. His wife, because of her enormous hoops, was 
forced to stand almost three feet away. Later, surrounded 

1 66 The Great Emancipator 

by her relatives, she held her own court. Among those com- 
plimenting her on her appearance was her half-sister, Mrs. 
Clement White of Alabama, who made no secret of the fact 
that she was in favor of secession; another was Mrs. Lin- 
coln's cousin, Mrs. Elizabeth Todd Grimsley, to whom the 
President also was deeply devoted. She was "tall, and so much 
like the President she was at first taken to be his sister." 

"It was gratifying,'' Mrs. Grimsley later wrote, "when the 
Marine Band struck up Yankee Doodle, the signal for retir- 
ing. The President took me on his arm and we made the cir- 
cuit of the East Room, a custom as old as the house itself, I 
believe, and a silly one in that the wife of the President is 
relegated to the escort of another gentleman." 

The crowd had remained until long after midnight, and 
when they left the confusion increased. Guests naive enough 
to lay aside their wraps couldn't find them, for they were 
either lost, stolen, or misappropriated. Ninety percent of the 
men were forced to leave with covering other than their own, 
and these were seen sulkily wending their way home; many 
wrapped their heads in handkerchiefs against the March cold 
rather than wear the greasy headgear that had been given 

And so ended the last reception at which the North and the 
sparsely represented South were to mingle for many years. 
But for all this it was noted as a "monstrous affair." 

Mrs. Lincoln entertained the diplomatic corps at a recep- 
tion the following day, but, according to Mrs. Grimsley, "the 
Legations were not out in full force. Nor did they come to- 
gether in a body, as was their custom. The French Minister, 
Mercier, was absent. Lord Lyons was coldly dignified. Al- 
ready the nations were looking at us askance." 

Inasmuch as the Lincolns were unfamiliar with the rules of 
official Washington, the State Department furnished a detailed 
memorandum on what their conduct was to be at formal state 
functions, the order of precedence, and the use of visiting 

Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln 167 

cards. The President and his wife were instructed not to ad- 
dress titled foreigners as "Sir" ; they were told they might dine 
privately at six if they were hungry, but state dinners must 
take place at seven. There was also pointed advice on what a 
gentleman should, and should not, wear for specific occasions, 
including the broad hint that frock coats were not correct for 
evening functions. 

Lincoln did his best. He "dutifully made smacking, violent 
bows" when the Chevalier Bertinatti, who had been appointed 
minister to Washington from the new Kingdom of Italy, paid 
his official call. He listened gravely to the long, flowering 
speech of the diplomat, who was decked out in silver lace, 
dress sword, and a cocked hat which he carried under his arm. 
The President, who was a man of short sentences as well as 
short speeches, then pulled a "little speech" from the pocket 
of his wrinkled black suit and read it. 

In the meantime, Mrs. Lincoln was finding out that being 
First Lady of the Land was not as glamorous as it had seemed 
from afar. Determined to run the household as she saw fit, 
she had dispensed with the White House steward. The serv- 
ants did not understand her swiftly changing moods: kindly 
and considerate one moment, irritable, unreasonable, and nig- 
gardly the next. Furthermore, with no steward to supervise 
the linen and silver, these articles began disappearing at an 
alarming rate. 

On March 28, Lincoln gave his first state dinner at which 
he entertained Vice President and Mrs. Hannibal Hamlin 
along with members of the Cabinet. The dinner was "not gay," 
according to Mrs. Grimsley. Only a few of the Cabinet wives 
were there, and during dinner the President was called from 
the table for a hurried conference. 

The next state dinner was given for the diplomatic corps on 
Tuesday evening, June 4, 1861. Of this dinner, Mrs. Grimsley 
wrote : 

168 The Great Emancipator 

[It] passed off with the usual complimentary toasts, decanters 
passed, and with this, a new feature to me, was the exchange of 
civilities in the tendering of elaborate snuff boxes, not only among the 
diplomats, but all the ladies. 

The New York Herald described the dinner the following day 
as "most recherche and elegant," saying that those who were 
fortunate enough to have been guests on such occasions at the 
White House for many years "pronounced it in every particu- 
lar superior to anything they have ever before seen of partici- 
pated in." There were thirty-five guests. Mme. Gerolt had the 
honor place at the right of the President, and her husband. 
Baron von Gerolt, sat at Mrs. Lincoln's right at the table. 

Prince Napoleon Bonaparte son of Jerome Bonaparte, 
who had been entertained by Jefferson in the White House 
was the next notable entertained at the Lincoln table. He had 
arrived in New York with his petite bride, Princess Clotilde, 
daughter of the King of Italy, to tour the western and north- 
ern portions of the country. 

Secretary of State Seward made a special trip to New York 
to invite the Prince and Princess to visit at the White House, 
but the Princess was in mourning and remained in New York 
while her husband made the trip to Washington. The Prince, 
affectionately referred to as "Plon-Plon," chose to "lodge" at 
the French Embassy, but called on the President as soon as 
he arrived in Washington and had dinner at the White House 
Saturday evening, August 3, 1861. 

The dinner was described as "elegant and recherche" but 
"quite en famille" as the Prince was traveling incognito. There 
were twenty-seven persons who sat down to the seven o'clock 
dinner, including Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Grimsley, the only 
ladies. Mrs. Lincoln's gown was white grenadine over white 
silk, with a long train. Mrs. Grimsley wore a salmon tulle dress 
with an "exquisite bouquet of flowers." The President, with 
Mrs. Grimsley on his right and General Scott on the left, was 
seated at the center of the table ; opposite him was Mrs. Lin- 

/toranam ana iviary i odd Lincoln 169 

coin, with the Prince at her right and Secretary Chase on her 
left. General McClellan sat at the Prince's right. Others on the 
guest list included Robert Lincoln; Cabinet members; Lord 
Lyons, the British minister; Monsieur Mercier, the French 
minister ; Senator Foot, president pro tempore of the Senate ; 
Senator Sumner, chairman of the Senate Committee on For- 
eign Relations; and Messrs. Nicolay and Hay, the President's 
private secretaries. 

According to the press, it had been the custom to have "state 
dinners prepared by some respectable restaurateur, but on 
this occasion Mrs. Lincoln determined to have the prepara- 
tions made exclusively at home. To her exquisite taste alone, 
is to be attributed the beautiful arrangements for the occasion 
and the surpassing geniality of the dinner party. Mrs. Lincoln 
has upon the occasion shown her practical good sense to be 
equal to her graceful courtesy and charming manners." 

Mary Lincoln's flair for mimicry and her ability to speak 
French added zest to the occasion; from time to time the Presi- 
dent broke in with u and this reminds me . . ." and the Prince 
and General Scott who sat directly across from him were 
in excellent spirits. All in all, the party was such a success that 
the Prince gaily remarked: "Paris is not all the world!" 

The First Lady gave two weekly receptions. The Saturday- 
afternoon receptions continued to be held in the White House 
through the social season, until the warm weather set in. Then 
the "mall" became a bright place for promenaders. The music 
of the Marine Band was a popular attraction. The Lincoln 
family sat on the south balcony ready to receive all who chose 
to join them there. 

The Tuesday evening receptions continued into deep sum- 
mer. As late as Tuesday, July 30, 1861, this notation appeared 
in the Washington Star: u There will be a public reception at 
the Executive Mansion this evening, between the hours of 
8^ to ii P.M." The following day the Star reported: "The 
levee at the Executive Mansion last evening was well attended 

170 The Great Emancipator 

and largely by the military. The Navy was also fully repre- 
sented, as well as both branches of Congress and the Cabinet." 

Mrs. Lincoln left for the seashore in August and did not 
return until November. The next reception was given on De- 
cember 17, 1 86 1, at the beginning of the social season. 

Lincoln's first New Year's Day reception, January I, 1862, 
was reported by the New York Times as the greatest jam ever 
witnessed on such an occasion. Between the hours of ten and 
twelve, foreign ministers and their suites and government of- 
ficials, having the right of private entries, made calls on the 
President. At twelve the gates were thrown open to the wait- 
ing public, and the immense crowd made a rush for the re- 
ception room. Everybody wanted to be first, so everybody ran 
and pushed and scrambled. A line of policemen was drawn up 
on each side of the entrance from the carriageway to the 
reception room. 

After paying their respects to the President and Mrs. Lin- 
coln, the dense and rapidly-moving crowd passed out through 
one of the large windows in the hall and across a carpeted 
platform to the sidewalk. The new carpets which adorned the 
floors of the mansion had been neatly covered to protect them 
from damage. According to the Times: 

The striking feature was the great number of uniforms visible 
Generals, Colonels and Majors were plentiful as blackberries, while 
Captains and Lieutenants were multitudinous. If our soldiers prove 
as useful as they are ornamental, nothing more could be desired of 

The whole city was gay and festive ; war and politics seemed 
for the time forgotten. The day was unusually beautiful, sky 
clear and bright and the air soft and balmy, more like May 
than January. By two o'clock the crowd had practically disap- 
peared and gone to attend festivities elsewhere. 

The one Tuesday reception which Mrs. Lincoln failed to 
give was during the social season early in 1862. The New 

172 The Great Emancipator 

York Sunday Herald reported, on the Sunday preceding: 'The 
usual public reception at the White House is not to take place 
next week. The postponement is occasioned by the private 
party to be given by Mrs. Lincoln." 

The country had been at war for ten months when the First 
Lady decided to give her own soiree, scheduled for Wednesday 
evening, February 5, 1862. The party was the exclusive topic 
in the beau monde of Washington, but the function, ill-timed, 
brought forth a storm of criticism from the public. News- 
papers angrily accused Mrs. Lincoln of wanting to a show 
those Southerners who had closed their homes and refused all 
social engagements that she was as good as they." When she 
limited the invitations to five hundred and fifty favored guests 
(the number was later increased to over eight hundred), oc- 
casioning sore disappointment and chagrin to thousands who 
believed themselves entitled to an invitation, the New York 
Herald defended her for " trying to weed the Presidential 
Mansion of the long-haired, white-coated, tobacco-chewing 
and expectorant abolitionist politicians." Mrs. Lincoln is re- 
sponsible to Congress for "the Presidential spoons," the edi- 
torial continued, u and it is not safe to trust an ice cream thus 
manipulated in the itching fingers of these sweet-smelling pa- 


Some abolitionists, however, did receive invitations, and 
among the few "regrets" were some from abolitionists. u Are 
the President and Mrs. Lincoln aware," wrote Ben Wade, well- 
known abolitionist, "that there is a Civil War? If they are 
not, Mr. and Mrs. Wade are, and for that reason decline to 
participate in feasting and dancing." 

The guests consisted mostly of Cabinet members and their 
wives, Justices of the Supreme Court, diplomatic corps mem- 
bers, governors, senators, representatives, favorite members 
of the press, and special friends. Except for generals com- 
manding divisions there were few army personnel. The most 
conspicuous, the center of observation wherever he moved, was 

Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln 173 

young General McClellan, with his wife. Captain Charles 
Griffin, commander of the celebrated West Point battery, ac- 
companied by his blooming bride, was the only uniformed guest 
mentioned in the social columns of the press. 

The reception began at nine o'clock. As guests arrived they 
presented their invitations to a doorman at the entrance, passed 
on to the second floor to leave wraps, thence down to the Blue 
Room, and from there went to greet the President and Mrs. 
Lincoln, who had stationed themselves in the center of the 
East Room. The President's two secretaries, Nicolay and Hay, 
stood at his right and Marshal Lamon on his left. 

Only a few of the men wore formal party costume. The 
President's attire was a plain suit of black with white gloves; 
he also wore his usual bland and pleased expression. He 
greeted all the guests with warmth, and chatted freely with 
those whom he recognized as friends. 

Mrs. Lincoln was dressed in a gown of white satin, en train 
with hooped skirt flounced in black Chantilly lace and looped 
at intervals with bows of white ribbon edged with narrow 
black lace, a show of mourning in deference to the late Prince 
Consort of Queen Victoria, Albert Edward, who had died in 
December. Her headdress was a diadem of black with white 
flowers, and a bunch of crape myrtle drooping on the side. She 
also wore a corsage of crape myrtle. Her ornaments were 

And there was no curb in the other ladies' toilette! The 
Adams Express was too slow for delivery, so they sent to 
Boston, New York, and Philadelphia for their costumes. 
"Such a display of elegance, taste and loveliness has perhaps 
never before been witnessed within the walls of the White 
House," one member of the press reported; another stated 
that the ladies were "dressed to the height of fashionable ex- 

Among the tastefully dressed, according to Leslie's Illus- 
trated Newspaper, were Mrs. McClellan, regal in a dress of 

174 The Great Emancipator 

white with bands of cherry velvet, and the young Mrs. Griffin, 
who was simply attired in corn-colored silk with a headdress of 
bright crimson flowers. She, according to Leslie's, u was the 
observed of all, as she leaned on the arm of the President." 
La belle des belles of the party was the violet-eyed and bril- 
liant Miss Kate Chase, young daughter of the Secretary of the 
Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, who dared not hold her own court 
lest she arouse the animosity of the First Lady. She was dressed 
in mauve-colored silk and without ornament. A simple wreath 
of minute white flowers worn on her hair, which was arranged 
in a Grecian knot behind, was her only decoration. 

Around eleven o'clock President Lincoln gave his arm to 
Miss Browning, daughter of Senator Browning of Illinois, 
and, with Mrs. Lincoln on the arm of Senator Browning fol- 
lowing, headed a parade round and round through the beauti- 
fully lighted and profusely decorated rooms and long corridor 
as the Marine Band played operatic airs. The beautiful ten- 
gallon Japanese bowl (the gift to James Buchanan) was filled 
with champagne punch and placed on a table in the Green 
Room for the benefit of thirsty guests. Surrounding it were 
trays of sandwiches. 

The supper, reputed by the New York Tribune to be "one 
of the finest displays of gastronomic art ever seen in this coun- 
try," was set in the State Dining Room. The menu consisted of 
stewed and scalloped oysters, boned and truffle-stuffed turkey, 
pate de foie gras, aspic of tongue, canvasback duck, partridge, 
fillet of beef, ham, venison, pheasant, terrapin, chicken salad, 
sandwiches, and jellies, cakes, ices, champagne punch, etc. It 
was prepared by Maillard, the famed New York caterer. 
Around twelve o'clock the dining room was thrown open for 
the guests to inspect the display before the food was disturbed. 

The table, which extended practically the whole length of 
the room, and the small tables arranged along the walls, all 
were laden with dishes to tempt the appetite of an epicure. 
"The dazzling splendor of fruits, flowers, blazing lights, spar- 


But to ivmns tiv Hi jv.ii i ., 

wiiiiiihiul bent Ummiu.jKii tor I!HV,|IMJ 

wi >v w, ivd by l!r, .iul Mr. . I.,.i. 

" aw, ft 
Library of Congress 

A page in Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper of February 22, 1862, is devoted to 
"some of the principal costumes worn at the Grand Presidential Party at the 
White House f Wednesday evening, February $." 

[76 The Great Emancipator 

ding crystal and inviting confections were everywhere !" Noted 
is prominent among the decorations and ornaments were : 

A representation of a U.S. steam frigate of forty guns, with all sails 
set and the flag of the Union flying at the main; a representation of 
the Hermitage; a warrior's helmet, supported by cupids; a Chinese 
pagoda; double cornucopias resting upon a shell supported by mer- 
maids and surmounted by a crystal star ; a rustic pavilion ; the goddess 
of liberty, elevated above a simple but elegant shrine, within which 
was a life-like fountain of water ; a fountain of four consecutive bowls, 
supported by water nymphs; an elegant composition of nougat Pari- 
sienne; a beautiful basket, laden with flowers and fruits, mounted 
upon a pedestal supported by swans; besides these were twenty or 
thirty ornaments and cake and candy, delicately conceived and ex- 
quisitely executed, and the designs of creams, jellies and ices were 
multiform and eleeant. 

The Monroe plateau, as usual, was the highlight of the 
decorations. A magnificent candelabrum surmounted a tall ar- 
rangement of flowers, and around the flowers were tropical 

Promenading was resumed after supper, and it was not until 
three o'clock in the morning that the guests departed. The en- 
tertainment was pronounced a decided success, but it was com- 
pared to the ball given at Brussels by the Duchess of Richmond 
the night before Waterloo ! 

The abolitionists throughout the country were merciless in 
their criticism of the President and Mrs. Lincoln for giving 
this reception when the soldiers of the Union were in cheerless 
bivouacs or comfortless hospitals, and a Philadelphia poet 
wrote a scandalous ode on the occasion entitled, "The Queen 
Must Dance." 

There was no dancing, contrary to popular opinion, nor was 
it generally known that after the invitations had been issued 
young Willie had suddenly taken cold and Mrs. Lincoln had 
been up for the two nights preceding the reception. Willie's 
fever worried his devoted parents, and they frequently slipped 

U. S- Nwy Photo 

The blue Japanese "punch bowl" used 
at the Lincoln' party of February 5 was 
a gift sent to President Buchanan after 
the first Japanese emissaries returned to 
Japan; it was designated as a "large 
water basin." 

Courtesy J. B. McMullen 

178 The Great Emancipator 

away from the party that evening to look In on him. His illness 
developed into pneumonia, and on February 20, 1862, Willie 

The lad's death and the critical condition of the country, 
now in the throes of a full-scale war, put an end to all fash- 
ionable public receptions for two years. Mrs. Lincoln, whose 
grief was as violent as her temper, refused to be consoled. To 
those who suggested that she come out of her self-imposed 
seclusion, she snapped: "There is a war on!" 

Historians have since described the Lincoln levees as u a 
curious mixture of fashion, elegance, and the crudity of every- 
day frontier life." Male guests appeared at the White House 
in hickory shirts, their trousers tucked into cowhide boots, and 
countrywomen filed past the receiving line in their Sunday best 
shapeless garments devoid of style while ladies of fashion, 
elaborately gowned and coiffed and magnificently bejeweled, 
dropped curtsies to the Presidential couple. One onlooker de- 
scribes Mr. Lincoln as welcoming the sturdy farmer's wife and 
daughter in their cotton prints, Sunday mitts hiding their 
browned and toil-hardened hands, with as much courtesy as he 
did the grand ladies. In fact, he added, "His manner indicated 
they were actually more welcome." 

When the tide of battle finally changed and a Union victory 
seemed assured, the receptions at the White House were re- 
sumed. It was about this time that Mrs. Lincoln insisted it 
was her prerogative, as First Lady, to lead the grand march 
on her husband's arm rather than follow on the arm of an- 
other gentleman. Her insistence that she was entitled to the 
same rank as her husband, and her jealousy when he so much 
as looked at an attractive woman, gradually alienated the pub- 
lic who, nonetheless, continued to worship the President. His 
wife's jealous outbreaks puzzled the Chief Executive, who 
was a devoted husband and father. On one occasion Presiden- 
tial secretary John G. Nicolay, whose duty it was to arrange 
the seating for state dinners, noticed that a Cabinet member, 

Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln 179 

his daughter, and her new husband had been excluded from the 
list. He knew why: Mrs. Lincoln hated the beautiful Mrs. 
Kate Chase Sprague, wife of Senator William Sprague of 
Rhode Island and daughter of Secretary of the Treasury Sal- 
mon P. Chase of Ohio. Nicolay ordered the names included. 
Afterward he remarked: "Having compelled Her Satanic 
Majesty to invite the Spragues, I was taboo." 

Mrs. Lincoln decided to punish Nicolay by barring him 
from the dinner. Nicolay forced her to capitulate, however, 
simply by withholding his expert services. 

Lincoln himself was too great a man to understand his wife's 
pettiness. During these months, in spite of warnings that his 
life was in danger, he was often seen on the White House 
grounds after nightfall, walking about for exercise, deep in 
thought. Abraham Lincoln was a "character by himself, incom- 
parable and unique," Forney tells us. He was among the "sad- 
dest of humanity," and yet his sense of the ridiculous was so 
keen that it bore him up through difficulties that would have 
broken down almost any other man. That he gave way to "un- 
controllable fits of grief in the dark hours of war" is a fact 
beyond question. "Yet, he could lift himself out of his troubles 
and enjoy . . . the old quirks and quips of the clown in the 
circus, the broad innuendoes of the low comedian, the quiet 
sallies of the higher walks of the drama." 

By this time the picturesque colonial life of America had 
begun to fade ; the country was entering a new era. The names 
"Whig" and "Tory" gave way to "Democrat" and "Repub- 
lican." Loyal chefs, anxious to honor their respective parties, 
invented such delicacies as "Democratic Potato Cake" and 
"Republican Cake." 

Mrs. Lincoln had, without her husband's knowledge, spent 
so much money on clothes during the latter months of his 
first term in office that she was in morbid fear that he would 
not be reelected in which case she would never be able to 
pay her debts. As soon as his victory was assured, however, 

180 The Great Emancipator 

she cheerfully bought an inaugural ball gown costing two thou- 
sand dollars. 

The Inaugural Ball took place in the Patent Office, where 
supper was prepared for four thousand people. The spread 
included lamb, game, beef, poultry, seafood, pastries, jellies, 
confections, and various incidentals. 

Mrs. Lincoln felt her triumph complete as she paraded 
about the ballroom in her two-thousand-dollar gown a crea- 
tion of shimmering white silk and lace. Her headdress was as 
elaborate as her gown, and she carried a fan trimmed with 
ermine. The cynosure of all eyes, she triumphed over the beau- 
teous Mrs. Sprague. Her victory was short-lived, however. On 
April 14, 1865, six days after Robert E. Lee and his ragged 
Confederates surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court- 
house, Abraham Lincoln was shot as he sat in a box at Ford's 
Theater attending a performance of u Our American Cousin." 

The Great Emancipator breathed his last the following 
morning. Edwin Stanton made the famous comment, u Now he 
belongs to the ages," and Vice President Andrew Johnson, a 
Tennessee Democrat, took the oath of office as the seventeenth 
President of the United States. 

Courtesy National Park Service 

President Lincoln purchased this rosewood bed in December, 1864. Its dimen- 
sions are five and a half by eight feet; the carved headboard reaches a height 
of nine feet. The Lincoln bed is now in his second-floor study, used today as a 

guest room. 


Plain People 
from the Mountains 

Andrew and Eliza Johnson 

One of Andrew Johnson's first acts as President of the United 
States was to send word to the widowed Mrs. Lincoln, who "sat 
in the White House, half-demented, wringing her hands . . . ," 
inviting her to stay at the Executive Mansion as long as she 

In June, President Johnson was joined in the White House 
by his wife and family. The new First Lady had been an in- 
valid for twenty years, and was not able to assume the heavy 
responsibilities and social duties incumbent upon a President's 
wife. Her only appearance in public during her husband's ad- 
ministration was at a party given by her grandchildren, at 
which she remained seated. As young guests were presented to 
her, she smiled and explained gently, u My dears, I am an 

At seventeen, the former Eliza McCardle had married 
the nineteen-year-old Andy Johnson, who could neither write 
nor work arithmetic, and was able to read very little. In addi- 


1 84 Plain People from the Mountains 

tion to caring for their home and children, she had taken her 
young husband under her tutorship, and helped him rise from 
gawky country tailor through the State Legislature to the Gov- 
ernorship of Tennessee; through both Houses of Congress to 
the Vice Presidency, and finally to the Presidency on the death 
of Lincoln. 

Now fifty-eight, suffering from tuberculosis, Eliza selected 
for her own a small, quiet room in the southwest corner of the 
mansion overlooking the mall and the Potomac. Her room 
soon became the focal point around which the household re- 
volved. Her time occupied by knitting, crocheting, or reading 
the books she loved, she was always waiting with a warm smile 
when the President and their grandchildren returned from a 
picnic or a stroll carrying wildflowers for her. Nobody, it 
seemed (and the nation agreed) was quite like Grandma, 
with her gentle ways, her simplicity, her patience and common 
sense. Though frail in body, she was strong in spirit and uni- 
versally loved. 

Mrs. Johnson never interfered in the management of the 
household. Such chores were turned over to Martha, her eldest 
daughter, but she did make periodical visits to the kitchen, 
wistfully eyeing pies and doughnuts in the making, but not 
quite daring to ask if she might help. 

Martha, a handsome young woman of thirty-eight, soon 
assumed the responsibilities of hostess at White House social 
functions. The wife of David T. Patterson, who was elected 
Senator from Tennessee soon after Johnson became President, 
Martha had been educated at the Academy of the Visitation 
in Georgetown. During her father's term in the Senate she had 
remained at school, spending her weekly holidays with Presi- 
dent Folk's family in the Executive Mansion, where she met 
Dolly Madison and the Blairs, Lees, and other old families of 
Washington, many of whom in later years gladly welcomed 
her return to the capital city. She had been early introduced 
into Washington social life, and the people who imagined 

oo S 

H o 


ss . 
M s 





S w 

- S 8 

1 86 Plain People from the Mountains 

that Andrew Johnson's family were to prove a millstone about 
his neck forgot that Martha Patterson was his daughter." 
When some of the leaders of Washington society undertook 
to call at the White House and tender their patronage, Martha 
Patterson quietly remarked to them: u We are a plain people 
from the mountains of East Tennessee, called here for a short 
time by a national calamity, but we know our position and 
shall maintain it." 

When the President's family joined him in Washington, the 
White House, "after the sad scenes enacted in it, was dirty and 
dilapidated." Martha Patterson faced the problem of making 
the place livable with the same fortitude with which she had 
faced the sorrows and privations of the Civil War; under her 
guidance it took on a note of cleanliness and cheer that caught 
the public's imagination. 

As the war clouds began to lift, social functions once more 
took on a prewar tone. One contemporary wrote enthusiasti- 
cally in January, 1866 : 

Society in Washington has gone through a complete transformation 
during the past year. Never was a change in this respect so noticeable 
or so marked as here. It is seen at the receptions of the White House 
and all other social gatherings. The former are again resuming the 
brilliance of the palmy days of the Republic, and remind a person of 
the gay scenes at the White House when Miss Lane did the honors 
of the Executive Mansion. . . . Ladies arrayed in their rich silks, 
satins, tarletons and velvets, with their diamonds and jewels, now 
grace these gatherings. Gentlemen now consider it necessary to ap- 
pear in their party attire. The general appearance of the rooms when 
the guests have all gathered there is that of a fancy dress ball. . . . 
Social life and society in Washington have never been more attractive 
or fascinating than this winter. It is daily increasing in interest, and 
bids fair to excel anything known here in the past. 

In December, 1865, Congress appropriated $30,000 for reno- 
vation of the mansion. Workmen and decorators spent the 
greater part of the year 1866 putting the mansion into readi- 

vj c* 




1 88 Plain People from the Mountains 

ness for the reception to be held New Year's Day, January i, 
1867. After its completion, with the exception of the East 
Room, the social season did take on new brilliance. In addi- 
tion to the New Year's Day reception, the President an- 
nounced levees to be held on January 17, February 7, and 
February 22 from eight to eleven in the evening, and also that 
u Mrs. Patterson and Mrs. Stover would be at home on Mon- 
day afternoons." 

The New Year's Day reception of 1867 was a great success. 
Perley describes the occasion in his Reminiscences: 

The East Room was not thrown open, but the suite of drawing- 
rooms, which had been redecorated and newly furnished, were much 
admired. The traditional colors of scarlet, blue, and green had been 
preserved, but the walls had been paneled with gilt moldings, and the 
furniture was far more elegant than that which it had replaced. There 
was a profusion of rare flowers from the conservatory. 

Age and official perplexities had left their trace on Andrew 
Johnson's features, but he had lost none of his determined, 
defiant look. The President, noted for his meticulous dress, 
wore a plain black suit with straw-colored gloves, and received 
in the Blue Room, directly in front of the door connecting with 
the Red Room. The courteous Mr. Phillips, Assistant Mar- 
shal, introduced the visitors to him. 

Mrs. Patterson and her blond sister, Marie, the wife of 
Colonel Daniel Stover, stood at the right of the President 
near the center of the room during the most ceremonious part 
of the reception. They were presented by Colonel B. B. French, 
Commissioner of Public Buildings. The two ladies were 
dressed "with exceptional taste and elegance and very nearly 
alike." Their gowns were fashioned of black corded silk, with 
tight-fitting basques. A vine of leaves was embroidered around 
the skirt a little below the waistline and descended in a double 
row down the front; near the bottom of the skirt the rows 
curved apart and formed a deep border. The only difference 

Andrew and Eliza Johnson 189 

between the two dresses was that Mrs. Patterson's dress was 
embroidered in narrow white braid and Mrs. Stover's was 
embroidered in violet, with the leaves worked solid. Each of 
the women wore a narrow collar fastened with a brooch, and 
flowers in her hair Mrs. Patterson a spray of mignonette 
and Mrs. Stover a white japonica. 

As the weather was cold and rainy, Martha had prudently 
covered the new velvet carpets recently laid in the Red, Blue, 
and Green parlors to keep them from becoming soiled. 

The diplomatic corps began arriving at eleven o'clock. Cab- 
inet officers and their ladies entered next, then the Chief Jus- 
tice, followed by Justices of the Supreme Court and the local 
judges, members of Congress, assistant secretaries, heads of 
bureaus, and chief clerks. As the band struck up u The Red, 
White and Blue," Admiral Radford entered with a large party 
of naval officers, all in full uniform; "Hail to the Chief an- 
nounced General Grant, who was attended by Adjutant-Gen- 
eral Thomas and others. The reception, however, was marked 
by the absence of volunteer officers in uniform, who had, since 
the war, always been present in large numbers. 

At twelve o'clock the officials took their leave and the wait- 
ing throngs were admitted to the White House. For two solid 
hours a living tide surged through the rooms, each man, 
woman, and child u being presented and shaking hands with the 
President as they passed him." There was "almost every con- 
ceivable variety of dress, and every part of the country, with 
many foreign lands, was represented," Perley tells us. 

At the last levee of the season, held on February 22, the 
crowd was so massive it was impossible to enforce the cus- 
tomary regulations. Policemen stationed at the Red Room 
doors were swept on the tide to the Blue Room, where the 
receiving line stood. 

A newspaper clipping of that time states : 

. . . The levees of President Johnson are especially brilliant, and 
frequenters of Washington society declare that under no former occu- 

190 Plain People from the Mountains 

pant of the White House has such good order and system reigned, as 
under the present. 

During Johnson's administration state dinners were held 
on Tuesday at seven o'clock. After dinner, around nine, guests 
repaired to the Blue Room for an hour of conversation. 

The Johnson family dinner was a party in itself ; the twelve 
members of the family, including five grandchildren, consid- 
ered their dinnertime a kind of "social hour." Butter from the 
White House dairy was on the table. Martha Patterson estab- 
lished the reputation of having the "most up to date and 
cleanest dairy [the breed was Jersey] in Washington." 

The President, who liked people and enjoyed meeting them, 
entertained Queen Emma of the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), 
widow of King Kamehameha IV, when she stopped over in 
Washington on her way home from a trip around the world. 
The Queen arrived with her suite at half-past eight. She was 
received by Henry Stanbery, the attorney general, who es- 
corted her to the Red Room where the President, Mrs. John- 
son, Mrs. Patterson, Mrs. Stanbery, Secretary and Mrs. 
Gideon Welles, and other ladies and gentlemen were assem- 
bled. According to a newspaper account: 

The dusky Queen was dressed in a rich black silk with low neck, a 
broad mauve ribbon across her breast, a jet necklace and a diamond 
brooch. A jet tiara and white lace veil were worn upon her head. 
Contrary to custom, the doors of the White House were thrown open 
to as many as could be accommodated in the reception room so that 
all who pleased might witness the ceremony. 

Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper provided some historical 
data about the Queen : 

Emma, dowager Queen of Hawaii, is a very pleasing person, and is 
partially of white extraction. Through her mother's side she belongs 
to the native Chieftains; her father was a grandson of John Young, 
one of Vancouver's companions. In 1856 she was married to Kame- 

Library of Congress 

Her Majesty Emma, Queen Dowager of the Sandwich Islands, visited the 
White House during Johnson s administration. This drawing of her appeared 
in Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. 

192 Plain People from the Mountains 

hameha IV, who died in 1863. Their only son having died in 1862, 
the throne was occupied by the late King's brother, who now reigns 
under the title of Kamehameha V. 

Andrew Johnson's four years in the White House may 
have been very successful on the domestic and social levels, 
but his official life was far from smooth. He was hated, in- 
sulted, and distrusted by both parties to the recently-concluded 
Civil War, and a lie everyone seemed to believe was that 
Johnson was a drunkard. In February, 1868, the House of 
Representatives passed a resolution of impeachment, the charge 
against him being that he had violated the law by dismissing 
his Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton. Johnson was acquitted 
by a single vote, and finished out his term. He did not attend 
the inauguration of his successor, Ulysses S. Grant. 

Six years later, however, with Grant still in the White 
House, Andrew Johnson would win personal vindication. He 
would be returned to the Senate from Tennessee in 1875, an d 
serve for a few months before his death on July 31. 


Breakers of Precedent 

Ulysses and Julia Grant 

Social Washington welcomed the change from the harrowing 
years of the Civil War, the deep gloom that had settled over the 
nation following Lincoln's assassination, and the first bitter 
years of the Reconstruction Period under Andrew Johnson. 
The brilliant Inaugural Ball held for Ulysses S. Grant on 
March 4, 1869, in the north wing of the new Treasury Depart- 
ment, then just completed, suited the spirit of the new era. 
Here, in part, is the description of the event which appeared 
in Harper's Bazar: 

It has long been the custom to usher in each new administration 
by a complimentary entertainment which should give the people an 
opportunity of personally paying their respects to the new function- 
aries. This year the north wing of the new Treasury Building was 
chosen as the place of the reception, and was beautifully decorated for 
the occasion in the short space of two days. The massive columns of 
the portico were wreathed with flowers and foliage, and the entrance 
was surmounted with the welcome word PEACE in gas jets. Three 


194 Breakers of Precedent 

magnificent rooms, on different floors, were fitted up for dancing; 
private apartments were allotted to the Presidential Party; and the 
basement was converted into supper rooms. 

The new President and Vice President received the warmest con- 
gratulations from 6,000 persons that had assembled to do them honor. 
. . . Every kind of intoxicating liquor had been excluded, and all pre- 
caution taken to insure propriety: and in these respects the efforts of 
the managers were crowned with complete success. That people were 
jostled, dresses torn, wrappings lost and carriages missed here and 
there did not detract from the general good-humor, and the guests 
laughed instead of grumbled at these trifling mishaps, and only echoed 
the words of the great chief, "Let Us Have Peace." 

In the succeeding months, capital society plunged into an 
orgy of entertaining and extravagance unheard of even in the 
lush days before the war. It was not unusual for eight recep- 
tions to be held in one block! (The Washington Star de- 
scribed the block on Eye Street, between Seventeenth and 
Eighteenth Streets on the afternoon of January 30, 1873, as 
the "liveliest looking portion of the city" that day. "Carriages 
blocked the street so completely there was scarcely room for 
the horses to make a turn.") 

From the beginning, the new President let it be known that 
he refused to be handicapped by White House customs he con- 
sidered useless and irksome. Both he and the new First Lady 
broke many of the old precedents that had chained former 
Chief Executives to the White House. Grant not only dined 
outside the mansion when it suited him, but returned calls. 

Mrs. Grant, the former Julia Dent of St. Louis, wrote that 
the White House was a "garden spot of orchids." Her after- 
noon receptions, which the President often attended out of 
deference to his wife, were held between two and five P.M. 
and were open to the public, the only requirement being that 
guests leave their cards at the door. Levees, announced before- 
hand in the press and usually held between eight and ten P.M., 
with both the President and his Lady present, were open to 
the general public also. 



S, K' 



^ fc 



fh * 

196 Breakers of Precedent 

General Grant carried with him into the White House his 
army habits of regularity. He arose at seven o'clock, read 
newspapers, and breakfasted with his family at eight-thirty 
on Spanish mackerel, steak or bacon and fried apples (the lat- 
ter a favorite dish) , rolls, pancakes, and coffee hot and strong. 
He usually took a short stroll afterward, walking slowly with 
his left hand behind him, sometimes holding a cigar in his 
right. Ten o'clock found him in his office. At three o'clock, the 
official business of the day ended, he almost invariably visited 
the White House stable. He was quite fond of his horses, 
including his bay charger; two carriage horses; a buggy horse; 
his son Jesse's ponies; his daughter Nellie's saddle horse, a 
natural pacer; a brood mare and three colts. Five vehicles 
stood in the carriage house: a landau, a barouche, a light road- 
wagon, a top-buggy, and a pony phaeton for the children. 

Dinner was served promptly at five o'clock, and every mem- 
ber of the family was expected to be punctual. General Grant's 
favorite dishes were rare roast beef, boiled hominy, wheaten 
bread, and, for dessert, rice pudding, but he was not a heavy 
eater. The pleasant chatter of the four children Fred, Ulys- 
ses junior, and Nellie, with Master Jesse as the humorist 
enlivened the meals, while Grandpa Dent would "occasionally 
indulge in some conservative growls against the progress being 
made by the colored race," according to Perley. After coffee, 
the General would light another cigar and smoke while glanc- 
ing over the New York papers. About nine o'clock a few 
chosen friends would often call, sometimes by appointment, 
but business matters were generally forbidden and official af- 
fairs were not to be mentioned. 

Julia Grant enjoyed the whirl of entertainment as much as 
any of the ladies. Even the inclement weather unusually cold 
for Washington failed to dampen the gaiety, or the ladies' 
passion for silken and velvet gowns with exaggerated bustles 
and long trains and cobweb lace shawls. Fashion at that time 
decreed that dresses be cut very low at the neck; party frocks 

Ulysses and Julia Grant 197 

were extremely decollete. Pearl powder had come into com- 
mon use, and ladies young and old were using rouge and 

The marriage of Nellie, the President's only daughter, to 
the young Englishman Algernon Sartoris was the first wedding 
in the White House in thirty years. General Grant had not ap- 
proved the engagement of his daughter, then not yet nineteen, 
to a young Englishman who had enlisted her affection on the 
steamer while she was returning from abroad. But when he 
found her heart was set on it, he yielded. 

Washington was at its loveliest when the ceremony took 
place in the spring, at eleven o'clock on the morning of May 
21, 1874. So elaborate was the affair, so popular the Grants, 
and so socially prominent the groom, that society writers 
including the female species which had so increased in numbers 
since the Anne Royall epoch filled the newspapers here and 
abroad with full-page spreads on the event. The pastor of the 
Methodist Episcopal Church, Dr. Tiffany, officiated at the 
ceremony, which took place in the East Room before an altar 
banked by Easter lilies and other bridal flowers. The bride 
wore a white satin dress trimmed with point lace ; her bridal 
veil, which completely enveloped her, was crowned with a 
wreath of white flowers and green leaves interspersed with 
orange blossoms. 

According to Washington newspapers of the day, there 
were eight bridesmaids. They wore dresses of white corded 
silk, alike in every particular, with overdresses of white illu- 
sion and sashes of white silk arranged in a succession of loops 
from the waist down, forming a graceful drapery. Four brides- 
maids wore blue flowers, and four pink. 

Mrs. Grant's dress was black silk, with ruffles and puffs of 
black illusion, and lavender-colored ribbons, lilacs, and pan- 
sies. (She was in mourning at the time.) 

After the ceremony the guests, including members of the 
diplomatic corps, resplendent in full dress, Cabinet officers, 

198 Breakers of Precedent 

Justices of the Supreme Court, and high-ranking officers of the 
army and navy many of whom had served in military cam- 
paigns under Grant proceeded to the State Dining Room for 
the elaborate wedding breakfast. They dined on such delicacies 
as soft crabs on toast, chicken croquettes with fresh peas, aspic 
of beef tongue, and decorated broiled spring chicken. The des- 
sert was strawberries with cream. And of course there was a 
wedding cake, elaborately decorated with doves, roses, and 
wedding bells. Ice cream and ices of various flavors were served 
with small fancy cakes, punch, coffee, and chocolate. As the 
guests left, Thomas Pendel handed each a little box tied in 
white ribbon wedding cake for "hopefuls" to dream on. 

The fashion at the time was ornate floral decorations; 
favors had become the rage at dinner parties, a fad which 
continued until it became a display of the host's wealth rather 
than a memento of the pleasant occasion. Julia Grant adopted 
the custom wholeheartedly; the State Dining Room became a 
fairyland on official and special dinner occasions. The chande- 
lier was festooned with ropes of roses and smilax; potted 
plants and flowers adorned the windows and alcoves; ten- 
foot-tall pink azaleas bloomed behind Mrs. Grant's chair. 

When the Monroe plateau was used as the centerpiece it 
was decked with flowers. The spaces between the plateau and 
the ends of the table were used for smaller bowls of flowers, 
Monroe candelabra, and fruit epergnes, and were interspersed 
with garlands of smilax. From 1876 on, however, a silver 
ship was the Grants' favorite centerpiece. The ship was made 
and put on display at the Centennial Exposition in Phila- 
delphia by the Mohawk Indians, who afterward presented it 
to President Grant. On occasion it was set on the mirrored pla- 
teau; the effect achieved was that the ship was afloat. The 
ship bears an appropriate inscription: 

"All alone went Hiawatha 
Through the clear, transparent water." 

Library of Congress 

Nellie Grant, the President's only daughter, was married in the East Room 
on May 21, 1874. This was the first wedding ceremony performed in the 
White House since President Tyler married in 1844- 

2OO Breakers of Precedent 

Usually a bouquet of flowers with streamers of satin ribbon 
lay at each lady's cover, which she either wore or carried in 
her hand after dinner. A boutonniere lay at each gentleman's 

President and Mrs. Grant received their guests at seven 
o'clock in the Oval Room. They then proceeded to the State 
Dining Room, the President leading with the lady of highest 
rank on his arm and the First Lady following on the arm of 
that lady's husband. 

The guests of President and Mrs. Grant partook of the 
most elaborate dinners ever to be served in the White House, 
sometimes consisting of twenty-nine courses and lasting for 
two or three hours. Six wine glasses stood at each cover. Ro- 
man punch or sorbet, dubbed "the life-saving station," was 
served at the end of the roast course as a refresher. A dinner 
for thirty-six guests might cost the President $700 to $1500, 
excluding beverages; the dinner given for Prince Arthur, third 
son of Queen Victoria, is said to have cost $2,000. 

The New Year's Day reception of 1873 was a crowded 
affair. Julia Grant, splendid in a dress of pearl-gray silk, 
flounced and trimmed with silk of a darker hue and point 
lace, greeted the guests enthusiastically. The diplomatic corps, 
Supreme Court, army, and navy turned out in full force. 
Among those present, according to Perley, were : 

. . . nice people, questionable people and people who were not nice 
at all. Every state, every age, every social class, both sexes and all 
human colors were represented. There were wealthy bankers, and a 
poor, blind, black beggar led by a boy; men in broadcloth and in 
homespun; men with beards and men without beards. Members of the 
press and of the lobby; contractors and claim agents; office holders 
and office seekers; there were ladies from Paris in elegant attire and 
ladies from the interior in calico; ladies whose cheeks were tinged with 
rouge, and others whose faces were weather-bronzed by out-door 
work; ladies as lovely as Eve, and others as naughty as Mary Magda- 
lene; ladies in diamonds, and others in dollar jewelry; chambermaids 
elbowed countesses, and all enjoyed themselves. . . . 

Ulysses and Julia Grant 201 

President Grant's second inauguration on Tuesday, March 
4, 1873, was shorn of its splendor by the bitterly cold weather. 
The wind blew in a shrill gale, sweeping away flags and other 
decorations. So intense was the cold that the breath of the 
musicians condensed in the valves of their instruments, mak- 
ing it impossible for them to play, and many of the cadets and 
soldiers had to leave the ranks, half-frozen. The customary 
crowds of civilians were completely routed by the cutting 

At the Inauguration Ball, held in an immense temporary 
building which had no heating apparatus, the ladies were com- 
pelled to wear their wrappings, and the gentlemen kept on 
their overcoats and hats as they endeavored to keep warm 
by vigorous dancing. 

Mrs. Grant, who wore a white silk dress trimmed with 
black chantilly lace, shivered as she stood beside her husband 
on the dais. The supper, prepared at great expense, was em- 
phatically a cold repast. Ornamented molds of ice cream froze 
into solid chunks, and the plentiful champagne and punch were 
forsaken for hot coffee and chocolate, the only warm comforts 
in the building. The guests, each one of whom had paid twenty 
dollars for a ticket, were frozen out before midnight. 

Grant entertained many important personages, including 
Prince Arthur of Connaught in January, 1870, King Kala- 
kaua of the Sandwich Islands on December 22, 1874, and 
Dom Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil, on May 8, 1876. 

Prince Arthur was royally entertained in the State Dining 
Room, which was decorated with evergreens and English and 
American flags. Covers were laid for thirty-six, and it was one 
of the most costly banquets given by President Grant. The 
First Lady, a favorite of members of the diplomatic corps for 
her wit and charm, was elaborately gowned in the bustle and 
long train then fashionable. 

As King Kalakaua dined, his cup bearer and two other mem- 
bers of his entourage stood behind his chair. Their dress, 

2O2 Breakers of Precedent 

which excited considerable comment, is briefly described as 
resembling "ladies* bertha capes/' Every morsel of food that 
passed the royal lips was first scrutinized by the cup bearer. 

Dom Pedro II had come to this country primarily to visit 
the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia, and traveled in- 
cognito as "Mr. Alcantara, n though he was accompanied by 
the Empress Theresa and his imperial retinue. Some days be- 
fore his arrival the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, "in 
view of the repeatedly expressed desire of Dom Pedro II to 
travel through the United States as a private gentleman . . ." 
had reported adversely on a resolution proposing a public re- 
ception for the Emperor. Accordingly, Dom Pedro was met 
at the depot only by Senor Borges, the Brazilian minister. 

President Grant must have been most pleased by this turn 
of events. A small item taken from the Washington Star of 
May 6, 1876 the day preceding the Emperor's descent upon 
the city states simply: 

GONE A-FISHING: There was no official business transacted at the 
White House today, as the President spent the day with friends, at 
the Great Falls, fishing. 

The Emperor was equally happy with the no-fuss-and-f eath- 
ers arrangement. He spent a quiet Sunday afternoon visiting 
the Capitol, and enjoyed the evening at the National Observa- 
tory in company with the Brazilian minister and Professor 
Newcomb, the astronomer. 

Dom Pedro's visit to the White House on Monday morn- 
ing, May 8, was a purely social one. Accompanied by Senor 
Borges, the Brazilian minister, and his suite, he called at the 
Executive Mansion and was at once ushered into the Blue 
Room, to be greeted by the President and Secretary of State 
Hamilton Fish, who made the formal introduction. After the 
usual expressions of pleasure at meeting they proceeded to the 
Red Parlor, where Mrs. Grant, Mrs. Fish, and Mrs. Fred 

Courtesy National Park Service 

The Centennial Exposition, held at Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, ran from 
May 10 to November 10, 1876. The Mohawk Indians displayed this hand- 
crafted silver ship, and presented it to President Grant for use at the White 
House when the Exposition closed. 

204 Breakers of Precedent 

Grant were waiting. Here the whole party "engaged in a 
very pleasant conversation, which lasted over half an hour, 
and after which, bidding adieu to the President and his fam- 
ily, the Imperial party entered their carriages and were driven 
to the Capitol." 

When the Emperor, dressed in a black suit and wearing an 
old-fashioned plug hat, visited the diplomatic gallery of the 
House of Representatives, he rose to his feet when the chap- 
lain began the prayer. If he felt any surprise on seeing that 
the members preferred to worship in a recumbent position with 
their heels on their desks, the Emperor gave no indication of 
it; he politely sat down again without a word. 

President Grant, Mrs. Grant, Mrs. Fred Grant, and Cabi- 
net members and their families were among the two hundred 
twenty-five persons who left on a special train on the morning 
of May 9 for the Philadelphia Centennial, which was to open 
the following morning. The Emperor had planned a trip to 
Mount Vernon that morning, but since the weather was in- 
clement he decided to visit the Treasury Department before 
leaving for the Centennial at one o'clock that afternoon. 

At the Centennial opening the following morning, the Em- 
peror and his party were greeted by General Hawley and 
others of the commission. As General Hawley led the Emperor 
to his seat on the platform and the orchestra struck up the 
Brazilian National Anthem, Dom Pedro was loudly cheered. 
President Grant, escorted also by General Hawley, then ad- 
vanced to the front of the platform, and as the orchestra 
played "Hail to the Chief," the President shook hands with 
the Emperor and other guests before making his speech open- 
ing the Centennial. 

The Grants were a close-knit family, and in their time the 
Executive Mansion is said to have looked more like a private 
home than it did during any other administration. Mrs. Grant, 
besides being an excellent hostess, was a devoted wife and 
mother, cognizant of her family's culinary likes and dislikes. 

206 Breakers of Precedent 

She took everything in stride probably because of her train- 
ing as a soldier's wife and always arranged for six extra 
places to be set for the unexpected guests who were sure to 
drop in. 

Although Grant insisted that members of his family be on 
time for meals, he was more lenient toward his friends. Once 
he waited half an hour for Senator Simon Cameron of Penn- 
sylvania, who was late for a state dinner. When he did not 
appear, the President finally led the guests into the State Din- 
ing Room after issuing orders that the Senator be given a seat 
directly opposite him when he did arrive. 

The company had been at dinner a full half hour when the 
legislator finally arrived, carrying a hickory walking stick. 
The President's secretary, who had been waiting for him, 
promptly escorted him (still carrying the stick), to the State 
Dining Room. Not the least bit apologetic over his tardiness, 
the guest took his seat and proceeded to do justice to the meal. 

Though he served eight years and was extremely popular, 
President Grant never quite got over the difficulty of adhering 
to the White House code of etiquette. "I'd rather storm a 
fort!" he once told a guest after dutifully dancing with a lady 
at one of the many parties given during his administration. 

Ulysses Grant, in addition to his presidential duties, turned 
his attention more and more toward the general improve- 
ment of the nation's capital, and Washington today owes 
much to his foresight and planning. 

The Grants left the White House the day after giving a 
banquet which was designed to surpass any given heretofore 
in the Executive Mansion that accorded the incoming Presi- 
dent and Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes on March 3, 1877. 






Lemonade Lucy 

Rutherford and Lucy Hayes 

Washington society, after eight years of elaborate entertain- 
ing, frizzled hairdo's, bustles, and velvet trains, got the sur- 
prise of its life when the Rutherford B. Hayeses, with their 
quiet culture and conservative ways, moved into the White 

Neither the President nor his wife cared for liquor, and 
lost no time in banning it from the White House table. The 
taboo created a furor of criticism among the elite of the social 
and official hierarchies of the capital city; Mrs. Hayes was 
sarcastically referred to as "Lemonade Lucy." The new First 
Lady had brought with her from her home what was known 
in those days as u the Ohio idea" of total abstinence from all 
intoxicating liquors, and Lucy Hayes enforced her ban al- 
though a story is told by Perley, in his Reminiscences, that a 
certain steward of the White House managed to get around 
the taboo and gratify the thirst of those who wished some- 
thing stronger than lemonade. 


210 Lemonade Lucy 

The White House waiters, Perley tells us, "were kept busy 
replenishing salvers upon which tropical fruit [oranges] lay. 
Glances telegraphed to one another that . . . concealed 
within the oranges was a delicious frozen punch, a large in- 
gredient of which was strong old Santa Croix rum. Thence- 
forth (without the knowledge of Mrs. Hayes, of course) 
Roman punch was served about the middle of each state din- 
ner and was referred to by those in on the secret as 'the life- 
saving station.' " In his diary, however, President Hayes wrote 
that only rum flavoring was used, and that this was a joke u on 
the drinking people. 57 

The people one met in the White House and at Washington 
social affairs during the Hayes administration were an im- 
provement over those who had flocked to the capital city's so- 
cial functions since the war. One of the evils attendant on the 
u gilded era" of the war and the flush times that followed, 
Perley says, was the universal desire of everyone to be a part 
of Washington "society" : 

The maiden from New Hampshire who counted currency in the 
Treasury Department for $900 a year; the young student from Wis- 
consin who received $1200 per annum for his services as a copyist in 
the General Land office; the janitor of the Circumlocution Bureau, 
and the energetic correspondent of the Cranberry Centre Gazette, 
each and all thought they should dine at the foreign legations, sup 
with the members of the Cabinet, mingle in the mazes of the German, 
and with the families of the Senators. The discrepancy in income or 
education made no difference in their minds. . . . But while some of 
them, by their persistency, wriggled into society, the stern reality re- 
mained that their compensations did not increase, because their owners 
foolishly diminished them in what they called "maintaining their so- 
cial position." 

Hayes was sworn into office on March 3, 1877 (the fourth 
fell on Sunday). Had he waited until Monday, the United 
States would have been without a head for twenty-four hours, 
a condition which, in view of the critical times the nation 

Rutherford and Lucy Hayes 2x1 

was torn by strikes and in the throes of a financial panic was 
deemed unwise. 

On this historic Saturday night, President Grant decided to 
honor his successor with a banquet. His party-loving wife, 
Julia, who determined to make the affair one of the most 
elaborate ever held in the Executive Mansion, saw to it that 
the decorations were overwhelming. Dining-room chandeliers 
were festooned with roses and smilax; potted plants filled the 
alcoves and windows, and flowers were massed behind Mrs. 
Grant's chair. The thirty-six guests found bouquets for the 
ladies and boutonnieres for the gentlemen at their places. Six 
wine glasses stood at each plate. 

The guests had assembled when President Grant, President- 
elect Hayes, Secretary of State Hamilton Fish, and Chief Jus- 
tice Morrison Waite slipped away unobtrusively to meet in the 
Red Room. There Rutherford Hayes, with raised hand in lieu 
of a Bible, took the oath of office as the nineteenth President 
of the United States. Then he and the Chief Justice signed the 
document (witnessed by General Grant and Secretary Fish), 
which was then entrusted to the Secretary of State for safe- 

The following Monday Mr. Hayes was again sworn in 
this time officially, at public ceremonies held at the Capitol 
and took his oath on the Bible. 

Lucy Hayes, with her plainly-arranged hair and high-necked 
black silk dress, exercised a greater influence over public af- 
fairs than any First Lady since Dolly Madison, according to 
one reporter. Here is a contemporary description of her: 

Tall, robust and with a dignified figure, the expression of her face, 
from the broad forehead which showed from her hair, worn in the 
old-fashion style, to the firm mouth and modest chin, bespoke the 
thoughtful, well-balanced, woman. She had a bright, animated face. 
... Her radiant smile . . . was the reflection of a sunny disposition 
and a nature at rest with itself. . . . She and husband never seemed 
fretted or flurried. 

212 Lemonade Lucy 

Mrs. Hayes was charmed with the White House, and lost 
no time in having the lumber rooms ransacked and old china 
and furniture brought out and renovated. 

Instead of "frittering away the liberal appropriations of 
Congress for the domestic wants of the White House," she 
expended a large share of them in the purchase of a state 
dinner service of nearly a thousand pieces, illustrating the 
fauna and flora of the United States. The designs were exe- 
cuted by Theodore R. Davis of New Jersey, who, Perley tells 
us, had "fished in the rivers of the East and West, and in 
the sea, hunted fowl and wild game in the forests, the swamps 
and the mountains, shot buffalo on the plains and visited his- 
toric haunts of the Indians in the East, met the Indians in 
their wigwams and studied their habits on the prairies of the 
West." The designs, made in water colors, were bold and 
striking, but were difficult to produce perfectly upon porcelain 
with hard mineral colors. It was necessary to invent new meth- 
ods and to have recourse to peculiar mechanical appliances, 
but the effort was successful and the set of Limoges faience 
which was produced became a rich legacy for future White 
House families. 

Lucy Hayes had eight children, three of whom died in in- 
fancy. A devout Christian, she instituted morning prayers, to 
be said after the eight-thirty breakfast. At her Sunday-evening 
hymn sessions, in which Cabinet officers and Congressmen 
raised their voices together, singing such hymns as "Lead 
Kindly Light" and "Rock of Ages," her rich voice could be 
heard leading the songs of praise, while the deep, clear, bass 
tones of Vice President Wheeler rounded out the harmony. 
The First Lady was accomplished as an instrumentalist, and 
her husband, who was a devotee of folk songs according to the 
Musical Observer, once wrote her before their marriage: 
"With no musical taste or cultivation myself, I am yet so fond 
of simple airs that I have often thought I could never love a 
woman who did not sing them." 

214 Lemonade Lucy 

Open house was held at the Executive Mansion between 
eight and ten o'clock Saturdays for Washingtonians and others 
who felt the impulse to drop in. Often fifty or more guests 
would appear at these impromptu affairs, which must have 
taxed the hospitality of Lucy and Rutherford Hayes. In fact, 
Harper's Weekly (July 2, 1892) states that the "world took 
. . . liberal advantage of [the Hayeses'] hospitality and 
worked . . . havoc to the Executive Mansion, and its own 
persons and garments. " 

According to one observer, Lucy Hayes never bowed to the 
tyranny of such fashions as "frizzled hair and . . . party- 
dresses cut so shamefully low in the neck as to generously dis- 
play robust maturity or scraggy leanness." As soon as the First 
Lady emancipated herself, other Washington ladies followed 
suit. Actually, many of Lucy Hayes's evening gowns were ele- 
gant, made of rich material and carefully chosen colors. She 
had the good taste not to disfigure her beautifully shaped 
head with ridiculous coiffures, or to load herself with flashy 

State dinners under Hayes's administration, while not as 
elaborate as those enjoyed by his predecessor, were none- 
theless delicious and tastefully served. Lucy Hayes's table 
"groaned with delicacies which called forth admiration," one 
eyewitness reported. Throughout the Hayes tenure of the 
historic mansion, there were neither champagne glasses nor alco- 
hol-tainted punch bowls on the tables; the only exception to 
the taboo on liquor occurred at the banquet given on April 
19, 1877, for Grand Duke Alexis Alexandrovitch of Russia, 
at which, thanks to the earnest pleading of Secretary of State 
Evarts, wine was served. 

The popular custom of egg rolling on the White House 
lawns on Easter Monday is generally credited to President 
and Mrs. Hayes (although Dolly Madison is said to have 
introduced the idea in the first place) . The children of Wash- 
ington had for years enjoyed this sport on the grounds of the 

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216 Lemonade Lucy 

Capitol building, but when the guards chased the youngsters 
who gathered there on Easter Monday, 1 878, President Hayes 
invited them to use the White House grounds a gesture 
which endeared the Hayeses to parents and children throughout 
the nation and made the affair one of national significance. 
The weekend party that heralded the close of the year 1877 
turned out to be one of the most beautiful ever held in the 
White House, for the thirtieth of December was the Hayeses' 
silver wedding anniversary. This was the first celebration of 
its kind that had occurred at the Executive Mansion. 

Friends who had attended the wedding ceremony, including 
the bridal party and the minister, Dr. L. D. McCabe of Dela- 
ware, Ohio, were invited to repeat their parts in a reenact- 
ment of the wedding service. The President himself had ad- 
dressed these invitations, on which he had scribbled an inti- 
mate "I hope you will come." 

In the East Room, at the doors and in the alcoves, tropical 
plants clustered in profusion. Mantels were banked with 
bright-colored cut flowers, and smilax was entwined in the 
huge crystal chandeliers. At the main entrance, just opposite 
the national coat-of-arms, two immense star-spangled flags, 
hanging from ceiling to floor, completely covered the large 
window. The Green, the Red, and the Blue parlors were sim- 
ilarly decorated with azaleas, hyacinths, and roses. 

Members of the Cabinet and their families were the only 
oificial personages invited to this celebration. The guest list 
included: a delegation of the regiment (the Twenty-third 
Ohio Volunteer Infantry) which the President had commanded 
in the Civil War. Among the President's schoolmates present 
was a Mr. Deshla of Columbus, who said: "I knew him when 
we called him 'Rud'; when he was called 'Mr. Hayes,' then 
* Colonel Hayes' and 'General Hayes'; then 'Governor Hayes' 
and now that he is President, we are equally good friends." 
Precisely at nine o'clock on the thirty-first, the band struck 
up Mendelssohn's Wedding March, and President Hayes, 

Library of Congress 

Rutherford and Lucy Hayes celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniver- 
sary on December 30, 1877. This was the first celebration of its kind held in 
the White House. 

21 8 Lemonade Lucy 

with his wife on his arm, came downstairs followed by mem- 
bers of the family and the special guests, two by two. The 
procession passed through the inner vestibule into the East 
Room, where the President and Mrs. Hayes stationed them- 
selves, with their backs to the flag-draped window, and there 
remained until the invited guests had made their congratula- 
tions. Mrs. Mitchell the daughter of the President's sister, 
Mrs. Platt stood next to Mrs. Hayes and "clasped her 
hand, as she did when a little child, during the marriage cere- 
mony twenty-five years back," Perley tells us. 

Lucy Hayes wore a gown of white silk with draperies of 
white brocade, each with two rows of tasseled fringe along 
the top and a full plaiting at the sides and bottom of the front 
breadth ; the heart-shaped neck was filled in with tulle, and the 
half-length sleeves had deep ruchings of lace. Her hair, in 
plain bands, was knotted at the back and fastened with a sil- 
ver comb ; long white kid gloves and white slippers completed 
her bridal array. (Perley tells us that on the day previous, 
which was the actual anniversary, Mrs. Hayes had worn her 
wedding dress, making "no alterations save in letting out the 
seams ... of flowered satin, made when ten or twelve 
breadths of silk were put in a skirt, and there was no sem- 
blance of a train appended thereto.") 

After receiving the congratulations of the company, the 
President and Mrs. Hayes led the way into the State Dining 
Room, which was elaborately decked with cut flowers and 
plants. The table was adorned with pyramids of confectionery, 
fancy French dishes, and ices in molds, the menu including 
every delicacy in the way of eatables but no beverage except 
coffee. At midnight, when the guns announced the New Year, 
congratulations and good wishes were exchanged, and then the 
company departed. 

The following day was given over to the regular White 
House New Year's reception. The President and First Lady 
shook hands with those representing official Washington, and 

Library of Congress 

This drawing by W. M. Rouzee, which appeared in Harper s Bazar, bears the 
caption, "President and Mrs. Hayes at divine worship in the Foundry M. E. 
Church, Washington; D. C" 

22O Lemonade Lucy 

later the general public was welcomed into the halls of the 
Executive Mansion. Lucy Hayes, in a stunning black velvet 
gown cut on princess lines with a train, the V-neck filled in with 
delicate Spanish lace, received her guests with a fresh, warm- 
hearted smile. 

Before the end of the Hayes administration, Lucy, who very 
much enjoyed her role of First Lady, had become "the most 
idolized woman in America." Three great poets Longfellow, 
Whittier, and Oliver Wendell Holmes paid tribute to her 
in verse; she was acclaimed for her courage and Madonna- 
like beauty, and for the serenity and softness of her eyes and 
the gentleness of face. Her happiness and cheerfulness, ac- 
cording to Thomas Pendel, then doorkeeper, permeated the 
White House. 

She was the first college graduate to rule as mistress of the 
White House, and the only presidential hostess to be memori- 
alized for valor in a cause. The Woman's Christian Temper- 
ance Union presented a portrait of Lucy Hayes to the White 
House, where it hangs today. With the gift went a silken ban- 
ner inscribed: "She hath done what she could." 

Tragedy in Washington 

James and Lucretia Garfield 

The little old lady leaned forward, listening intently to every 
word spoken by the eloquent orator on the platform erected 
over the lower flight of steps leading to the eastern portico 
of the Capitol. Overhead, bright streaks of light appeared in 
the sky, which had been leaden all morning. The snowstorm 
that had held Washington in its grip during the night had 
ceased ; drying flags began to flutter in the breeze, and up Penn- 
sylvania Avenue surged a wave of men, women, and children, 
shouting and cheering, toward the great event of the day the 
inauguration of the new President, James Abram Garfield. 
General Garfield, who a moment before had occupied the 
seat of honor with President Hayes on his right and Chief 
Justice Waite on his left, delivered his inaugural address in 
a loud, clear voice. Now the sun shone brightly, and the peo- 
ple who had pushed close to the platform could not help 
noticing the resemblance between their new President and 
an old woman listening delightedly to the ringing tones of 

his speech. 


222 Tragedy in Washington 

"Grandma" Garfield was the first woman to hear her son 
deliver an inaugural address. When he had finished his speech 
and taken the oath of office, Garfield, before receiving the 
congratulations of those around him, strode over to kiss the 
little old lady, amid the shouts and cheers of the crowd. 

The capital city was seething with strangers from north, 
east, south, and west who had come by locomotive, steam- 
boat, carriage, and on foot to attend the gala occasion. Wash- 
ington hotels were filled to overflowing; late arrivals were 
happy to find cots in private homes. Many swarmed into con- 
cert halls, theaters, and even public buildings for the night. 

The Inaugural Ball of March 4, 1881, was held in the new 
National Museum building, which had just been completed. 
The first thing that caught the guests' eyes in the central ro- 
tunda was a heroic-size statue of Lady Liberty, holding aloft 
a flaming torch. The high, arched ceiling of the room was 
almost hidden by a network of evergreens and flowers. Red- 
white-and-blue flags were displayed everywhere. 

The new President and First Lady arrived at the ball at 
about nine o'clock. Lucretia Garfield wore a stunning dress 
of light heliotrope satin elaborately trimmed with point lace, 
a cluster of pansies at her neck, and no jewelry. Mrs. Hayes, 
who attended the ball with her, wore a cream-colored satin 
frock trimmed with ermine. 

Supper was served in the "annex," a temporary construc- 
tion, where preparations had been made for seating five hun- 
dred guests at a time. More than fifteen hundred pounds of 
turkey were provided by the caterer for the gargantuan feast 
that followed, which included a hundred gallons of oysters, 
fifty hams, two hundred gallons of chicken salad, seven hun- 
dred loaves of bread, two thousand biscuits, three hundred 
and fifty pounds of butter, fifty gallons of jelly, fifteen thou- 
sand cakes, a hundred and fifty gallons of ice cream, fifty gal- 
lons of water ices, two hundred and fifty gallons of coffee, 
and other delicacies in proportion. 

Library of Congress 

General Garfield' s mother was present at his inauguration on March 4, 1881. 
Immediately after concluding his address, Garfield crossed the platform and 
kissed his mother. Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper shows Chief Justice Waite 
administering the oath of office, with Mrs. Garfield seated at his left. 

224 Tragedy in Washington 

The buoyant and jovial new President was as social-minded 
as his wife, Lucretia, was retiring. A former Major General 
in the Union Army during the Civil War, he had resigned 
from the army to take a seat in the House of Representatives. 
He served as Republican member until 1880, when he was 
elected to the Senate; shortly afterward, at the age of forty- 
nine, he became President. 

Lucretia Garfield, familiarly called "Crete" by her husband, 
had a natural aversion to publicity, but made a zealous effort 
to carry out her social obligations at the White House until 
she became ill with typhoid fever. She won the commendation 
of Washington society, which considered her u lady-like, sweet- 
voiced, unruffled, well-informed, and always appropriately 

Mrs. Garfield was a believer in good fare, and guests invari- 
ably found an abundance of wholesome, nutritious food at the 
White House table, as well as coffee, tea, and milk. 

Flowers from the conservatory usually adorned the table 
at the family meals, at which "Mother" Garfield had an hon- 
ored place at her son's right and was always waited on first, 
whoever else might be present. On the President's other side 
sat Jamie, who was his father's favorite. Harry, the oldest 
boy, sat next to his mother, and Molly, who was approaching 
womanhood, Irwin, and little nine-year-old Abram, named 
after his father, made up the rest of the intimate family group. 

After dinner, President Garfield often enjoyed a game of 
billiards. The billiard table, banished during the Hayes ad- 
ministration since Lucy Hayes regarded billiards, along with 
cards and dancing, as vanities which had no place in the Execu- 
tive Mansion, was happily restored to its former place. Gar- 
field occasionally drank a glass of champagne, Rhine wine, or 
lager beer, but he was a temperate drinker. Now and then 
he indulged in a cigar. 

Chief among the innovations of the Garfield administration 
was the practice of holding separate receptions for the differ- 

James and Lucretia Garfield 225 

ent groups of the social and political haut monde of Washing- 
ton. The Garfields' third reception, held on March 17, 1881, 
was given for members and officers of both Houses of Con- 
gress, and for the Justices of the Supreme Court. 

On March 8, 1881, President Garfield accepted a portrait 
of Lucy Hayes from members of the National Woman's 
Christian Temperance Union, in recognition of her abolish- 
ment of intoxicating liquors from the White House table. 
There is a record that on one occasion he conferred the de- 
grees at the college for deaf mutes at Kendall Green, just 
north of Washington. 

Garfield showed at all times a deep, practical interest in 
educational matters. He had studied languages, science, liter- 
ature, and the fine arts, and was president of a literary asso- 
ciation. Occasionally he went to a concert or the theater. 
Perley, in his Reminiscences, tells us of the delight Garfield 
manifested when attending the readings of Charles Dickens. 
When Mr. Dickens, reading A Christmas Carol, came to the 
words, "Bless his heart: it's Fezziwig alive again! 1 ' a dog, 
stirred, perhaps, by some ghostly impulse, responded with a 
series of double-bass barks that not only brought down the 
house but threw Mr. Dickens himself into such convulsions of 
laughter that he could not proceed with his reading. "Bow! 
wow! wow!" was President Garfield's favorite greeting for 
months afterward when he met anyone whom he knew to have 
been at the lecture. 

Garfield was a great lover of scrapbooks; his wife used to 
aid him in this hobby by cutting and sorting scraps which he 
marked in newspapers and pasting them into the books. 

The nation was shocked and saddened by the tragedy which 
struck the White House only a few months after the jovial 
new President's inauguration. On July 2, 1881, James Abram 
Garfield, twentieth President of the United States, was assassi- 
nated by Charles Guiteau, and Vice President Chester Alan 
Arthur was sworn in as Chief Executive. 


Twenty-four Wagonloads 

Chester Alan Arthur 

Twenty-four wagonloads of White House furniture includ- 
ing everything from bedroom and parlor sets to mattresses 
and lace curtains which had graced the windows of the Execu- 
tive Mansion were being sold at auction. White House sou- 
venirs were at a premium, and the bidding was spirited and 
high. The furnishings sold for over $6,000. 

The death of President Garfield had sent his Vice President, 
the urbane and luxury-loving Chester Alan Arthur, into the 
Executive Mansion. After looking through the White House, 
Arthur flatly refused to move in until it had been redecorated. 
A widower, the fastidious Arthur, who had spent many years 
in New York, threatened to refurnish and redecorate the his- 
toric mansion at his own expense if Congress failed to appro- 
priate the money. Fortunately, this wasn't necessary. 

Although Arthur came into the Presidency in September, 
1 88 1, it was not until the following December that he agreed 
to move into the White House. (By then, the first elevator 


228 Twenty-four Wagonloads 

had been installed.) In the interim, during which the twenty- 
four wagonloads of furniture were sold at auction, Arthur 
lived in the mansion belonging to Senator John P. Jones of 
Nevada, where he set up temporary executive offices. He in- 
spected the White House daily, making suggestions and giving 
orders to his close friend, Louis Tiffany then the most fa- 
mous decorator in New York who was charged with the 
redecoration. Tiffany's efforts satisfied even the fastidious 
Arthur. In particular he admired the small dining room, which 
he preferred to the State Dining Room. The walls of this 
room were covered with heavy gold paper in large designs and 
enriched with pomegranate velvet drapes at the windows. 
Arthur added one of the splendid glass screens which survived 
through successive administrations until the Franklin Delano 
Roosevelts redecorated the mansion in 1933. 

During Arthur's administration, old-fashioned formal eti- 
quette was reestablished there was no back slapping of 
guests, no familiar use of Christian names. Arthur did occa- 
sionally accept invitations to dinner. 

He cherished the memory of his deceased wife, Ellen, a 
Southern beauty with a lovely singing voice who ( had died of 
pneumonia, and before whose picture in the White House a 
vase of fresh flowers was placed daily; and he was affection- 
ately watchful over his son, Alan, a student at Princeton, and 
his daughter, Nellie. 

The new President usually rose about nine-thirty, took a 
cup of coffee and a roll while dressing, and then went to his 
office. At noon, after a light repast no meat, but oatmeal, 
fish, and fruit he returned to his desk, where he remained 
until four o'clock. He then took a drive or a ride on horse- 
back, sometimes accompanied by his daughter, Nellie. His 
dinner hour was six o'clock, and his favorite dish was a mut- 
ton chop with a glass of ale, or a slice of rare roast beef with 
a glass of claret, hot baked potatoes, and fruits. After dinner 
he returned to his desk, and often remained there until the 

230 Twenty-four Wagonloads 

early morning hours. He cheerily remarked that he was u a 
night bird," and his favorite enjoyment was to have two or 
three personal friends at a late supper, then chat with them 
into the "wee sma' hours," possibly on politics, for he is said 
to have been well versed in the subject, particularly state 
politics. He was a good listener and conversationalist. 

Arthur was an ideal host to both his public and his private 
guests. Of "handsome presence, courteous, witty, tactful and 
possessing infinite savoir faire, he was the living refutation of 
the taunt which the Europeans sometimes level at us, to the 
effect that eminence in American politics is not attainable by 
one who is a gentleman at heart," wrote one observer. 

The new President kept the domestic side of his menage 
entirely apart from his official life. According to Thurston, 
in the Bookman: 

Coarse-minded, peeping correspondents, male and female, found 
scant material for vulgar paragraphs of kitchen gossip. His children 
were not photographed and paragraphed, or made the subject of a 
thousand flat and fabulous stories. Beyond the veil of self-respecting 
privacy which was drawn before the President's personal affairs few 
ever penetrated. 

Arthur soon made his youngest sister, Mary, widow of the 
Reverend John E. McElroy, his official hostess. Mary Mc- 
Elroy's grace and charm made her universally popular. She 
introduced tea at her afternoon receptions, held between two 
and four o'clock, and served her delighted guests tiny sand- 
wiches, cakes, punch, tea, coffee, and candies. 

At official functions held in the State Dining Room, the 
President sat at the center of one side of the table in front 
of the centerpiece with the wife of the guest of honor at his 
right. Mary sat directly opposite him, with the gentleman 
guest of honor at her right. 

Arthur's favorite centerpiece was one which he called "The 
Swinging Garden of Babylon," although it was more sug- 

Chester Alan Arthur 231 

gestive of a temple than a garden. Approximately four feet 
long and one and a half feet high, it consisted mainly of red 
and white carnations, honeysuckle, and roses, massed in their 
separate colors. Topping these were clusters of the rare and 
curious blossoms of the nun plant. The "garden" rested in 
the center of the Monroe plateau. Extending toward either 
end were containers of roses, mixed flowers, and lilies-of-the- 
valley. Each lady found a belt bouquet of roses at her place; 
for the gentlemen there were boutonnieres consisting of a 
single rosebud. 

It has been said that the food served at Arthur's table ri- 
valed that of any other President. The author is inclined to 
question this statement, in view of the feats of u Black Sam," 
the Melahs, and the Maillards, who had served his prede- 
cessors; also, Arthur reduced the number of courses at his 
table from twenty-nine, the number served at Grant's table, 
to fourteen. He did, however, continue to serve six different 
kinds of wine, and it is possible that his dinners were more 
formally served; also, Arthur often entertained larger num- 
bers than had been usual at state dinners in the Executive Man- 
sion. He sometimes had fifty to fifty-four, whereas thirty-four 
to thirty-six was the usual number of guests at dinners given by 
former Presidents. 

An amusing and vivid eyewitness account of a reception 
held in the East Room for the public during the Arthur ad- 
ministration is given by Mrs. Pattie L. Collins, in the Chau- 
tauquan (July, 1884). She describes President Arthur as: 

... a tall gentleman, very grand and very dignified, quite like a gigan- 
tic icicle [who] glances at your card mechanically, takes you by the 
hand most indifferently, and in an inexpressible broad voice, without 
a single inflection, says, "It is a very pleasant day." You may say 
that you are charmed to have an opportunity to pay your respects to 
Mr. President . . . but it is not of the least consequence what you 
say, or whether you say anything at all! That is all, and you may 
salaam yourself out of the side door. 

232 Twenty-four Wagonloads 

Mrs. Collins admired the East Room, recently done over 
by Tiffany, which she claimed had very much the appearance 
in general effect of the Gold Salon of the Grand Opera House 
in Paris. She was shocked, however, to notice the u windows 
in the East Room draped with lace curtains, from which here 
and there a figure had been cut entirely out by a souvenir thief.' 1 ' 1 

When arranged in the form of a cross, the dining table in 
the State Dining Room, Mrs. Collins observed, would seat 
fifty-four people instead of the usual forty. She was interested 
to observe "a sideboard containing wine glasses of every shape, 
size and description. " Someone laughingly explained this by 
saying: "You know when the little friends of the President's 
daughter come to see her, he likes for them to have a real good 
time, and they are for their dolls' tables. . . ." Apropos of 
the wine question, Mrs. Collins contributed the following: 

A colored employee, seeing a visitor take a copious draught of ice- 
water just within the vestibule, and return from his explorations 
through the East Room soon after, complaining of being sick, ex- 
claimed in a triumphant voice: "Boss, I told you dat stuff wuz only fit 
to wash clothes in." Turning to me he added, "Dat's so, Missus, 
'cept to cool your head when you got a ra'al bad headache, and can't 
git no cabbage leaves to wrap 'round it." 

President Arthur's first New Year's Day reception was a 
brilliant affair. Mrs. F. T. Frelinghuysen, wife of the Secretary 
of State, accompanied the President into the Blue Room and 
stood next to his sister, Mrs. McElroy, at his right hand, with 
the wives of other Cabinet members. When his daughter and 
niece came in, he welcomed them with a happy smile and bent 
down and kissed them. Their simple white dresses and pretty 
ribbon sashes were in refreshing contrast with the gorgeous 
costumes of the diplomats. 

The ''observed of all observers," according to Perley, was 
Dr. Mary Walker, who came "tripping in with elastic step," 
shook hands with President Arthur, and was profusely poeti- 

Dr. Mary Walker was the only woman 
surgeon to serve in the Federal army 
during the Civil War. She attended 
President Arthur's first New Year's 
Day reception wearing her customary 
male attire, a privilege granted her by 
an Act of Congress. 

Library of Congress 

234 Twenty-four Wagonloads 

cal in wishing him the compliments of the season. She wore a 
black broadcloth frock coat and pantaloons, and carried a 
high black-silk hat in her left hand, while in her right she flour- 
ished a slender cane. After leaving the President, she passed 
along the line of ladies who received with him, giving to each 
a sweeping bow, and then went into the East Room, where 
she was carefully scrutinized by the ladies. 

Dr. Mary Walker was the only woman in Washington at 
that time allowed to appear in male attire; she had been 
granted this doubtful privilege by no less a mandate than an 
Act of Congress, which also awarded her the medal of honor 
for her services to the Federal armies during the Civil War, 
in which she served as the only woman surgeon. Talented, 
distinguished, and eccentric, her masculine costume frequently 
got her into trouble; women hissed and made faces when she 
appeared, and it was said that once at the Capitol she created 
a sensation by punishing a man who had taken liberties with 
her hat by knocking him out according to the Marquis of 
Queensberry rules ! 

At President Arthur's dinner in honor of ex-President and 
Mrs. Grant shortly after their tour around the world, the par- 
lors and East Room were profusely decorated with flowers; 
in the dining room palm trees and other exotics were massed 
in corners, and the mantels were banked with flowers. There 
were thirty-four plates on the long table, in the center of which 
was a plateau mirror on which were roses and lilies-of-the- 
valley. On either side of it were tall gilt candelabra bearing 
eleven wax lights each, and beyond these, large gilt epergnes 
overflowing with Marechal Niel roses. At the end of the 
mirror were pairs of silver candelabra bearing shaded lights, 
and oval cushions of white camellias set with roses and or- 
chids. At the extreme ends were round pieces of Bon Silene 
roses and lilies-of-the-valley. Around the elaborate center deco- 
ration were arranged crystal compotes and cut-glass decanters. 

Large flat corsage bouquets of roses, tied with satin ribbon, 

Chester Alan Arthur 235 

were laid at each lady's plate, and small boutonnieres of rose- 
buds were provided for the gentlemen. The cards were of 
heavy gilt-edged board embossed with the national coat of 
arms in gold, below which the name of each guest was written. 
The Marine Band performed selections from popular operatic 

The guests were received by President Arthur in the East 
Room. At eight o'clock dinner was announced, and the guests 
repaired to the dining room, each lady taking a seat at the 
right of the gentleman who escorted her. President Arthur 
escorted Mrs. Grant, who wore a low-necked white satin 
dress with a long train deeply flounced with lace, and a pro- 
fusion of diamonds. General Grant escorted Mrs. Freling- 
huysen, who wore a black velvet dress with flowing train, 
opening in front and showing a petticoat of plaited black satin. 

Dinner was served in fourteen courses with eight varieties 
of wine, each having its appropriate glass. The guests sat at 
the table two hours. 

Probably one of the smartest events of the Arthur admin- 
istration was the dinner given for Christine Nilsson, the 
Swedish soprano. At its close the Marine Band played as the 
President escorted the great singer back to the East Room. 
Later Mme. Nilsson sang u The Last Rose of Summer" and 
"Way Down Upon the Swanee River," to her own piano 

Those who were active in fashionable life during President 
Arthur's incumbency regard that period as the smartest that 
Washington had ever seen. He averaged a dinner party a week 
(usually on Wednesday evening), at which the President min- 
gled freely with his friends. Instead of dinners supplied by a 
caterer at two dollars a plate, with cheap wines of doubtful 
origin, writes Perley : 

A gastronomic artist served the delicacies of the season, cooked the 
latest Parisian style, while the wines were of the rarest vintages. 
Never had epicures so enjoyed themselves at Washington, and they re- 

236 Twenty-four Wag onloads 

joiced when they contrasted this dispensation with the barbaric reports 
of former years, when u hog and hominy" was the principal dish and 
tangle-fast whisky punch was the fashionable table beverage. 

The final social event of his administration, according to 
the Washington Re-publican, was almost as hectic as Andrew 
Jackson's inaugural reception: 

Beginning at three o'clock, the doors had not been opened half an 
hour before the entrance hall, the corridor and anteroom were sol- 
idly packed. An hour after the opening people began climbing in the 
windows to lessen the jam on the Portico. Others sought entrance 
through the basement doors, and were met by those seeking egress that 
way from the crowded parlors. The Corridor, the conservatory, and 
all the apartments on the main floor were solidly packed. The musi- 
cians were swept away from their places in the Corridor, and three 
thousand women pushed, surged and struggled toward the Blue Par- 
lor as their goal. An occasional man appeared here and there in the 
ocean of femininity. 

At four-thirty the President came part way down the private stair- 
way and stood overlooking the surging crowd. Gathering courage, he 
made the start, and taking Mrs. Duke Gwinn, of California, on his 
arm, conquered his way slowly to the Blue Parlor. As he entered 
someone asked, "How did you ever get in through that crowd, Mr. 
President?" and his answer was a question as to how in the world he 
was going to get out of it again. 

The paper goes on to describe Secretary of State Freling- 
huysen struggling through the doorway, his face flushed with 
the heat and his hair u moistened around his forehead n after 
having run the gantlet. 

General Sheridan was helped through a window by two po- 
licemen. His wife later told friends she remembered nothing 
until she was swept on into the presence of the President's sis- 
ter, Mrs. McElroy. Senator Manderson and a party of ladies 
were taken upstairs, then down to the basement and out to 
the stairway onto the south front of the house, u by which they 
reached the portico and the windows of the Red Parlor." 

Chester Alan Arthur 237 

Apparently the reporters were exhausted at this point, for 
there is no description of the food if, indeed, any was served. 

Perhaps one of the facts best remembered about Arthur's 
three and a half years in office is that lap dogs had come into 
vogue, and everybody who was anybody socially had one of 
these little creatures ! The newspapers featured them, carrying 
pictures of them with costly rings on their paws and big bows 
of bright ribbon around their necks. Some dogs even had en- 
graved visiting cards which their mistresses left along with 
their own. Whether or not they attended state dinners has 
never been established, but they did accompany their mis- 
tresses to teas and receptions. 

Chester A. Arthur left the White House a more popular 
man than when he had entered it though he served only a 
single term as President. The widower Arthur was succeeded 
by a Democrat and a bachelor, Grover Cleveland. 


Wedding in the White House 

Grover and Frances Cleveland 

For twenty years the Republicans had been the party in power. 
With Grover Cleveland's inauguration on March 4, 1885, as 
the twenty-second President of the United States, executive 
power was restored to the Democrats. 

Electric lights (electricity had recently been installed in the 
main business section of Washington) sparkled brightly over 
the nearly ten thousand guests present at the Inaugural Ball 
that evening, held in the interior courtyard of the unfinished 
Pension Building, which had been covered by a temporary roof. 
On the waxed dance floor, 360 feet long and 1 16 feet wide, en- 
thusiastic citizens acclaimed the new President. Receipts from 
the sale of tickets to the ball amounted to around $40,000. 
Outside, hotels and boarding houses in the city were crammed 
to overflowing; half a million passengers had poured into 
Washington via the railroads during the past week, and steam- 
boats had brought thousands more. 

Cleveland's inaugural parade had been the largest the capi- 


240 Wedding in the White House 

tal city had seen up to that date, and the shouting throngs, 
waving red-white-and-blue banners, were vociferous in their 
approval of the new administration. 

Cleveland was forty-seven, and a bachelor, when he suc- 
ceeded Chester A. Arthur in 1885. His sister, Rose Elizabeth, 
served as his official hostess; charming, gracious, and cultured, 
a teacher and writer who had had her own career, Rose Cleve- 
land filled the White House role assigned her with dignity and 

Swans and eagles were the dinner-table motif at Cleveland's 
first state dinner, given for the Cabinet. The floral decorations 
were remarkably elegant: a profusion of palms, roses, India- 
rubber plants, azaleas, tulips, hyacinths, and growing orchids. 
At one end of the long table, white wax swans with outspread 
wings, under shelter of which rested a brood of snowy cygnets, 
upheld molds of jellied pate de foie gras. At the opposite end 
figures of eagles held pate de foie gras arranged on little horse- 
shoes. Arranged along the table were glass and silver stands 
of conserves, bonbons, and salted almonds. 

The service used for the first course was that especially 
decorated for the White House during the Hayes administra- 
tion. At each plate were set six Bohemian wine glasses, a cut- 
glass carafe, a tumbler, and a champagne glass. Saltcellars of 
cut glass with golden shovels, and silver pepper stands orna- 
mented the table. On each plate, on top of a large folded 
damask napkin, rested a bouquet of roses and ferns tied with 
a broad white satin ribbon; on one end of the ribbon were 
painted the colors of the Union, and on the other end was an 
etching in black and white of the White House and surround- 
ing shrubbery, with Jan. 14., 1886 lettered in gilt underneath. 
Gilt bullet-headed pins for attaching the bouquets lay beside 
them. A large white card bore the name of the guest assigned 
to each seat ; above the name, blazoned in gold, was the Amer- 
ican eagle, above whose head, through a cluster of stars, ap- 
peared the motto, E Pluribus Unum. 

Grower and Frances Cleveland 241 

At the plates laid for the gentlemen lay boutonnieres of 
green with a single Bon Silene rosebud. Rose Cleveland wore 
a corsage of pink roses on her gown of pink silk and white 
lace; Miss Bayard, daughter of the Secretary of State, occu- 
pied the seat to the right of the President; she wore Peri du 
Jar din roses. Mrs. Manning (wife of the Secretary of the 
Treasury), who sat at the left, wore lilies-of-the-valley and 

Guests assembled in the East Room, and when dinner was 
announced they passed down the corridor and entered the 
State Dining Room to the strains of selections from The Mi- 
kadoj played by the Marine Band. 

At Rose Cleveland's afternoon receptions and luncheon par- 
ties, her temperance principles were exemplified : no wine was 
served. At the first of the luncheons, the new President's sister 
received her guests in a morning dress of pink surah silk, with 
a high-necked bodice and panels of ruby velvet trimmed with 
white lace. Nearly all the ladies wore walking dresses and 
bonnets, although a few were dressed in evening attire that 
they would have worn to a dinner party, according to one ob- 

Society was saddened early in the fashionable season of 1886 
by the sudden death of Secretary Bayard's eldest daughter, a 
young lady whose ''personal attractions, gifted intellect and 
quick wit endeared her to a large circle of devoted friends." 
A fortnight later, Perley tells us, the bereaved father suffered 
the loss of his wife, a u lady of gracious presence and refined 
disposition, who was the mother of twelve children, eight of 
whom survived her." 

Grover Cleveland's administrations he had two, 1885- 
89 and 1893-97 are interesting in that he was the only Pres- 
ident to be married in the White House and the first whose 
wife held Saturday afternoon receptions so that employed 
women might have an opportunity to visit the mansion. 

Cleveland and his lovely twenty-two-year-old ward, Frances 

242 Wedding in the White House 

Folsom, daughter of his late law partner, were married in the 
White House on June 2, 1886, by the Reverend Dr. Byron 
Sunderland of the First Presbyterian Church, assisted by the 
Reverend William Cleveland, the President's brother. 

Only relatives, intimate friends, and Cabinet members 
and their wives attended, though a large crowd assembled 
around the door of the White House. From here they could 
hear the music of the Marine Band as the ceremony began, and, 
when it ended, the Presidential salute fired from the Arsenal 
and all the church bells in the city ringing out. 

At seven o'clock in the evening the Marine Band, stationed 
in the corridor and led by John Philip Sousa struck up 
Mendelssohn's Wedding March. The President, in full eve- 
ning dress, with his bride on his arm, walked slowly down the 
western staircase through the corridor into the Blue Room. 
The room, graced with southern exposure, was solidly banked 
with tropical plants and flowers; glowing masses of scarlet 
begonias and Jacqueminot roses mingled with the bright tints 
of the frescoed walls and ceilings. 

Frances Folsom was a lovely bride in ivory satin and a long 
veil ; her train was four yards long. Attached to the left side 
of her gown was a scarf of soft white India silk, looped high, 
and forming an overskirt bordered on the edge with orange 
blossoms; full folds of mousseline, edged with orange blos- 
soms, were draped across the bodice. Her bridal veil, of white 
silk tulle, five yards in length, was fastened to Frances' hair 
with orange blossoms, and trailed to the end of her magnificent 
train. She wore long gloves to meet the short sleeves of the 
elegant gown; her only jewelry was a diamond necklace, the 
President's wedding gift, and a sapphire-and-diamond engage- 
ment ring. 

The couple turned to the right as they entered the Blue 
Room from the long hall, and faced the Reverend Dr. Sunder- 
land, who immediately began the ceremony of the Presbyterian 
church. As Dr. Sunderland pronounced them man and wife, 

244 Wedding in the White House 

the Reverend William Cleveland stepped forward and conclud- 
ed the brief ceremony with an invocation of blessing upon 
the pair. 

As soon as the last congratulations were received, Sousa's 
band struck up the familiar wedding music from Lohengrin, 
and the President and his bride led the way through the East 
Room to the family dining room, where an informal wedding 
supper was served. 

The centerpiece on the main table was a full-rigged three- 
masted ship composed of pinks, roses, and pansies displaying 
the word "Hymen." It rested on a mirror (the Monroe pla- 
teau), representing a lake, the shores of which were composed 
of selaginella and tiny pieces of coral. The surrounding "land" 
was represented by banks of Jacqueminot roses. The nation's 
colors hung from the main mast, and two small white flags 
with the monogram C.F. in gold hung from the other masts. 
At the ends of the table were vases of roses festooned in 
trailing vines and roses. Terrapin, breast of spring chicken, 
cold meats, salads, fish in a variety of shapes, pate de foie gras, 
molds of ice cream, bonbons, and fruits were placed on the 
same table. The Hayes china was used and its prettiest dishes 
displayed. The guests sat at tables or slowly promenaded the 
room eating, chatting, and discussing the menu. 

The four-tier cake, bearing the initials C.F. (which came 
from New York), held the center of the buffet table, where 
it rested in a double circle of roses and was flanked on either 
side by large cakes from Demonet's. 

The young bride, with her husband at her side, cut the cake 
with a pearl-handled knife. Secretary of the Navy William C. 
Whitney proposed a toast to her health, which he drank in 
sparkling champagne but Frances drank hers in Apollinaris 
(mineral) water! 

Each guest received a small u Dream Cake," enclosed in a 
white satin box, to take home. The lid bore hand-painted 
flowers and the date, June 2, 1886. Under the narrow satin 

Grover and Frances Cleveland 245 

bow was a small card which the bride and groom had auto- 
graphed the previous afternoon. 

At a quarter past eight, the President and his young wife 
left the supper room, and soon reappeared in traveling dress. 
He wore his usual black business suit; Frances wore a traveling 
dress of deep-gray silk and a large gray hat lined with velvet 
and crowned with ostrich feathers. A carnage was waiting 
for them at the south entrance of the White House ; they left 
amid a shower of rice and old slippers, and were driven to 
the Baltimore and Ohio railroad station, where they took a 
private train to Deer Park in the Cumberland (Maryland) 

Since the day when the Adamses moved into the Executive 
Mansion there had been eight marriages within its walls, but 
Grover Cleveland was the only President who went through 
the experience himself! 

The President, who was very eager to please his bride, had 
purchased new rugs and pictures for her apartment, which 
had also been repainted; he ordered fifty dozen articles of 
cut glass from the famous Corning Glass Works and a set of 
Wedgwood dishes. The Wedgwood was decorated with a bor- 
der of pink roses, a suggestion offered by the steward when 
President Cleveland's genius was being taxed to find the things 
which would be most pleasing to his Frances. 

In previous administrations there was silver enough to 
serve only thirty-six guests; Cleveland had the old sterling 
melted and molded into a new set upon which he had Presi- 
dent's House engraved. 

A competent housekeeper was employed, so that the new 
First Lady might better enjoy her role as mistress of the 
White House. The young bride accepted her new role with 
vim and gaiety. Her charm and friendliness drew crowds at 
public receptions. So popular was she that people would slip 
into line a second time just to see her smile and shake her 
hand again. 

246 Wedding In the White House 

Frances Cleveland particularly loved to entertain at lunch- 
eons such as the one given on February 22, 1887, described 
by Esther Singleton in her White House as the one at which 
the table was 

plentifully supplied with stands of candy, there being a dishful for 
about every two guests, besides saucers filled with almonds. ... In 
most of the candy stands were sticks of chewing-gum done up in fancy 
papers. . . . The bouquets were alternate bunches of pink roses tied 
with heliotrope ribbon, and of heliotropes tied with pink ribbon. Thir- 
teen courses were prepared. The two sisters-in-law, the mistress and 
the ex-mistress of the White House, agreed in the matter of serving no 
wines at their lunch parties. The guests were received in the East Room. 

Frances Cleveland's personal convictions on the subject of 
wine were the same as those of Lucy Hayes. When President 
Cleveland served wine at his state dinners (at which for each 
cover there were eight glasses seven for wine, one for water 
and a carafe), Mrs. Cleveland's wine glasses were removed 
when dinner began. 

An intimate pen portrait of the President is given by Perley 
in his Reminiscences. He found Cleveland 

an emphatically working man. ... In conversing with strangers he 
generally stands with his hands clasped behind him, and when he 
thinks that he has heard enough from the person addressing him, he 
brings his hands forward. The President rises early, shaves himself, 
dresses without assistance, and reads newspapers until breakfast. 
From the breakfast table he goes to the library. ... At one o'clock 
the President goes downstairs to lunch and on the way to the private 
dining room passes through the East Room to greet the people con- 
gregated there. The President wastes no time but goes along the line 
like an old-fashioned beau dancing the grand right and left figure in 
a cotillion and then goes to luncheon. After luncheon he returns to his 
desk and works steadily until five o'clock. Dinner is served at 7:00 
and by 8:30 he is at work again, often remaining until midnight. 

At the Cabinet dinner of January 20, 1887, the first state 
dinner given by the President and his bride, there were thirty 

248 Wedding in the White House 

guests. The central table decoration consisted of a boat of red 
and white camellias, the sails trimmed with smilax, which was 
set in the center of the Monroe plateau and flanked on either 
side by stands of fruit and vases of roses. The plateau itself 
was bordered with rosebuds, tulips, and camellias. Beyond the 
plateau, toward the end of the table, were containers of or- 
chids, yellow roses, tulips, and carnations. 

A more novel floral decoration was used for the state dinner 
for the Justices of the Supreme Court on February 18. In the 
center of the table stood a great mountain of roses edged with 
smilax, on which were set two open books fashioned of white 
immortelles labeled Book of the Law in purple. Two swords of 
Justice, crossed, in red and white carnations stood at each end 
of the table. There were thirty-four guests at this dinner, 
which was served at seven-thirty. At each plate, except those 
of the President's wife and his sister Rose, stood nine wine 

Cleveland's second Presidency (1893-1897), recaptured 
from Benjamin Harrison by whom he had been defeated in 
1888 was outstanding so far as entertainment was concerned, 
chiefly for the dinner on May 4, 1893, for the Infanta Eulalie 
of Spain. It was held in the East Room in order to accommo- 
date the many guests who attended. 

The press, in describing one of Cleveland's diplomatic din- 
ners, says, in part; 

The company was unusually large, even for a dinner to the Diplo- 
matic Corps. But the occurrence of particular interest was the pres- 
ence of the wife of the Minister of China. It was the first time in 
the history of the Chinese Legation at Washington that the wife of a 
Minister had crossed the threshold of the White House. A week ago 
Mme. Yang Yu called privately on Mrs. Cleveland, to whom she was 
presented by Mrs. Gresham. This evening she made her debut, so to 
speak, in official society. To say that her personal appearance and bear- 
ing were something of a revelation would best express the interest 
and admiration which the fair young celestial excited in the other 

Library of Congress 

Frances Cleveland and her youngest daughter, Esther, who was born during 
Cleveland's second administration (1893-1897). Esther is to date the only 
child of a President to be born in the White House. The picture appeared in 
Harper's Bazar. 

250 Wedding in the White House 

Orchids were used to decorate the table when the diplomatic 
corps was entertained. 

Mrs. Cleveland produced an innovation at her dinner par- 
ties; instead of following her husband and the ranking lady 
into the dining room, as was the custom, she waited until all 
the guests had left; then she and the ranking gentleman 
brought up the end of the line. 

Around eleven o'clock on March 4, 1897, Mrs. Cleveland, 
in tears, bade adieu to the White House employees who 
were also in tears. The few employees remaining from the ear- 
lier Cleveland administration made every effort to decorate 
the table just as she loved it; the State Dining Room table 
bore her favorite flowers, pansies and jonquils, and the red- 
bordered china she herself had selected. 

She was not to return to the White House until January 1 1, 
1913, as a dinner guest of the William Howard Tafts. 





A Devoted Family 

Benjamin and Caroline Harrison 

Family prayers were the order of the day when Benjamin 
Harrison, grandson of William Henry Harrison, and his 
wife moved into the White House as the Grover Clevelands 
moved out in March 1889. 

The Harrisons were a devoted and happy family; their 
son, Russell, and daughter, Mrs. James R. McKee, and their 
families, and sometimes other close relatives, met every morn- 
ing when possible in an upstairs room (or in the White House 
library when there were guests) for a session of family prayer 
and thanksgiving before going down to breakfast. 

The new First Lady, the former Caroline Lavinia Scott, 
whom Harrison had married in 1853, was kind, motherly, 
talented, and, disdaining to engage a housekeeper, as her 
predecessor had done, kept a firm grip on management of the 
household. She dressed well and tastefully (as did the new 
President), and in addition to these many virtues, was also a 
musician, painter, and floriculturist. 


254 d Devoted Family 

The beautiful and witty Caroline had a great fancy for 
orchids, and it was she who filled the Executive Mansion's 
conservatories with the large and rare collection that became 
so famous. This tropical flower was used as a motif in the 
fabric design of one of her favorite frocks, in her paintings, 
and also on some china which she designed. 

On October i, 1890, while mistress of the White House, 
Mrs. Harrison became the first President-General of the 
Daughters of the American Revolution, and it was she who 
initiated the D.A.R. tradition of wearing orchid corsages. 

Caroline Harrison's domestic flair led to the formation of 
the White House china collection of the Presidents which later 
was put into execution by Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt. Mrs. 
Harrison went through the mansion's closets during one of her 
expeditions into its many corners, and decided that the china 
of past Presidents should be arranged in order for posterity. 

It was Caroline's passion for a well-run home that made 
her begin agitating for a new President's Mansion as soon as 
the Harrisons moved in, but a complete overhauling of the 
old one was as much as Congress would provide. Bedroom 
quarters were converted into suites, private bathrooms added 
up to now there had been only one and electricity installed 
to take the place of gas. Electric bells for summoning the serv- 
ants were also installed. 

Electricity was something new, and the Harrisons were 
afraid to touch the light switches. This made for a great deal 
of inconvenience and confusion. The bed chambers were 
u blacked out" until the Harrisons' fear of the mysterious 
power finally wore off. Electric lights in the halls and parlors, 
however, were turned on by the engineer in the evening and 
left burning until he returned the following morning. Nor 
was it easy to get used to the pushbuttons for calling the 
servants. Ike Hoover, chief usher at the White House, wrote 
that there was a family conference almost every time this 
had to be done. 

The Smithsonian Institution 

During the administration of Benjamin Harrison new state china was pur- 
chased. The Limoges dinner plate is shown here. 

v .^A, -.; ' -^jsP' '** 


258 A Devoted Family 

Benjamin Harrison, like Grover Cleveland, enjoyed good 
food, and made plans to carry on a full program of enter- 
tainment by employing the famous Hugo Ziemann as steward. 
The consensus, however, was that his administration lacked 
"style" compared to other administrations. 

Hugo, the new steward, had catered for Prince Napoleon, 
and had worked at the Hotel Splendide in Paris as well as in 
New York and Chicago. He and Mrs. F. L. Gillette were co- 
authors of the "White House Cook Book" (originally pub- 
lished in 1887, its last edition is dated 1925), which had an 
enormous sale. 

The menu for one of the outstanding dinners given by the 
Harrisons that for Vice President Levi Morton and mem- 
bers of the Cabinet on January 7, 1890, included such gourmet- 
tempting dishes as green turtle soup, raw oysters, boiled 
salmon, fillet of beef a la jardiniere, canvasback duck, and ices 
formed in the shapes of roses and chrysanthemums. 

Four regular receptions were held each winter: for the 
diplomatic corps, the judiciary, the army and navy, and Con- 
gress. A vivid eyewitness account of these receptions is given 
in Harper's Weekly (July 2, 1892) : 

The crowd is invariably enormous. The line of carriages of arriving 
guests reaches from the White House porch down the long circular 
driveway of the grounds, out of the gate, down Pennsylvania Avenue, 
past the Treasury, around the corner and down Fifteenth Street to- 
ward the Washington Monument. A late arrival will easily consume 
an hour in crawling from one end of the line to the porch. Then, 
when the door is reached and the wearied but expectant burdens of 
the carriage are discharged, they find themselves in a pack of human 
beings that is almost terrifying. It seems impossible that this good- 
natured crowd should be able to make its way through the single door 
into the White House. Sometimes the police make way for a belated 
distinguished guest; sometimes a window is open, and ladies are 
handed into receiving hands. The crowd inside the doors is as great 
as that outside and the progress from the porch, across the vestibule, 
up the stairway and down again, is slow. 

Courtesy National Park Service 

The family dining room of 1889 and that of the present day have one decora- 
tive feature in common: the silver ship presented to Ulysses S. Grant by the 
Mohawk Indians in 1876. 

260 A Devoted Family 

In addition to these state receptions, according to George 
Granthan Bain, writing in the Cosmopolitan of April 1891 : 

[The President stood] most every afternoon at one o'clock . . . for 
about ten minutes to receive and to shake hands with the indiscrimi- 
nate crowd of visitors who assemble for the sole purpose of en- 
joying this pump-handle recreation with the first citizen of their 
common country. . . . Cranks and mothers who want their babies 
kissed by the President are the most serious annoyances known at the 
White House receptions. . * . President Harrison confines his caresses 
to Baby McKee, his gifted grandchild. 

Tragedy cast its shadow over the White House shortly 
after President Harrison moved in. First, the wife and daugh- 
ter of Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy were burned 
to death in their home ; their funeral services were held in the 
East Room of the White House. Later, Mrs. Harrison's 
father died. The deaths of the wives of Harrison's private 
secretary and his assistant followed. On October 25, 1892, 
just before the election, Caroline Harrison died. 

President Harrison, sad and indifferent to social functions 
after the loss of his wife, welcomed the Grover Clevelands 
back to the White House when they arrived for the farewell 
and introductory dinner on March 3, 1893. 


Protocol Flare-up 

William and Ida McKinley 

The welcome-and-farewell dinner given -by the Clevelands on 
the eve of William McKinley's inauguration was probably 
the smallest and simplest in the history of the White House. 
The incoming President had sent word that Mrs. McKinley's 
health would not permit elaborate entertaining. As it hap- 
pened, the President-elect came alone, and he, the President, 
and Mrs. Cleveland dined by themselves. 

Mrs. McKinley had been an invalid for several years and 
was unable to take on any active duty in the household, but 
she and the President did enjoy entertaining and did so ex- 
tensively (particularly after August, 1898, when the Spanish- 
ALmerican War ended). She remained seated while receiving 
at receptions. On occasion the Cabinet wives received with her. 

One of President McKinley's first acts was to reduce the 
size of the crowd at receptions. There were four official re- 
ceptions: diplomatic, judiciary, congressional, and army and 
navy. Previously, one invitation had covered the four recep- 


262 Protocol Flare-up 

tions of the season, but McKinley ruled that a separate invi- 
tation be sent for each function. Gate crashers had become a 
serious problem. This was solved by admitting only those 
with White House cards. 

Another of McKinley's accomplishments was to settle once 
and for all that the Vice President outranked an ambassador. 

British Ambassador and Lady Pauncefote's kettle boiled 
several afternoons after the McKinley-Hobart inauguration, 
waiting for Vice President and Mrs. Hobart to make the first 
call. Finally they decided something was wrong, and took the 
matter up with the Secretary of State, John Sherman. The 
ambassador was informed that the matter had been referred 
to Prime Minister Salisbury in London. Pauncefote then re- 
ceived a cable saying that the Vice President occupied the same 
relation to the President that the Prince of Wales bore to the 
British sovereign that of heir apparent and he was com- 
manded to visit Mr. Hobart. This decision also carried over 
to placing the Cabinet dinner ahead of the diplomatic dinner 
on the calendar of White House events. 

The highlight of McKinley entertainment was the dinner 
party. He brought new zest to this traditional function by 
adding interesting young people and distinguished oldsters to 
the regular guest list. Instead of thirty-six, or even fifty the 
highest number the State Dining Room would accommodate 
he would have anywhere from sixty-two to eighty-two guests, 
necessitating makeshifts in the corridor. Occasionally the table 
extended the entire length of the corridor, from the East 
Room to the State Dining Room. 

On January 9, 1899, the President gave a dinner for the 
Paris Peace Conference commissioners, who had recently ne- 
gotiated the treaty with Spain under which she relinquished 
Cuba and ceded to the United States Puerto Rico, Guam, and 
the Philippines. The table, set for seventy-two guests, was in 
the corridor, and was decorated with orchids. 

Clergymen attending the annual Methodist Conference were 

Library of Congress 

President McKinhy's first state function at the White House was a reception 
for the diplomatic corps. The caption on this sketch reads: "There Was No 
Rush and Scramble as at Receptions of Previous Administrations." The 
President is in the center, Mrs. McKinley on the right, and Secretary of State 
John Sherman third from the left 

264 Protocol Flare-up 

entertained at dinner by the McKinleys on November sixteenth 
of that year. This, too, was an impressive affair, with mem- 
bers of the President's Cabinet and high-ranking officers of the 
army and navy present. 

The President and Mrs. McKinley gave their first state 
dinner in honor of the diplomatic corps on January 26, 1898. 
Covers were laid for sixty-two, and the table was set in the 
corridor. The Marine Band played in the conservatory. The 
floral decorations were pink roses, and pink shades on the 
candles added to the rosiness of the scene. Bouquets of roses 
and lilies-of-the-valley for the ladies, and boutonnieres for the 
gentlemen, completed the table decor. 

Had McKinley lacked personal f orcefulness and will power, 
he would probably have been overwhelmed by the many pro- 
tocol flare-ups which erupted during his administration. One 
followed after another. 

Probably the most embarrassing concerned the seating ar- 
rangement at one of the diplomatic dinners. Manuel de 
Aspiroz, the Mexican ambassador to the United States, was 
given the name of Madame Hengelmuller, wife of the Aus- 
trian minister, in his escort envelope. It was, however, a rule 
of diplomacy that no Austrian envoy call upon or speak to 
Ambassador Aspiroz. Some thirty years earlier he, as an army 
lieutenant and a crack rifleman, had been commanded to exe- 
cute Maximilian, an Austrian whose short reign as Emperor 
of Mexico came to an end when Napoleon III withdrew his 
troops from the puppet emperor's support. Austria had in- 
formed every foreign office of the estrangement, but somehow 
a slip was made on this occasion. Dinner was ready and the 
guests were there. State Department officials were in a quan- 
dary! What could be done quickly? Ambassador Aspiroz 
settled it himself by asking that Senator Allison be allowed 
to accompany Madame Hengelmuller; he would take Allison's 
chair at the foot of the table. 

The question as to whether the Chief Justice of the Su- 

William and Ida McKinley 265 

preme Court was more Important than an ambassador arose 
during McKinley's administration, when the White House 
unwittingly gave a foreign minister the seat of honor. Chief 
Justice Fuller was so furious that when the company retired 
he left without coffee, cordial, or smoke, remarking that in 
future he would demand a plan of the table before accepting 
a dinner invitation anywhere. 

The Supreme Court had long kept a jealous watch over its 
prerogatives. On one occasion the Justices, learning that the 
diplomatic corps would be received first, declined to attend 
their own party. 

There was another social tempest in a teapot at a memorial 
ceremony which took place in the Senate wing of the Capitol. 
Somebody made the mistake of seating the Court behind the 
diplomats. Ever since then, on such occasions, the Court has 
sat in the front row on one side of the chamber, the diplo- 
mats on the other side. Eventually this led to separate state 
dinners for the Justices and the diplomats. 

One of the most brilliant of the state banquets given during 
McKinley's administration was that honoring Admiral George 
Dewey, hero of Manila, on October 3, 1899. The eighty 
guests included representatives of the Supreme Court, the 
Cabinet, Congress, army and navy, and the governors of nine 
states, the presidents of three universities, some personal 
friends of the President, and the brother and the son of the 
Admiral. They were received in the East Room, where the 
guests were introduced to the President and Admiral Dewey 
by Colonel Bingham and Rear Admiral Crowninshield. 

At the close of this short ceremony President McKinley 
offered his arm to the Admiral and led the way to dinner. 
The long table, because of the large number of guests, was 
placed in the main corridor. It was profusely decorated in 
warm-toned blossoms ranging from pink begonias to deep-red 
or silver shades. At the center of the board was a mound of 
delicate green ferns, out of which emerged tall branches of 

266 Protocol Flare-up 

roses. Palms, ferns, and rubber plants lined the corridor. 

The new President's flag was the chief wall decoration. Flags 
of the Secretary of War and Secretary of the Navy, each half 
the size of the President's flag, and the blue flag of the Ad- 
miral with its four white stars, also added appropriate color 
to the occasion. 

Usually Mrs. McKinley, because of her frailness, sat at the 
right of her husband, but on this occasion Dewey had that 
place of honor. After dinner, coffee and cigars were served in 
the State Dining Room, which was also decorated in red-white- 
and-blue flags and greenery. Here the President sat on the 
south side of the room, with Admiral Dewey on his right and 
the Secretary of War on his left. 

The following autumn when President and Mrs. McKinley 
gave their regular Cabinet dinner, they invited the Admiral 
and his wife the former Mildred McLean, daughter of the 
wealthy and socially prominent Washington McLeans and 
widow of General Hazen. A tiny woman who made up in de- 
termination what she lacked in size, Mrs. Dewey was dis- 
pleased with the seating arrangements, and showed it by drag- 
ging her Admiral home as soon as the guests arose from the 

McKinley was fond of singing hymns. One of the White 
House employees is quoted by the Musical Observer as saying 
that on Sabbath evenings during McKinley's administration 
there would often be a gathering of a few friends in the Blue 
Parlor after dinner. Hymnals would be brought out and every- 
one would join in the singing, accompanied by the piano. Mc- 
Kinley's favorite was "Lead, Kindly Light." (He is said to 
have whispered the words of "Nearer, My God, to Thee" to 
his wife as he lay on his deathbed.) 

The President loved carnations, particularly red ones. He 
felt defenseless without one in the lapel of his coat, calling it 
his u good-luck charm," and he kept a vase of them on his 
desk. His interest in the carnation had begun in 1876 when he 

The seating arrangement shown here is that used at President McKinley's 
state banquet in honor of Admiral George Dewey. 

Library of Congress 





(Lfljy (UAVUA^ Wdui 

(\ , /> A I 7 , n 


-^ .1 

270 Protocol Flare-up 

campaigned against Dr. Levi Lambord, a Democrat, for a 
seat in the House of Representatives. Dr. Lambord, a flori- 
culturist, always appeared with a carnation in his lapel. On 
one occasion Major McKinley expressed interest in the flower 
and asked what it was. From that time until the contest closed 
Dr. Lambord took an extra carnation for the Major's lapel 
whenever they were to meet on the platform. On receiving the 
first one from the Doctor, Major McKinley had remarked: 
"Perhaps it will bring me luck." Major McKinley won the 
election, and the carnation won a place in his heart. 

On September 6, 1901, when he was standing in the receiv- 
ing line at the Pan American Exhibition in Buffalo, a small 
girl asked the President if he would give her something she 
could show to her friends to prove that she had shaken hands 
with him. He pulled the red carnation from his lapel and 
handed it to her. Seconds later he was shot twice by Leon 
Czolgosz, the second person in line following the child. 

Even as he fell, President McKinley's first thought was 
of his wife. To his secretary he said, "My wife be careful 
how you tell her oh, be careful!" 

The frail Mrs. McKinley, who had accompanied her hus- 
band to Buffalo and was sleeping in their hotel suite when the 
shooting took place, surprised everybody. For the eight days 
the President survived she remained by his side. She stood 
by staunchly during the funeral services, and accompanied his 
body to Canton, where he was buried. 

^ After McKinley's death people throughout the nation paid 
him tribute, but perhaps none was more sincere than that of 
the happy old Irish lady known as "Star Mary" (whose real 
name was Mrs. Nicholson and who had lived in Washington 
since^the Civil War), a news vendor at the northeast corner 
of Fifteenth and F Street, and as much a fixture in Washing- 
ton^life as the lamppost she stood under. "Star Mary," in her 
ancient shawls and her battered old hat, which was as "dis- 
tinctive in its style as the latest importation from Paris," 

William and Ida McKinley 271 

according to a story in the Washington Star (December 28, 
1901), is reported to have said of McKinley: 

Sure . , . and I misses President McKinley very much, indade I 
do. He was that good soul. He used to come by my corner in the 
afternoon and stop his carriage. "Mary," says he, "come here and let 
me have the latest news." "God bless ye, Mr. President," says I, and 
handed him the pa-aper. Sometimes he would give me half a dollar 
and sometimes a quarter, just as he happened to have the change about 
him. He was a good soul, was Mr. McKinley. 

Vice President Theodore Roosevelt took the oath of office, 
and became President, on the day of McKinley's death. On 
October 29, 1901, Leon Czolgosz was electrocuted at Auburn, 
New York. 


Rough Rider 

Theodore and Edith Roosevelt 

The tragic news that President McKinley had been assassi- 
nated reached the nation's Vice President, Theodore Roose- 
velt, while he was vacationing in the Adirondacks. "Teddy" 
took the oath of office as the twenty-sixth President of the 
United States on the day McKinley died, Septemeber 14, 1901. 

A man of tremendous force and vigor, Roosevelt was just 
forty-two when he entered the White House the youngest 
President the country had known. Both he and his wife, the 
former Edith Kermit Carow, whom he had married in Lon- 
don in 1886, felt that the White House was more than just a 
temporary residence for the President it was, rather, a na- 
tion's "home," and they set themselves the task of making it 
an impressive one. The first major renovation of the mansion 
since 1815 was undertaken by Theodore Roosevelt. 

Congress appropriated more than half a million dollars for 
the task of renovation and refurnishing. There was no ques- 
tion that extensive work was needed, since a series of piecemeal 


274 Rough Rider 

changes had resulted in a mixture of unrelated styles of decora- 
tion and furnishing. Also, the business of government had 
grown to the point where much of the family living space on 
the second floor had been taken over for Cabinet meetings 
and other official purposes. Enormous crowds of guests and 
sightseers put a constant strain on both structure and equip- 
ment, to the degree that dishes rattled on the sideboards when 
the waiters walked across the floor of the State Dining Room. 

The dining room itself was far too small to accommodate 
the large numbers of guests invited on many occasions. Its 
capacity was a comfortable fifty or a crowded seventy and 
for this reason it had become commonplace to resort to setting 
a table in the corridor, or even in the East Room, when neces- 
sary. In order to enlarge the State Dining Room, the main 
stairway was removed from the west end of the corridor to 
the east of the entrance lobby. 

The renovation was undertaken by the firm of McKim, 
Meade, and White of New York; they began work in June 
of 1902 and were just about finished by the end of the year. 
The result of their labors was a completely overhauled and 
redecorated main floor, with a State Dining Room that could 
comfortably seat one hundred and four persons. The walls 
were attractively paneled in English oak, and a silver chande- 
lier, hanging from the elaborately decorated ceiling, matched 
the silver girandoles on the walls. Edith Roosevelt chose 
Wedgwood ware featuring the Great Seal of the United States. 
(This Seal is protected by patent and copyright for the ex- 
clusive use of the Executive Mansion.) 

An office building was erected at the end of the west terrace, 
the east terrace (which Andrew Johnson had removed) was 
reconstructed, a few attic rooms were added, and the second 
floor now reclaimed by the President's family was repaired 
and modernized. 

Although the mansion's rehabilitation was costly, and al- 
though the Roosevelts themselves were accustomed to social 

* k 

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a +s 

276 Rough Rider 

position and affluence, the administration of Theodore Roose- 
velt was not nearly as extravagant as Grant's had been. It was, 
in fact, a point of pride with the Roosevelts that they were 
able to manage well without unnecessary expenditure. When 
a magazine article referred to him as a "gourmet," the Presi- 
dent promptly replied : 

"When anyone desires to make a widespread impression that 
the President and family sit down to a four or five-course 
breakfast, a six or seven-course lunch, and a ten-course din- 
ner, the President feels that a denial is not inappropriate." 

He went on to say that the regular White House breakfast 
consisted simply of hard-boiled eggs, rolls, and coffee. When 
he lunched alone, "Teddy" contented himself with a bowl of 
milk. If Mrs. Roosevelt and the children were present, the 
lunch consisted of cold meat (if there were any leftovers), 
tea, cantaloupe in season, and bread. Instead of a ten-course 
dinner, the Roosevelts' evening meal usually consisted of three 
courses and often only two ! 

Guests, however, were not subjected to a Spartan diet. One 
guest who attended luncheon at the White House wrote en- 
thusiastically of the bouillon, salt fish, chicken in rice, rolls, 
and baked beans served; he added that the President enjoyed 
his first helping of baked beans so much that he took a second 
helping, and appeared to relish the dessert Bavarian cream 
served with preserves and cake. As a rule there was only one 
kind of wine served at dinner. The President drank alcoholic 
beverages sparingly. 

Simple as the Roosevelts' tastes might be when dining en 
famille, lavish plans could be made when the occasion war- 
ranted. One such occasion was the visit of Prince Henry of 
Prussia. The Prince had corne to the United States to sail the 
yacht Meteor, which had been under construction in New Jer- 
sey, home to Germany. On the afternoon of his arrival, the 
Prince, accompanied by the German ambassador, made an of- 
ficial call on the President. The visitors were shown into the 






278 Rough Rider 

Green Room, where the ambassador remained while the 
Prince, alone the ambassador did not rank high enough to 
make the presentation entered the Blue Room to present 
himself to the President, Mrs. Roosevelt, and their daughter, 
Alice. ("We all liked him," Alice Roosevelt Longworth wrote 
many years later in her book, Crowded Hours. ) 

That evening the Prince, accompanied by Admiral Evans, 
drove to the White House for an elaborate stag dinner. The 
Executive Mansion was gay with hundreds of flags American 
and German. The horseshoe table had been set up in the East 
Room, since the new State Dining Room was not yet com- 
plete, and the decorators had outdone themselves to make a 
brilliant display of this historic room. Thousands of red, 
white, and blue lights, arranged to form anchors, stars, and 
ropes, gleamed in the overhead canopy of green. Festoons 
with pendant balls of light stretched from chandeliers to side 
walls, and over windows, doorways, and arches ; mantels were 
banked high with pink and white flowers, and the open space 
between the vacant wall and the inner side of the crescent- 
shaped table was broken by a semicircle of primroses and 
azaleas. The triple east window was curtained with German 
and American flags, and the centerpiece on the table was (as 
usual) the historic Monroe plateau. 

The menu had been selected by Edith Roosevelt, and she 
gave special attention to the dessert: ice cream molded and 
colored to resemble fruit, and served in candy sea shells. One 
side of the shell bore the German eagle, and the other the 
American coat of arms, on which sugar flags of both countries 
waved. Punch, served in small boats flying the Meteor's flag, 
was distributed. The President toasted the Emperor and the 
German nation in champagne. "We admire their great past 
and great present," he said, u and we wish them all possible 
success in the future. May the bonds of friendship between the 
two peoples ever grow stronger!" 

The Prince, who had won the hearts of all who met him, 

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280 Rough Rider 

responded gallantly: "The President and the people of the 
United States," adding the usual expressions of good will. 

After the banquet the President and Mrs. Roosevelt and 
their daughter, Alice, who was to christen the ship, accom- 
panied by members of the Cabinet and high-ranking officers 
of the army and navy, left by special train with the Prince 
and his party for Jersey City, where the Meteor awaited the 

The next morning Miss Roosevelt smashed a bottle of 
champagne on the vessel's gleaming white hull and said, "In 
the name of His Majesty, the German Emperor, I christen 
this yacht Meteor" Then she cut the last rope, and the yacht 
slid down the ways. 

No story on Theodore Roosevelt would be complete with- 
out an account of the debut, and, later, the marriage, of his 
daughter a spirited girl whom the ladies of the press glam- 
orized as "Princess Alice." Her debut took place in 1902 
during the Christmas holidays. It was, to Alice's regret, a 
comparatively sedate affair, for though she considered herself 
quite a young lady, to her parents she was still a child. She 
wanted champagne and a cotillion; she got, instead, punch 
(non-alcoholic) and a dance. 

Her marriage, on February 17, 1906, to Congressman 
Nicholas Longworth of Ohio was sophisticated enough, how- 
ever, to satisfy even Miss Roosevelt. The decorations and 
presents are said to have been worth a king's ransom; the 
guests came from far and wide, filling the White House and 
the Washington hotels to overflowing. 

"Nick's" bachelor dinner, given at the Alibi Club the night 
before to the Harvard Alumni, was decorous enough until the 
President left. Things then livened up considerably; one usher 
woke up the next morning dreaming of icebergs and found 
himself in the bathtub, in water that had thoroughly cooled. 

The wedding took place at eleven-thirty the next morning 
in the East Room, before a window draped in cloth-of-gold 

A hand-painted cover and red, white, and blue ribbons adorned the menu for 
the dinner in honor of Prince Henry. 

Courtesy Mr. and Mrs. Wilbur B. Montgomery 

SSuitteA tut @ocju.'dU 

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282 Rough Rider 

and ornamented with ropes of smilax and Easter lilies. The 
officiating clergyman was the first Bishop of Washington, 
Henry Yates Satterlee, one of the founders of the Washington 
Cathedral. An improvised altar was set on a dais covered with 
a priceless Oriental rug. The President "gave the bride away." 

After the ceremony, President and Mrs. Roosevelt and the 
bridegroom's parents moved to the Blue Room to receive the 
guests, among which were Cabinet officers, Justices of the Su- 
preme Court, diplomats, senators, congressmen, and high- 
ranking officers of the army and navy, as well as many of the 
socially prominent, and, of course, many friends. In all, one 
thousand persons attended the wedding party. 

The "wedding breakfast" was served at about twelve-thirty. 
The small private dining room was given over to the bridal 
party, the State Dining Room to the other guests. 

The menu included croquettes, pates, salads, assorted sand- 
wiches, ice cream hearts, wedding bells, and wedding rings, 
petits fours, champagne, claret punch, lemonade, coffee and 
tea, and the Bride's Cake. There were several three-tiered 
cakes, elaborately decorated in orange blossoms and doves. 
The bride cut the cake with Charlie McCauley's sword (Ma- 
jor McCauley was a White House aide). So great was the 
crowd of well-wishers that neither she nor the groom had a 
chance to eat. 

When Theodore Roosevelt became President there were 
only three state dinners given each season: one each for the 
Cabinet, the Justices of the Supreme Court, and the diplomatic 
corps. Roosevelt added a fourth, out of deference to "Uncle 
Joe" Cannon, Speaker of the House of Representatives, when 
"Uncle Joe" flatly refused to attend any of the other dinners 
because he felt he was not given the precedence his position 

A minor highlight of the Theodore Roosevelt administra- 
tion was the acquisition of the golden goblet. This masterpiece 
of the goldsmith's art was twelve inches high, and shaped like 


s $> 

284 Rough Rider 

a champagne glass. It had been presented to the President by 
the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce when he visited 
that city in 1904. From that time on it was always beside the 
President's plate during dinner. 

During Roosevelt's administration the Peace Conference 
between Russia and Japan was held at Portsmouth, New 
Hampshire, in August, 1905, and Roosevelt was awarded the 
Nobel prize for his work in arranging this conference. 

The President's last luncheon before leaving the White 
House was that given his "Tennis Cabinet" of thirty men who 
met at the White House on March i, 1909, three days before 
his successor, William Howard Taft, came into office. Roose- 
velt is said to have seated his guests according to his affection 
for them, regardless of precedence. On one side of him was 
the French ambassador, and on the other a man described as 
u a Wild West character." 

According to Major Archibald Butt, White House master 
of ceremonies and a graduate of the city rooms of several 
Southern newspapers, there wasn't a dry eye in the crowd as 
they all bade "Teddy" good-by. 


Four Years of Strife 

William Howard and Helen Taft 

"Four years of strife" was the phrase used by Ike Hoover, 
chief usher at the White House, to describe William Howard 
Taft's administration. There seemed to be a continuous mixup. 
First, a feud developed between President Roosevelt and 
President-elect Taft. On the morning of the inauguration 
precedent was thrown to the winds when Mrs. Taft insisted 
on riding back to the White House with her husband after he 
had taken the oath of office. Ex-President Roosevelt went 
directly to Union Station to take the train for New York. 

The weather that day March 4, 1909 Alice Roosevelt 
Longworth gleefully noted, was foul. A deep snow had fallen 
the night before and the late morning sun turned it into slush. 

Alice was among those to whom inaugural luncheon invita- 
tions had been sent by Mrs. Taft, but she begged off to accom- 
pany her father to the station. The new First Lady then in- 
formed Mrs. Longworth that she would send her a ticket to 
enable her to enter the White House in case she changed her 


286 Four Years of Strife 

mind. This was too much for Alice ! She wrote in her Crowded 
Hours: "I flew shouting to friends and relatives with the news 
that I was going to be allowed to have a ticket to permit me 
to enter the White House! I a very large CAPITAL I 
who had wandered in and out for eight happy winters 1" 

That evening the President dined with his Yale Class of 
'78 before picking up Mrs. Taft for the Inaugural Ball. She 
wore a gown fashioned of white chiffon over satin, heavily 
embroidered in silver. 

The new First Lady lost no time in taking over her duties 
as mistress of the White House. She had visited the mansion 
a few days before and was graciously shown around by Edith 
Roosevelt. At one point Mrs. Taft whispered to her com- 
panion, "I would have put that table over here." Mrs. Roose- 
velt's only thought was that in another twenty-four hours 
Mrs. Taft could move the table anywhere she wished, without 
saying a word about it. 

Mrs. Taft began her revolution of the White House by 
reducing the number of employees and replacing the steward 
with a housekeeper. She wrote : 

I wanted a woman who could relieve me of the supervision of such 
details as no man, expert steward though he be, would ever recognize. 
The White House requires such ordinary attention as is given by a 
good housekeeper to any home, except, perhaps, that it has to be 
more vigilantly watched. Dust accumulates in corners, mirrors get 
dim with dampness; curtains sag and lose their crispness; floors, their 
gloss; rugs turn up at the corners, or fray at the ends, and chair cush- 
ions get crushed and untidy. . . . Pantry boys get careless; maids 
forget to be immaculate and the linen is not properly handled. 

None of this was imaginative. Mrs. Taft had been deeply 
shocked to discover that the precious White House silver, 
when not in use, was kept in haphazard fashion in chests and 
boxes in a storeroom. The linen was sadly depleted (guests 
thought nothing of making off with a napkin or two as a sou- 

s g 

s ** 

s 1 

jj B S 

288 Four Years of Strife 

venir), and dinner sets, subject to breakage, were inadequate 
for large functions. Unlike many of her predecessors who 
preferred to select their own china pattern, Mrs. Taft was 
satisfied with that chosen by Mrs. Roosevelt, and replaced 
enough to make a service for one hundred persons. 

Helen Taft appreciated the historic plates and platters used 
by Presidents long gone, and used them at small luncheons and 
dinners. "I found them valuable inspiration to lively conversa- 
tion among my guests," she said. There were enough plates 
remaining from the Lincoln service for one course for a party 
of thirty. "The butler and waiters/' she wrote, ''handled them 
with a caution bordering on reverence." 

Another innovation of Mrs. Taft's was to substitute col- 
ored footmen in livery for the police guard which had been 
stationed at the main entrance for a century. She felt that 
the police guard was in no way distinguishable from the rest 
of the citizenry, and many strangers who wandered up to the 
door looked in vain for someone to whom it seemed right and 
proper to address a question or hand a visiting card. 

White House servants were paid by the government. At 
that time they received from twenty-five to fifty dollars a 
month. The only private servant was the President's Filipino 
valet who had been with him several years. 

The morning after the inauguration the clock had not yet 
struck ten when Mrs. Taft had discussed with the housekeeper, 
Mrs. Elizabeth Jaffray, the subject of menus, including lunch- 
eon, dinner for that day, and the first of her large teas, sched- 
uled to be given within a few days. The luncheon menu included 
bouillon, smelts with tartar sauce, lamb chops, green peas, and 
Bermuda potatoes. Dessert included raspberry jelly with 
whipped cream, coffee, salted almonds, and bonbons. 

Mrs. Taft had, in her earlier roles as wife of the Governor 
of the Philippines, and, later, Secretary of War, acquired a 
good deal of skill in official entertaining, and had long since 
become philosophical about her husband's happy-go-lucky at- 

JWilliam Howard and Helen Taft 289 

titude where extra guests were concerned. The addition of a 
few more, usually at the last moment and without notice, didn't 
bother her although it upset the staff, which was accustomed 
to the military punctuality of the Theodore Roosevelts. 

"How many for luncheon, Madam ?" the cook would ask. 

"I haven't any idea," the First Lady would reply. 

Nor had she. That first spring, when Congress was in extra 
session revising the tariff and the President was continually in 
conference, he would invite members of both Houses for lunch 
or dinner, and frequently for breakfast, usually at the last 
minute. Even if no guests were expected, Mrs. Taft made 
certain the larder was full just in case. She then sent her 
plans for the day to the executive social officer. At eleven 
o'clock the house telephone would ring, or she would receive 
a note to the effect that So-and-so would lunch with the Presi- 
dent and Mrs. Taft. So the table would be laid while the 
kitchen staff stood by awaiting final orders. A half-hour later 
a second guest, or a group of guests, might be announced. 
The butler would rearrange the table. The cook never consid- 
ered it safe to start preparations until half an hour before the 
meal. Even then, the President was likely to be thirty minutes 
to an hour late and, when he did appear, bring several unan- 
nounced guests. Breakfasts and dinners were not quite so un- 
certain as luncheons. 

The President was a big man (six feet, two inches tall) and 
a big eater (he weighed over three hundred pounds). A 
larger bathtub had to be installed for him, for every time he 
took a bath in the old one he got stuck and had to be pulled 
out. His breakfast usually consisted of two oranges, a twelve- 
ounce steak, toast, guava jelly, and coffee. When he reached 
three hundred and thirty-two pounds, the amount of steak was 
reduced, by doctor's orders, to eight ounces. 

Taft was a teetotaler, although he served champagne punch 
at receptions. Ike Hoover, in his Forty-two Years in The 
White House, said it was good, too ! "One quart bottle of 

290 Four Years of Strife 

champagne for every two bottles of charged water. With a 
little lemon and sugar and ice floating on the top, it was the 
pride of the household and the pleasure of the guests." The 
First Lady would take a cocktail, but only one, before dinner. 

The Tafts 5 first official entertainment was the diplomatic 
tea given on March 12, 1909, eight days after he came into 
office and almost, as Mrs. Taft plaintively remarked to friends, 
before she had time to get settled. The menu consisted of 
lobster a la Newburg, chicken pates, salad, assorted sand- 
wiches, rolls, cakes, ice cream, candies, coffee, and punch. 

On this occasion President and Mrs. Taft again threw 
precedent to the winds. It was customary for the President and 
First Lady to retire after their guests had been presented to 
them. The Tafts, however, remained. This bewildered the 
guests. What was expected of them? When and how should 
they take leave? Finally, Mrs. Taft had to instruct an aide to 
announce to the most noted of them that nothing was ex- 
pected and that they should retire when they wished, without 

The First Lady was u at home" informally three afternoons 
a week. Callers included her personal friends and women who 
had written expressing a desire a meet her. She always received 
in the Red Room. "I made it almost cozy despite its size," 
she said, "by having the fire going and the candles lighted." 

The President thrived on White House social life. He was 
good company and always enjoyed social festivities, particu- 
larly dinner parties; and he was a ladies' man. Mrs. Taft's 
first afternoon reception for the congressional wives started 
out as a purely feminine occasion, but at Mrs. Taft's invita- 
tion the President received with her, and was lionized by four 
hundred women who hadn't expected to meet him. 

The first state dinner given was for Vice President and 
Mrs. James S. Sherman. Customarily guests entered the dining 
room in order of precedence: the President and the lady guest 
of honor leading, followed by the First Lady and the ranking 

William Howard and Helen Taft 291 

gentleman, and so on. This rule did not appeal to Mrs. Taft's 
sense of hospitality, and to prove her u claim to a natural 
tendency toward simple and every-day methods," she reverted 
to Mrs. Grover Cleveland's more cordial method of waiting 
for all the guests to pass, then, with her escort, taking her 
place at the end of the line. "There were humorous aspects 
to our position," she wrote, "but it was difficult to get used to 
living in so much grandeur. . . ." 

Mrs. Taft used pink Killarney roses on the famous Mon- 
roe plateau as the centerpiece for the Vice President's dinner. 
She loved flowers and never ceased to marvel at the beauty 
and profusion of those grown in the mansion greenhouses, 
particularly the orchids for which it was noted. These were 
used to decorate the table for the diplomatic dinners. 

As the cool spring weather gave way to hot weather, the 
First Lady had the terraces set up with tables, chairs, flowers, 
and shrubs for elaborate entertaining. But this idea was not 
a success bugs and dampness outweighed the discomforts of 
the heat inside. 

Two months after the inauguration Mrs. Taft suffered an 
illness which left her with a speech affliction and other handi- 
caps. After that she was not able to handle her full share of 
duties as mistress of the White House, and was assisted by her 
sisters. Her daughter, Helen, before her debut, presided in 
her place at a dinner given for Prince and Princess Fushimi 
of Japan. 

Ten months later Helen made her debut at a tea to which 
twelve hundred guests had been invited. On December thirtieth 
of that same year, her parents gave a ball for her at which the 
guests, all friends of the debutante, numbered three hundred. 
The ball was held in the East Room, and the guests danced to 
the music of the scarlet-coated Marine Band, for whom a 
special room was built on the east terrace. This room faced 
the triple windows, from which the panes and sashes had been 
temporarily removed. 

292 Four Years of Strife 

The most brilliant of all the entertainments held in the 
White House during the Taft administration was the dinner 
and dance given in June, 1911, by the President and his "Nel- 
lie'* in celebration of their silver wedding anniversary. Invi- 
tations reading "1886-1911" were sent to approximately 
eight thousand persons. (The newspapers next day estimated 
that fifteen thousand stood outside the fence looking in.) 

A splendid garden party was planned, but the day started 
off badly. Mrs. Taft's father was seriously ill in Cincinnati, 
and Professor Willis L. Moore, Chief of the Weather Bu- 
reau, called at the White House personally that morning to 
give the President the weather forecast. "Conditions are most 
unfavorable," he said. "There will probably be showers this 
afternoon and tonight. It is raining almost everywhere, even in 
the British Isles and Scandinavia." 

Not a drop of rain fell, and, of course, Professor Moore 
was the butt of many a joke that evening. Even the newspapers 
carried the story of his unfortunate forecast the next morning. 
Better still, a telegram arrived shortly before the party got 
under way, announcing that Mr. Herron, Helen Taft's father, 
had improved. 

Helen Taft had only recently suffered a stroke, and it was 
remarkable to everyone present that she managed the cere- 
mony and much of its preparation so well. She wore a 
white satin gown profusely embroidered with silver roses and 
carnations, and a long train, also embroidered. On her hair, 
which she had piled high on her head, was the diamond tiara 
her husband had given her as an anniversary present. 

At eight o'clock the Presidential procession started from 
the south portico; a carpet was run out to indicate the line of 
march. In the lead were Colonel Spencer Cosby, U.S.A., and 
Lieutenant Commander Leigh C. Palmer, U.S.N., followed by 
Major Archibald W. Butt and Captain Graham L. Johnson. 
The procession took a circular course, coming finally to a halt 
at an illuminated arch where the receiving line stood. First 


R R 

' tt 


294 Four Years of Strife 

to be received was the diplomatic corps, then members of the 
family, and then the long, long line of guests. As the guests 
were introduced, they moved off to join the throngs milling 
about the grounds or sitting on the benches and chairs scat- 
tered about. A little before eleven o'clock the band left the 
south portico and began to play waltzes in the East Room, 
which attracted a great crowd of dancers. 

At eleven o'clock the State Dining Room was thrown open 
and a buffet supper was served. For those who wished to have 
supper out-of-doors, in view of the magnificently illuminated 
grounds and fountain, tables were set out on the west terrace 
with four or six chairs at each. Champagne was served, and 
great bowls of Rhine wine punch were plentiful. 

There was a mammoth wedding cake, baked by one of 
New York's leading caterers and requiring the services of a 
corps of expressmen to insure its safe delivery from Union 
Station. Here is a description of it, as given in a newspaper 
account of the anniversary celebration : 

[Its frosting] was circled with twenty-five crystal hearts imbedded 
in scrolls at regular intervals. Out of the top were seen dainty cherubs 
whom the froth of a frosted sea seems to have cast up against a great 
cornucopia filled with reproductions of a rare exotic of the gardener's 
art, with clinging angels clamoring for them. Around the great circle 
of confectionery, and alternating with the hearts, were twenty-five 
miniature silken reproductions of Stars and Stripes and the President's 
flag. At the base were roses, cut from their sterns and flung against 
the towering sides. Fluttering on the edge of the cake were turtle 
doves in their customary attitude as the poet sees them. 

The President and Mrs. Taft repaired to the south portico 
after the ceremonies were over, to receive intimate friends 
and relatives at their leisure. 

At one o'clock more than half the guests still remained 
within the White House grounds. It was after two when the 
music ceased and the last light was extinguished. 

On Tuesday evening, January 16, 1912, the Tafts gave a 

District of Columbia Public Library 

President Taft was the last President to have a White House cow. Her name 
was Pauline. 

296 Four Years of Strife 

diplomatic dinner at which one of the diplomats had a rather 
embarrassing experience. It was an unusually brilliant occa- 
sion; the thermometer outside read zero, and fires were lighted 
in the East Room's four great fireplaces. Major Archibald W. 
Butt, chief White House aide, and his assistants received the 
guests in the East Room, and directed members of the diplo- 
matic corps and other special guests to the Blue Room. 

By eight o'clock all the guests had arrived except the Rus- 
sian ambassador, and when he entered a moment later he sud- 
denly turned and fled down the staircase. An usher then 
brought a message to Major Butt: the Russian ambassador 
had returned to his hotel to put on his uniform. He had come 
in civilian dress, and the entire diplomatic corps was decked 
out in ceremonial splendor ! The unfortunate ambassador had, 
of course, been seen, and the rest of the corps found his pre- 
dicament delightfully humorous. 

Major Butt reported the diplomat's delay to the President 
and Mrs, Taft, and asked whether they would wait dinner for 
his return. The President answered, u By all means. Delay the 
dinner.' 1 

President Taft had many advantages over his predecessors. 
He was the first President to receive a salary of $75,000 a 
year; and his was the first administration in which the govern- 
ment assumed the servants' payroll. He was the first to have 
an automobile and the last to have a White House cow. 

The brown-haired, gray-eyed Helen Herron Taft, who had 
been one of the most promising graduates of the Cincinnati 
College of Music and a founder of the Cincinnati Orchestra, 
was the only woman in American history to have the distinc- 
tion of being the wife of a President and of a Chief Justice 
of the Supreme Court of the United States Taft filled this 
office from 1921 until his death in 1930. She thoroughly en- 
joyed her role as First Lady, even though afflicted, and bit- 
terly regretted her husband's defeat, in 1912, by Woodrow 
Wilson, Governor of New Jersey. 


No at the 

Dinner Table 

The Woodrow Wilsons 

One of the first acts of Woodrow Wilson after he took the 
oath of office on March 4, 1913, was to rule that politics 
were not to be discussed at the White House dinner table. 
Mealtimes, during the eight years of the Wilson administra- 
tion, were social get-togethers, and, according to David Law- 
rence, during this entire period no one was ever invited to 
luncheon or dinner for political purposes. The new President 
intensely disliked the idea of being pleasant for policy's sake. 
Washington society soon learned that social standing and 
the intricacies of protocol were of no importance to Woodrow 
Wilson. On a previous occasion, when, as president of Prince- 
ton University, he had played host to President Theodore 
Roosevelt at a luncheon, he had openly revolted against the 
ruling that the President had to precede the ladies. Now that 
he was President, he flatly refused to subscribe to such non- 
sense, claiming that u a man who is a gentleman before be- 
coming President should remain one afterwards." 


298 No Politics a! the Dinner Table 

Furthermore, the new President and First Lady had re- 
quested that there be no Inaugural Ball a festivity dear to 
the hearts of Washington's social elite since they both con- 
sidered the custom somewhat frivolous in the face of the 
solemn responsibility assumed in taking office as President. 

President Wilson, who had perhaps the most scholarly back- 
ground of any President, had attended Davidson College, 
North Carolina, the University of Virginia, Princeton Univer- 
sity, and Johns Hopkins University, where he received his Doc- 
tor of Philosophy degree on his thesis, Congressional Govern- 
ment (his first published book). Both President and Mrs. 
Wilson were Presbyterians; his father was the Reverend 
Joseph Ruggles Wilson, a stalwart of the Southern Presby- 
terian Church and hers was the Reverend S. E. Axson of 
Rome, Georgia. 

The Wilsons had three daughters Margaret, Eleanor, 
and Jessie. The family's taste in entertainment ran to music, 
art, literature, the theater, billiards (which the President 
taught the girls to play), golf for himself, and dancing for 
his daughters. Margaret and Eleanor loved to dance, and on 
occasion "forgot" they were honor guests who were supposed 
to leave the party early so that others could go before the 
small hours of the morning! 

The Wilsons were a close-knit family and loved having 
relatives and intimate friends about; often members of both 
families visited them for long periods at a time. They were 
fun-loving, witty, and gay, the President often leading in the 
banter. An impersonator, he told tales to perfection, including 
dialect and Negro folk stories, which he loved. He sang tenor, 
having been a member of the Princeton Glee Club in his stu- 
dent days, and he, Margaret, and Eleanor formed their own 
singing trio. He was interested in the gowns ordered by Mrs. 
Wilson, and often asked her to put on a new frock so he could 
see how it looked; occasionally he even made suggestions as 
to what would improve it ! 

The Woodrow Wilsons 299 

The President's cousin, Helen Bones, who acted as Mrs. 
Wilson's private secretary and lived in the White House as 
a member of the family, was as popular in Washington society 
as she was with the Wilsons. In the evening her room was often 
the assembling place of the entire family a typical scene was 
Mrs. Wilson seated on the sofa, the President standing before 
the fire with a cup of tea, and the jolly Belle Hagner, social 
secretary, in deep laughter while the girls reminisced on the 
day's happenings. 

The President's close friends included women as well as 
men. Charming and brilliant women who could tell a good 
story and converse amusingly stimulated him. He liked all 
good company, male and female, and took both as a matter 
of course. His daughter, Eleanor Wilson McAdoo, wrote in 
The Wilson Family that her mother, who was inclined to be 
grave, shared in these friendships, and that she u never saw her 
show any trace of jealousy." 

Mrs. Wilson (nee Ellen Louisa Axson) had been edu- 
cated at Shorter College in Rome, Georgia, and had studied at 
the Art Students League of New York. A few of her land- 
scapes had won praise from prominent critics. Ellen Lou, a 
dreamy and impractical girl before her marriage, caused 
friends to predict that Woodrow would have a poorly run 
household. But no sooner had Wilson joined the faculty at 
Bryn Mawr (and they found themselves settled after their 
marriage) than Ellen Lou started a home economics course 
in Philadelphia. She soon became quite expert at household 
management, cooking, and training servants. 

Ellen Lou Wilson adapted herself to the White House sur- 
roundings with ease, and within weeks after the inauguration 
she was deep in philanthropic work. The Washington slum 
area distressed her, and she lent her influence to improving 
the situation, giving tirelessly of her time and supplying money 
and food. She visited the trash-filled alleys and dilapidated 
homes to see and talk with the inhabitants, and soon inter- 

300 No Politics at the Dinner Table 

ested Congressmen In the matter. She finally succeeded to the 
extent of seeing a bill put before Congress for the project. 
Often, after spending the greater part of the day in the slums, 
she would receive callers in the afternoons; and she managed 
to attend two or three teas a week. 

The White House was not forgotten. When she received an 
appropriation from Congress to restore the flower gardens on 
either side of the south portico, she insisted on laying out one 
side herself and having the other done by a landscape archi- 
tect. Ellen Lou was close to her husband, and took great in- 
terest in the development of his program, helping in every way 
possible. At the same time, she carried on the usual official 
entertainments receptions, musicals, teas, and dinners, such 
as that given for the diplomatic corps on January 2, 1914. 
The menu on this occasion included u caviar in ice, turtle soup 
with cheese straws, mousse of halibut with lobster sauce, arti- 
chokes with mushrooms,, fillet of beef, stuffed tomatoes, string 
beans, new potatoes, asparagus with Hollandaise sauce, mal- 
lard duck, mixed salad, ice cream, cake, marrons, caramels, 
mints, and coffee. The dinner wines included claret, hock, 
sherry, and champagne. The liqueurs were cognac and creme 
de menthe" 

Jessie and Eleanor Wilson were married within six months 
of each other in the White House: Jessie to Francis B. Sayre 
on November 25, 1913, and Eleanor to Secretary of the 
Treasury William Gibbs McAdoo on May 7, 1914. 

Jessie's was a pretentious wedding attended by all the gov- 
ernment dignitaries and their wives, diplomats, army and navy 
officers in full dress, and many friends. The Marine Band 
played in the foyer as the wedding procession marched from 
the State Dining Room through the long main corridor into 
the East Room, where they assembled on a white vicuna rug 
a wedding gift in front of a small, satin-covered prle-dieu 
flanked by tall white-tapered candelabra. The couple faced the 
big east window, which was banked with flowers and fern. 

The Woodro^ Wilsons 301 

Margaret, the eldest sister, was maid of honor; Eleanor and 
six of the bride's friends were the bridesmaids. 

Eleanor's wedding was small. Her mother had had a fall 
in January from w r hich she had not recovered, and to save her 
exertion it was decided (although Mrs. Wilson protested) 
that only Cabinet members and wives and a few relatives and 
close friends would be invited. Jessie and Margaret were her 
matron and maid of honor, and the rest of the bridal party 
consisted of two little flower girls Secretary of the Interior 
Lane's daughter and the daughter of the groom by a former 
marriage and Dr. Gary Grayson, the best man. The Marine 
Band played in the foyer as the wedding procession, the bride 
on her father's arm, came slowly down the stairs, through 
the corridor, and into the Blue Room. There they stood, 
among masses of lilies and apple blossoms, on the same white 
rug and in front of the same little prie-dieu that Mr. and 
Mrs. Sayre had recently used. The bridal supper, consisting 
of bouillon, chicken-liver paste, boned capon and peas, Vir- 
ginia Ham with salad, strawberry ice cream, cake, coffee, and 
champagne, was served in the State Dining Room. The bride 
cut the cake with the sword of a White House aide. 

Mrs. Wilson's health continued to grow worse, and by the 
time Secretary and Mrs. McAdoo returned from their honey- 
moon she had given up all activities. The slum-clearance bill 
so dear to her had been speeded up, and just before her death 
on the sixth of August seventeen months after Wilson's 
inauguration the President was able to tell her that the bill 
had been passed. 

Without the support of his beloved Ellen Lou, the Presi- 
dent fell into despair. Mrs. Wilson had been his mainstay and 
confidante, and, in her quiet way, an influential factor in his 
success. Now Jessie and Eleanor were married and had their 
own homes; Margaret was away much of the time on con- 
cert tours. The President and Helen Bones were often alone, 
and the White House had lost its sparkle. In the following 

302 A T o Politics at the Dinner Table 

months Dr. Gary T. Grayson, the President's physician, be- 
came greatly concerned over his patient's melancholy attitude, 
and urged that social activities in moderation be renewed. 

Then one day Miss Bones and Mrs. Edith Boiling Gait, 
who had become friends after being introduced by Dr. Gray- 
son, stepped off the elevator with their shoes muddy after a 
walk through the park. Unexpectedly, the President and Dr. 
Grayson, who had been golfing, came around the corner also 
wearing muddy shoes. The President and Mrs. Gait (the 
widow of a Washington jeweler) had never met, but all burst 
out laughing! The ice was broken; romance bloomed; and on 
December 18, 1915, Woodrow Wilson and Edith Gait were 
married in the bride's small home. They had no attendants, 
and only members of the families and close friends were pres- 
ent. The bride's mother gave her away. After a buffet supper 
the bride and groom took a honeymoon trip to Hot Springs, 

The new Mrs. Wilson, in a white gown brocaded in silver, 
with "angel sleeves," made her first appearance as hostess at 
the diplomatic reception in January, 1916, when she greeted 
over thirty-three hundred guests. She described the event in 
her Memoir: 

It was thrilling to greet all the Cabinet in the Oval Room upstairs 
and then with the President precede them down the long stairway, 
with the naval and military aides forming an escort, the Marine 
Band playing "Hail to the Chief," and the waiting mass of guests 
bowing a welcome as they passed into the Blue Room. 

When ambassadors and ministers and their wives called at 
the White House, Mrs. Wilson invited them separately, 
rather than in groups, to tea before the fire in the Red Room, 
which was served at half-hour intervals. Having received as 
much background information about them as was possible, she 
was able to talk about affairs of mutual interest. 

In May informal lawn parties began. Almost always there 

304 -Y0 Politics a! the Dinner Table 

was good weather known as ""regular Wilson weather" for 
these occasions. The President and Mrs. Wilson (who re- 
ceived under a large tree), were introduced by Colonel Harts, 
military aide, and Captain Berry, naval aide, and guests found 
refreshments served under a large colored marquee. 

The menace of war and the approach of the 1916 presi- 
dential campaign made it necessary for President and Mrs. 
Wilson to change their breakfast hour from eight o'clock to 
five, for the days were just too short to accomplish the things 
that had to be done. 

Wilson was reelected in 1916, and the United States de- 
clared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. Mrs. Wilson put 
her whole heart into the war effort. She and the Cabinet wives 
pledged themselves to reduce their mode of living to the sim- 
plest possible form, and to forgo luxuries that had until now 
been taken for granted. No gloves were to be worn at any 
time. Before the end of the month Mrs. Wilson had the trees, 
flower beds, and shrubbery protected, and put eight sheep to 
work on the White House lawn to save manpower, the lawn 
was to be grazed, not mowed. The sheep increased in number; 
in addition to keeping the grass and weeds down, they served 
as a popular attraction and their wool was auctioned off to 
raise funds for the Red Cross. This organization sent two 
pounds to each state in the Union and to the four possessions 
Alaska, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and the Philippine Islands 
to be sold at auction as "White House wool." The total real- 
ized was $52,828; the two pounds sent to Alaska brought 
$5,881.70, excelling any of the other receipts. 

In the meantime, Margaret Wilson embarked on a concert 
tour and returned in June with $10,000 for the Red Cross. 
A Red Cross sewing unit was established in the White House, 
using the sewing machine that Mrs. Wilson had brought from 
her home as a bride. 

Despite the fact that official entertaining had been reduced 
to a minimum, Mrs. Wilson wrote that the White House was 

306 No Politics at the Dinner Table 

a "Veritable kaleidoscope of arrivals and departures." In- 
cluded among the visitors from the Allied nations was Arthur 
Balfour of Great Britain, whom the Wilsons entertained at a 
dinner at which Edith Wilson and Helen Bones were the only 
ladies to sit with the fifty male guests. Others entertained at 
the White House were M. Rene Viviani and Marshal Joseph 
Joffre of France; also Italians, Belgians, Russians, Japanese, 
and many others. 

After the Armistice was signed, and while the President 
was laboring to achieve lasting peace, he and Mrs. Wilson 
gave a lawn party on August 22, 1919, for the wounded boys 
in Walter Reed and naval hospitals. At the party the Presi- 
dent himself served ice cream and cake to the boys. 

About a year after the signing of the Armistice, the Presi- 
dent invited the King and Queen of the Belgians to visit this 
country as his official guests, and planned a ceremonial tour 
of the nation for them. Unfortunately, illness struck Woodrow 
Wilson while the royal pair were still en route, and many gala 
plans were of necessity canceled. 

When the President had recovered somewhat from his 
illness Albert and Elizabeth came to Washington, where, 
through the State Department, Mr. and Mrs. Breckinridge 
Long placed their home at the disposal of the royal visitors. 

On the day of their arrival the President and Mrs. Wilson 
had flowers sent with a note of welcome, and Mrs. Wilson 
went immediately to call upon Her Majesty. As a welcoming 
gift, she brought Elizabeth a fan with shell sticks with her 
name imprinted on it in gold. 

King Albert and Queen Elizabeth came to the White House 
the following afternoon, Thursday, October thirtieth, ac- 
companied by their young son, Prince Leopold, and two aides. 
Tea was served in the Red Room; when it was over Mrs. 
Wilson asked his Majesty if she could take him upstairs where 
the convalescent President was waiting to receive him. Then, 
Mrs. Wilson tells us in her Memoir, Queen Elizabeth, with 

The Woodrow Wilsons 307 

u all the naivete of a girl," cried: u Oh, but Albert mustn't go 
yet ! We have a present for the President, and we must wait 
here until it arrives so we can present it ourselves." After 
some delay two men brought in a u beautifully made box of 
polished wood, about three feet long and two feet wide, with 
mounted brass handles and raised metal lettering." The in- 
scription read: 

Souvenir du Roi et de la Reine 
des Beiges a Son Excellence 
Monsieur Wilson President des 
Etats-Unis d'Amerique 

When the box was opened with a key, it revealed a case 
lined with crimson velvet which contained three trays holding 
eighteen exquisite plates. On each plate was a "hand-painted 
representation of an historic place in Belgium, each framed in 
an identical border of rich black and gold." The back of each 
plate bore the same inscription as that on the handsome case. 
It was a royal gift, and one that gave the Wilsons lasting 
pleasure. Mrs. Wilson's Memoir continues: 

After this, Her Majesty handed me a small case of grey suede 
which held a fan of Belgian lace mounted on amber sticks. On the 
supporting large stick ... a garter of small diamonds enclosed two 
letter "E's" in sapphires. She explained that the initials were for her 
name and mine, Elizabeth and Edith, "in a circle of friendship." The 
lace was specially woven, and very beautiful. The main motif repre- 
sents the angels of peace chasing the dragons of war, and in the back- 
ground stand, as a sort of guard of honour, the national emblems of 
all the Allied countries the American Eagle, the English Lion, the 
French Cock, the Russian Bear, etc. 

President Wilson was not too ill at this time to enjoy a little 
joke. The Washington Star (October 28, 1919) carried this 
story : 

308 No Politics a! the Dinner Table 

Secretary Tumulty, upon leaving the President's room, remarked 
that he was going to see the King of Belgium. 

"The King of the Belgians," corrected the President. 

"1 accept the amendment," said Mr. Tumulty. 

ik lt is not an amendment; it is an interpretation," retorted the Presi- 
dent, probably having in mind some distinction regarding the covenant 
of the League of Nations. 

It was after World War I that Congress appropriated 
money for the purchase of White House china. A few earlier 
Presidents had tried to secure American ware, but could find 
none of suitable quality. For this reason they had imported 
china specially decorated to their taste flora and fauna, for 
example, or patriotic designs such as the American Eagle and 
the United States coat of arms. Wilson, though ill at that 
time, was determined to acquire American china to replace 
the imported ware. The quality of domestic ware had greatly 
improved; furthermore, Wilson desired the use of the Presi- 
dent's seal as the motif, because this would be most appro- 
priate for u the President's home." 

Seventeen hundred pieces of the finest quality vitrified 
ivory-tone translucent china, service for one hundred and 
twenty, was purchased from the Lenox Pottery in Trenton, 
New Jersey. Designed by the firm's chief artist, it is tinted 
cream-white, with a deep ivory border. The flat pieces are 
bordered with the Stars and Stripes etched in gold, and at 
the center of each piece is the President's seal. 

The only color in the set is in the rim of the service plates, 
which is a rich, lustrous blue edged in gold; the seal decorates 
the center of the service plates, which measure eleven inches 
instead of the usual ten and a half, to enable the beauty of 
the decoration to be seen even when the entree or soup plate 
has been placed on it. 

The administration of Woodrow Wilson ended in 1921, 
and he died in 1924. His failure to win Congress over to the 
League of Nations was a bitter disappointment to him, and 

The Smithsonian Institution 

President Wilson was the first to purchase American ware for the White 
House state service. The President's seal -was used as the motif f also for the 
first time. Shown are the dinner plate and service plate of the iJOO-piece set 
of Lenox china. 

3IO No Politics at the Dinner Table 

on September 26, 1919, he suffered a breakdown during an 
extensive speaking tour designed to bring this cause before 
the people of the nation. He never completely recovered, 
and he finished out his second term a very ill and disillusioned 

In the election of 1920, Warren G. Harding was elected 
twenty-ninth President of the United States. 


Garden Parties 

Warren and Florence Harding 

Plans to revive the Inaugural Ball, a custom discontinued 
during the Wilson administration, were in the offing when 
Warren Gamaliel Harding, Senator from Ohio and the Re- 
publican party's "dark horse" came into office on March 4, 
1921. The country, however, was talking economy, and Con- 
gress set up such a howl at the thought of so unnecessary 
an expenditure that the idea was hastily dropped. Instead the 
Edward Beale McLeans gave a dance at their enormous town 
house. Visiting statesmen, newly appointed Cabinet officers, 
and other government officials attended in full force. Guests 
danced until dawn; all in all, the affair was a great success. 
Harding came into office in an era that recognized the 
President as a human being, not a virtual prisoner who never 
stepped outside the White House except on formal occasions. 
His wife, the former Florence Kling, loved dogs, horses, and 
outdoor life, and she and the President were frequently seen 
at horse shows and similar public gatherings. They also en- 

3 1 2 Garden Parties 

joyed cruises on the Presidential yacht, Mayflower and 
brought the White House chef along. 

The President big, handsome, and a companionable sort 
of person had been persuaded to run for the Presidency 
against his own better judgment. He never believed himself 
suited to the office, and he definitely did not want it. 

Warren Harding disliked protocol as much as his prede- 
cessor had. The tradition that the President, like the King, 
comes first was distasteful to him. The rule that he had to 
walk ahead of his wife, except on formal occasions when he 
gave her his arm or to have her trail behind in passing 
through a door bothered him; also, he found it difficult to 
accustom himself to being served before his wife and the 
other ladies at the dinner table. When the President and Mrs. 
Harding went for a drive, he would step back and assist her 
into the limousine, then enter and sit again according to 
protocol on her right. 

The musically-talented, petite, blue-eyed First Lady, known 
by friends as u The Duchess," responded graciously to the lime- 
light. She was the daughter of a banker, the wealthiest man 
in Marion, Ohio. Both she and the President were hospitable 
folk who enjoyed entertaining and being entertained. 

During the summer following the inauguration, Mrs. Har- 
ding gave a series of garden parties which turned out to be 
a huge success. The weather was always favorable, and the 
gay frocks and picture hats of the ladies contrasted effectively 
with the green lawn and the scarlet uniforms of the United 
States Marine Band. Everybody had such a wonderful time 
on one occasion that the band played "The End of a Perfect 
Day" several times before guests took the hint! 

At these garden parties, the First Lady succeeded in carry- 
ing out a pet theory of hers that the way to get through a 
difficult situation successfully is to keep up fresh enthusiasm 
and never get over having "thrills. " According to one society 
reporter in the Washington Post (May 29, 1921) : 


2 - 


314 Garden Parties 

Mrs. Harding . . . has literally shaken hands with tens of thou- 
sands of persons, in a steady streaming line through the White House 
gates. . . . The Garden Party, second of a series this week, fur- 
nished twelve hundred more hands for Mrs. Harding to shake and 
she, standing under the old oak on the lawn of the White House with 
the President, outwardly at least displayed the same freshness and 
verve for the occasion that marked her prominence after the nomina- 
tion. . . . No President's wife in the memory of the Capital has dis- 
played such endurance. 

The First Lady's musical talent was encouraged by her 
husband's interest in music. Warren G. Harding was one of 
the most enthusiastic sponsors of music to occupy the White 
House an enthusiasm fostered, no doubt, by his early ex- 
periences with the town band. As he put it: "I played every 
instrument but the slide trombone and the E-flat clarinet." 
At one time, when Harding felt the urge to have his own 
band, he organized the Citizens' Cornet Band of Marion, 
Ohio, which played with bipartisan gusto for both Republican 
and Democratic rallies. 

The President and Mrs. Harding carried out a full sched- 
ule of official entertainments, and a small dinner was given 
practically every night. They seldom dined alone. 

The President's favorite parties were the famous stag din- 
ners of twelve to fifteen guests. Cocktails whetted their ap- 
petites for sauerkraut and wienerwurst. After dinner, bridge 
or poker was played in a smoke-filled room, the men drinking 
beer or Scotch-and-soda, blissfully unmindful of the fact that 
prohibition was in effect. However, no wine ever appeared on 
the dinner table, formal or informal. 

The stag breakfast was another of Harding's innovations. 
Mrs. Harding usually slept late and breakfasted in her room. 
The President either ate alone in the small dining room or 
had several friends in for a good hearty breakfast grape- 
fruit, cereal, bacon and eggs, wheat cakes, maple syrup, corn 
muffins, toast, coffee and toothpicks. 

Warren and Florence Harding 315 

Housekeeper Elizabeth Jaffray, in her Secrets of the White 
House, wrote that she could hardly believe her ears when, 
shortly after he entered the White House, Mr. Harding sent 
the butler for toothpicks. 

"Surely you are mistaken!" the housekeeper exclaimed. 
"No, Ma'am!" the servant replied, u he asked me plain as any- 
thing for toothpicks." 

"Well, we'll just forget it," Mrs. Jaffray said firmly. 

But it wasn't that simple. Later the butler was back. 

u The President asked real forceful-like for those tooth- 

That afternoon Mrs. Jaffray went shopping for toothpicks. 

In the first year of Harding's administration he called the 
Washington Conference to limit naval armaments. Since the 
conference was attended by Great Britain, France, Italy, the 
Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, China, and Japan as well 
as the United States official luncheons and dinners for for- 
eign delegates entailed some elaborate preparations. 

The visit of Marshal and Mme. Joffre to Washington in 
April, 1922, was one of the highlights of the Harding adminis- 
tration. The hero of the Marne and his wife were lionized 
at a state reception to which officers of the army and navy 
who had served under Joffre and General John J. "Black 
Jack" Pershing were invited. The reception was unusual in that 
only a few of the guests were not in military service. 

The appearance of the French war hero was as dramatic 
as it was colorful. The function opened when a marine in 
dress blues appeared at the foot of the state stairway bearing 
the flag of France. Another marine, carrying the Stars and 
Stripes, stood on the opposite side of the corridor. Then 
Marshal and Mme. Joffre, escorted by a White House aide, 
appeared. The spontaneous burst of applause brought a smile 
to the face of the gruff old soldier who had saved his country 
by recruiting hundreds of Paris taxicabs to carry every avail- 
able soldier to the battlefront. 

316 Garden Parties 

Then the President, the Marshal, Mme. Joffre, and Mrs. 
Harding walked toward the Blue Room, the doors of which 
were flanked by marines bearing the Stars and Stripes and the 
President's flag. They entered amid a fanfare of trumpets and 
the familiar strains of u Hail to the Chief." Then, while all 
stood at attention, the Marine Band played The Star-Span- 
gled Banner. This was followed by France's national anthem, 
the Marseillaise. 

The first to greet the President, Mrs. Harding, the Mar- 
shal, and Mme. Joffre in the receiving line was the former 
French ambassador and Mme. Jean Jules Jusserand. Then 
followed the members of the French Embassy, the Marshal's 
military aides, Vice President and Mrs. Coolidge, the Presi- 
dent's Cabinet, the Justices of the Supreme Court, members 
of both Houses of Congress, and other high government of- 

Mrs. Harding kept a well-trained eye on the kitchen, al- 
though she seldom interfered with the housekeeper. Her fa- 
vorite activity was traveling with her husband (whom she 
always referred to as "Warren Harding") on his many trips 
around the country. 

It was on just such a trip that Warren G. Harding died 
suddenly on August 2, 1923, in a San Francisco hotel with 
his wife at his bedside. Vice President Calvin Coolidge thus 
became the thirtieth President of the United States. 


Economy Enters the Mansion 

Calvin and Elizabeth Coolidge 

President Coolidge settled the precedence problem at the 
White House. It had been a burning one since Washington's 
administration, but was not solved until 1927, when the Bel- 
gian ambassador's wife flatly refused to sit by "that barba- 
rian" the German ambassador, director of the Krupp Arma- 
ments Works during World War I at a state dinner. 

The aides hastily switched place cards, but as a result of 
this contretemps the President ordered the State Department 
to appoint a director of White House ceremonies. Today this 
post is filled by the Office of Protocol, employing twenty-four 
career men who specialize in "ceremonials," "decorations," 
and "courtesies and privileges." Rules of protocol play an im- 
portant role in the nation's capital; State Department ex- 
perts now plan every detail of the programs of visiting kings, 
queens, and other foreign dignitaries, but until Coolidge took 
action there was no policy for such planning. 

Coolidge, whose six years in the White House were prob- 


318 Economy Enters the Mansion 

ably the most expensive the government had paid the bills 
for up to that time, was the only President to go out of office 
with a nice little nest egg. This was attributed partly to his 
own prudence, and partly to the fact that in Harding's ad- 
ministration a law was passed whereby the government de- 
frayed the President's expenses for official entertaining. 

Calvin Coolidge took a personal interest in domestic de- 
tails, unlike his predecessors, who left such things to the 
distaff side of the family. The cost of food became a matter 
of presidential concern. He not only kept a sharp eye on house- 
hold expenses, but checked the menus and gave an occasional 
peek into the kitchen to see what was going on. 

At the request of Mrs. Coolidge, Mrs. Elizabeth Jaffray, 
White House housekeeper, went to the First Lady's bedroom 
to see a new r gown especially purchased for a state dinner. 
While there she encountered the President. Just to have some- 
thing to say to him, she asked : 

u Did you look in at the dining room, Mr. President?" 

u Yes." 

"Didn't you think it was beautiful?" the housekeeper per- 

"Yes, it's all right." 

u Did you step downstairs into the kitchens?" 

"Yes, and I don't see why we have to have six hams for one 
dinner. It seems an awful lot of ham to me." 

"But, Mr. President, there will be sixty people here. Vir- 
ginia hams are small, and we cannot possibly serve more than 
ten people with one ham and be sure of having enough." 

"Well, six hams look an awful lot to me!" the President 

Coolidge's second administration started off with a faux pas 
that has since made history. It was customary for the incoming 
President to serve a brief but adequate luncheon to members 
of his party who were to share the reviewing stand in front of 
the White House on Inauguration Day. But when President 

Library of Congress 

President Coolidge was accompanied by two Secret Service men on his horse- 
back-riding expeditions. Here, one of the men signals a driver not to approach 
any closer. 

320 Economy Enters the Mansion 

Coolidge returned to the White House after taking the oath 
of office, he, his wife, and Vice President and Mrs. Charles 
G. Dawes proceeded to the second floor, where they lunched 
on sandwiches and coffee. 

The rest of the party, including Cabinet members and their 
wives, remained on the first floor, foodless. Colonel Sherrill, 
the President's military aide, saw the situation and solved the 
problem by inviting them to share the luncheon that had been 
provided for the White House aides. They accepted, and the 
entire party trooped over to the War and Navy Building. 

Shortly afterward the Coolidges and the Daweses returned 
to the first floor to find everybody gone, and were forced to 
proceed to the reviewing stand unescorted. The rest of their 
party straggled into the reviewing stand later, smiling and 
quite pleased with themselves and their meal. 

The taciturn Coolidge seldom bothered to explain his ac- 
tions. However, he was often casual and friendly with White 
House servants, who adored him. Probably the most graphic 
description of his vivaciousness is that given in the June 1933 
issue of American Magazine by Ava Long, housekeeper dur- 
ing the Hoover administration, who said that the story was 
told her by servants who had come down from the Coolidge 
administration : 

Almost everyone was given a nickname by him. Frank, the house- 
man on the second floor, became "The Frog." He called the front 
doorman "Front door Jack" and the back doorman (who took care 
of the dogs) "Back Door Jack." Maggie, the chambermaid, who had 
taken care of the presidential suite for twenty-three years, was "That 
Person." It amused Mr. Coolidge to pretend that he thought Maggie, 
who was one of the neatest persons in the world, careless in her per- 
sonal appearance. "Mummy," he would say to Mrs. Coolidge in 
Maggie's presence, "can't you speak to That Person and get her to 
try to look a little tidy? Look at her apron strings. They're untied this 
minute!" Poor Maggie would bridle and grab for her apron strings, 
which were always tied as primly as if they were set in cement. But 
she loved Mr. Coolidge's teasing and he knew it. 

Cafain and Elizabeth Coolidge 321 

Mr. Coolidge never rang a bell for a servant unless there was no- 
body within sound of his voice. When he came in from his morning 
exercise, instead of going upstairs and having his valet ring for his 
breakfast, he usually stuck his head inside the pantry door and said 
to Carnacion the Porto Rican pantry man, whom he called "Car- 
nation": "Carnation, I want my supper." It was a little joke be- 
tween Carnacion and the President that Mr. Coolidge always asked 
for his supper when he wanted his breakfast. 

One morning when he came in through the back door and stopped 
to speak to Carnacion, the pantry was empty. Mr. Coolidge went over 
to the dumb-waiter, put his thumb on the bell, and kept it there until 
somebody answered his signal from below. Hannah, the pretty second 
cook, thought Carnacion was getting fresh ringing the bell so long, 
so she yelled up the dumb-waiter, "Hey, take your finger off that 
bell! Who do you think you are, the President of the United States?" 

"That was my impression," said a voice distinctly not Carnacion's. 

Hanaah says she spilled a platter of sausages on the floor when she 
looked up to see Mr. Coolidge's face smiling dryly down at her. 

The President often joked with the cooks, too, who took 
great pride in their cooking and did their best to please him. 
But try as they might, they failed to bake the corn muffins 
and custard pie to his liking, and he complained to his wife. 

Many recipes were tried and found wanting. Mrs. Coolidge 
solved the dilemma by writing the proprietor of a Massa- 
chusetts inn where she and the President had frequently dined. 
Mrs. Jaffray's book, Secrets of the White House, gives the 
recipes that finally succeeded in delighting the presidential 
palate : 


2 cups cornmeal 
i cup flour 

1 cup sweet milk 

2 eggs, well beaten 
YZ cup sugar 

2 tablespoons baking powder 

322 Economy Enters the Mansion 


^4 cup sugar 

1 rounding tablespoon of flour 

Mix sugar and flour, add a pinch of salt 

2 eggs, beaten 
2 l /2 cups milk 

Pour into pie plate lined with thin layer of pie crust not previously 
baked. Bake in oven until custard is set. Sprinkle a little grated nut- 
meg on top when removed from the oven. 

President Coolidge's dry humor was in evidence in the mat- 
ter of the stag breakfasts he substituted for the formal lunch- 
eons he considered expensive and unnecessary. Whether the 
breakfasts were introduced for diversion, for some obscure 
political purpose, or as a means of getting some free meals 
remained a mystery. Both Democrats and Republicans were 
invited, which enabled the President to charge the bill to 
official entertaining. Undoubtedly it was irritating to be tele- 
phoned sometimes as late as midnight and politely "invited" 
to breakfast with the President at eight the next morning. 

Coolidge would greet his guests in the Red Room and then 
lead the way to the small dining room. The fruit course was 
eaten in silence, everyone waiting for "Silent Cal" to start the 
conversational ball rolling. He would say nothing. By the time 
the rest of the meal, consisting of bacon and eggs, buckwheat 
cakes, sausage, corn muffins, toast, and coffee, had been served, 
everyone would be making conversation with his nearest neigh- 
bor in an attempt to cover the general embarrassment. The 
dour Vermonter would open his mouth only to put food into 
it. The meal over in half an hour, the President would sol- 
emnly bid each adieu without explaining the object of the 

On one occasion he solemnly poured his coffee into a saucer 
while his breakfast guests stared in amazement. Some fol- 
lowed suit. The President then added sugar and cream, and, 

In this Herbert French photo, Mrs. Goolidge exhibits her pet raccoon, named 
Rebecca, to a crowd of children gathered on the White House lawn for the 
annual Easter egg-rolling contest. 

326 Economy Enters the Mansion 

Coolidge also wore two long strands of pearls and matching 
earrings. She carried a round bouquet, in the center of which 
were blue iowers in a circle of violets and pink and white rose- 
buds, edged with blue flowers, similar to that carried by the 

The young Princess Ileana, slender and pale, wore a girlish 
gown of blue georgette embroidered in cut steel and crystals, 
with bands of the trimming falling from the round neck of 
the bodice to the bottom of the skirt, parting below a large 
ornament to show an underdress of plaited chiffon. Her jew- 
elry consisted of a bandeau around her forehead, two strands 
of pearls, and a bracelet. She also wore a ribbon with a Ru- 
manian cross attached. 

The company went at once to the State Dining Room. The 
complete gold service was used for the table, the long mirror 
with its railing of gold reflecting pink roses and blue delphin- 
iums in gold vases. The heavy candelabra held tall, gold-col- 
ored candles. Four compotes of gold, two at either end of the 
oblong table, held dark purple Belgian grapes. Other attrac- 
tions of the scene were the new cut-glass service on the table 
and Lazlo's portrait of President Coolidge on the wall. 

The President escorted the Queen to the dining room, where 
she was seated at his right ; Mrs. Coolidge entered on the arm 
of Prince Nicholas, who sat at her right. Next came Princess 
Ileana with Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon. 

After dinner the President and Prince Nicholas led the way 
to the second-floor library, where the men smoked and chatted, 
and Mrs. Coolidge brought the Queen and ladies to the Blue 
Room for conversation. 

In the Blue Room pale pink roses decorated the mantel; 
on low stands alternating with the palms in the circular win- 
dow were huge bowls of pink cosmos. The great Sevres vases 
in the East Room, presented to President Garfield by the Presi- 
dent of France, held white cosmos blossoms, and on the four 
mantels of rare marble, fern and pink dahlias were arranged. 



328 Economy Enters the Mansion 

Pink roses decorated the Green Room, and in the main cor- 
ridor red cosmos and dahlias mingled with ferns and palms. 
A large bowl of scarlet carnations adorned a table near the 
stately grandfather's clock bought in President Arthur's time. 

Queen Marie was perhaps the most "modern" queen in 
Europe at that time, and probably more up-to-date in her 
tastes and sympathies than any European king. She was the 
granddaughter of Queen Victoria, and always spoke English 
to her children. 

In New York, she had told two hundred reporters that she 
was especially interested in the position of women in America, 
and in "what they had been doing in the cause of peace. . . . 
Women have done so much for peace. Some day women will 
end war; that is, if they don't start fighting among them- 
selves. . . ." When asked by the reporters, u Do you like Amer- 
ican cooking?" the charming Queen was emphatic in her re- 
ply: u Oh, don't I!" 

Her shingled, permanent-waved locks were another sign of 
the Queen's modern femininity, and, as one Washington re- 
porter noted, she "smoked American cigarettes and liked 
them," and, furthermore, saw no harm u in the use of lipstick 
to enhance her royal good looks." 

Washington reporters found Queen Marie to be: 

... a thoroughly charming, human woman, and devoted mother, and 
thereby a doubly charming Queen, who throws no regal barriers 
about herself and family, and wins through graciousness and sim- 
plicity the dignified position which a less attractive monarch might 
attempt to achieve through pomp and ceremony! 

The story Is told that, while visiting the old garden at Mount 
Vernon, the Queen stopped in front of a rosebush which Su- 
perintendent Harrison H. Dodge explained had been planted 
by General Washington and named the Nellie Custis rose ; it 
was, he said, "a wishing rose." The Queen said delightedly, 

The Washington Star 

Bob Hoke's drawing for the Star bears the caption, "Calvin Coolidge was the 
first President to have a radio set in the White House. President Truman was 
the first to have a television set!' 

33 Economy Enters the Mansion 

"Nicky, make a wish! Nicky! Nicky! Nicky!" and to the Prin- 
cess she said: "Maybe you'd like to make a wish also, dear." 
So the young Prince and Princess both laid their hands on the 
rosebush and made a wish. But when Nicky was asked what 
he had wished, he bashfully refused to reply, saying, u Oh, 
now, I really couldn't say, you know." 

At Mount Vernon, the Queen, the Prince, and the Princess 
stood inside the enclosure of the tomb, the young Prince with 
bared head, w r hile the Queen laid a wreath on the tomb. It is 
said that on the w r ay to Mount Vernon the Queen stopped the 
car twice, first to put on a heavy wrap, as it was getting cold, 
and again to look at the scenery. 

A sign in front of a roadside restaurant said, "Queen Marie, 
get your waffles here." 

Though during his entire administration Coolidge's watch- 
word had been "economy," he allowed himself one extrava- 
gant purchase (perhaps a key to his inner self) the eight 
beautiful Sheffield candlesticks that his successor was to use to 
such good advantage, for Calvin Coolidge whose "I do not 
choose to run" kept his backers and the nation on the political 
fence was not renominated. His successor was another Re- 
publican, Herbert Clark Hoover, who became the thirty-first 
President of the United States. 

The Medicine-Ball 

Herbert and Lou Hoover 

The Herbert Hoovers switched from the rigid economy of 
the Coolidge regime to entertainment on so extensive a scale 
that there was company, company, and more company ! Guests 
arrived for breakfast, luncheon, and dinner at the White 
House, and spent weekends at the Hoovers' Rapidan retreat 
in the Shenandoah Valley. Often teas were in progress in dif- 
ferent rooms at the same time in one afternoon, Mrs. Hoover 
moving from one to the other. Sometimes she gave two large 
teas at different hours on the same afternoon and a dinner in 
the evening. This First Lady loved to entertain, and was adept 
at turning a mere delegation greeting into a full-fledged social 

During their first three years in the White House the Presi- 
dent and Mrs. Hoover are said to have dined alone only three 
times each time on the occasion of their wedding anniver- 
sary, February 11. Married in 1899, they had lived in many 
parts of the world, often in remote spots to which the Presi- 


332 The Medicine-Ball Cabinet 

dent's mining-construction projects had taken him. A wealthy 
man, Hoover spent lavishly, paying for many of the comforts 
he added to the White House from his own pocket and leaving 
them for his successors to enjoy. 

Lou Henry Hoover never questioned the amount of food 
consumed nor its cost. Her only stipulation was that it be the 
best; that it be well cooked and well served. The thirty-two 
servants at the White House included the chief cook, who did 
the cooking for the Presidential family and their guests; the 
second cook, who prepared the meals for the help; the third 
cook, who made the pastries and cakes and acted as consultant 
to the first cook; and three kitchen maids and a dishwasher 
whom everybody called "Pots and Pans." 

There were three chambermaids; a bath maid, whose duty 
it was to keep the fourteen baths on the second and third floors 
spotless ; seven housemen who cleaned the halls and corridors 
and washed the windows ; a man who polished the floors, took 
care of the grate fires in winter and manned the ice-cream 
freezer in summer; the checker, whose duties included tak- 
ing care of the White House dogs; a receiving clerk in charge 
of all incoming and outgoing parcels ; the President's chauffeur, 
his valet, Mrs. Hoover's personal maid, and others. 

President Hoover liked to discuss national problems at 
the breakfast table. His "Medicine-Ball Cabinet" met on the 
White House lawn before breakfast every morning rain, 
snow, or shine for a half-hour. They tossed a medicine ball 
back and forth, because the President thought it an excellent 
way of keeping fit. They then breakfasted on fruit, toast, and 
coffee under the huge, century-old magnolia tree on the south 
lawn when the weather permitted; otherwise in the China 
Room. Afterward the Chief Executive would bathe, dress, and 
announce a breakfast-table conference. Often enough guests 
would arrive at the last minute so that it was necessary to 
-move from the private dining room to the State Dining Room. 
At the same time Mrs. Hoover would be entertaining wives 

President Herbert Hoover. 

334 The Medicine-Ball Cabinet 

of the President's guests at breakfast on the second floor. 

Lou Henry Hoover was one of the most gracious of First 
Ladies, but both she and the President were unpredictable 
hosts. If she learned that the President had invited two extra 
persons for dinner, she might ask an additional dozen to make 
it a dinner party ; or the President might turn such a meal into 
a semiofficial affair, which might swell to such proportions 
that the meal would have to be switched to the State Dining 
Room. These sudden changes threw the household staff into a 
dither, for they often didn't know how many persons were ex- 
pected until they arrived. 

In the September 1933 issue of the Ladies' Home Journal, 
Mrs. Ava Long, the housekeeper in the Hoover administra- 
tion, wrote of how she went shopping at eleven o'clock one 
day when four guests were expected for lunch. She ordered 
twelve chops, which seemed quite sufficient. At twelve-thirty, 
shortly after she returned, a message came from the Execu- 
tive wing, notifying her the number had increased to forty! 
The luncheon was to be served at one o'clock. 

Mrs. Long was used to emergencies. She and Katherine, 
the chief cook, raided the White House refrigerators. They 
gathered up everything they could find, added the lamb chops, 
ran everything through a food chopper, and wound up with cro- 
quettes. These were garnished with mushroom sauce and a scat- 
tering of chopped parsley, and served with rice. Not only 
was there enough for everybody, but a distinguished foreigner 
was so intrigued he asked for the recipe. This necessitated 
another tour of the refrigerators to find out what had been 
used. The result was a recipe that included ham, beef, lamb, 
onions, and various condiments. To make it official, Mrs. Long 
christened the invention "White House Supreme." 

But all the good recipes were not given out. Mary Rattley, 
who had been the family cook since Mr. Hoover was Secre- 
tary of Commerce, gained fame for her cleverness at concoct- 
ing specialties, many of which had their origin at the White 

The Smithsonian Institution 

Mrs. Herbert Hoover. 

336 The Medicine-Ball Cabinet 

House. Among them was a cucumber sauce which she served 
with fish and crabs. A house guest who persistently sought this 
recipe learned only that "it calls for lemon juice, cream, and 
a lot of things which must be right to keep the cream from 
curdling.' 1 When Mary heard that the guest was still mystified 
about what ingredients could be turned into such an intriguing 
sauce, she remarked cryptically: "Well, just ask her how she 
thinks a black cow eats green grass and gives white milk." 
The Hoover household thus dubbed the cucumber sauce 
u black cow sauce," which became a sort of joke between Mary 
and the President. 

"Laws, child, Mr. Hoover is the easiest man in the world 
to please," Mary once said. u ln fact, I've never heard a cross 
word in this house in my life, unless some of the help had a 
little misunderstanding. The only time I've ever known Mr. 
Hoover to raise his voice was once when he came to the win- 
dow and called me to tell me how much he liked something, 
and I said, well, I didn't know he could holler." 

The President was fond of cherries, watermelon, corn soup, 
cream of potato soup, roast lamb, and above all of Vir- 
ginia ham prepared by Mary's own recipe. Here it is, in her 
own words: 

I take a mildly cured ham, wash it and scrape it and soak it over- 
night, and then I put it on in cold water with the skin side down and 
add two cups brown sugar and two cups vinegar. I let it come to a 
boil and then simmer slowly until the skin puckers. Then I take it off 
the stove and let it cool in the water. That keeps the juices in the 
meat. Then I skin it and rub it all over with currant jelly. And I 
always make my currant myself. Then I sprinkle the ham with bread 
crumbs and brown it in the oven. 

Mary said she had the town beat at making vanilla wafers, 
but u No, I never tell anybody how I make those cookies." 
Nor would she give the recipe for Mrs. Hoover's favorite 
oyster souffle. She does tell her secret for asparagus souffle 

Herbert and Lou Hoover 337 

and Maryland caramel tomatoes, favorite luncheon dishes: 


Take one tablespoon butter and rub Into it one and a half table- 
spoons flour and add it to one cupful cream. Cook until creamy and 
add the yolks of four eggs. Beat this mixture for five minutes and 
add salt and pepper to taste, then fold in one cup of asparagus tips, 
fresh asparagus preferred. Then add the whites of the four eggs 
beaten stiff, put into a hot buttered souffle dish, set the dish in a 
shallow pan of water and bake for thirty-five minutes in a moderate 
oven. It will stand up and look beautiful. Before you take it out of 
the oven grease with butter and serve at once. 


Cut off tops of the tomatoes and make a cavity in the top, and fill 
each hole with a good-sized piece of butter (not a stingy piece) and 
put a tablespoon of sugar on each tomato. Sprinkle with salt and put 
in the oven to cook until the sugar is brown and the tomato done, 
but not flat. Stick a sprig of parsley in the top of each tomato and 
serve on rounds of toast with sauce of the tomato. 

Mary had her own method of cooking peas to keep them 
from wrinkling: 

I always put on my peas in a lot of water float the peas and 
cold (ice water OK). And I don't cover them, and when they're done 
they have retained their color and are nice and plump. Things that 
smell should be put on in boiling water and kept boiling and uncov- 
ered. That gets rid of the smell. 

A tardy guest may or may not be fortunate enough to get 
his dinner if he makes the social blunder of being late for a 
White House dinner. On the occasion of one state dinner 
President and Mrs. Hoover had waited fifteen minutes for a 
couple who failed to appear until after the soup course had 
been served. "I'm sorry," said the chief usher, "but the Presi- 
dent and Mrs. Hoover are at dinner. You may remain until 

338 The Medicine-Ball Cabinet 

they have finished or you may return later for coffee if you 
wish.' 1 The couple flounced out, the lady exclaiming: "Fancy 
dining at eight! At home we always serve dinner at eight- 

The Hoovers entertained semiofficially at dinner several 
times a week. The First Lady preferred lace mats to a table- 
cloth on such occasions, and always used them on the table 
when there were twenty-two or fewer guests. The centerpiece 
on such occasions consisted of a gleaming brass bowl of roses 
or fruit, and brass candlesticks. She loved to show off the 
beautiful old highly polished mahogany table, which reflected 
the flowers like a mirror. 

The first of their state dinners was given for British Prime 
Minister J. Ramsay MacDonald and his daughter, Ishbel, on 
October 7, 1929. There were ninety guests, including the dip- 
lomatic corps, members of the President's Cabinet, other high 
government officials, and high-ranking army and navy officers. 

President Hoover and Mrs. Hoover entertained King Pra- 
jadhipok and the lovely Queen Rarabai Barni of Siam in the 
White House April 30, 1931. The King and Queen arrived at 
the Executive Mansion a half-hour before the banquet. They 
were escorted to the Red Room, where the President and Mrs. 
Hoover awaited them. Here the two heads of state exchanged 
the usual courtesies. Then, preceded by the President's aides 
in full regalia, and followed by the King's entourage, equally 
if not more resplendent, the President and the King, followed 
by Mrs. Hoover and the Queen, went to the East Room. Here 
they slowly made the round of the great circle of dignitaries 
there to meet them. The King and Queen shook hands, Amer- 
ican fashion. 

The President with the Queen, and the King and Mrs. 
Hoover following, led the way to the State Dining Room. 
The horseshoe table was softly lighted by ivory tapers in 
golden candelabra, which were alternated with tall gold stands 
filled with California fruits. Clusters of purple grapes hung 

3 3 

fc$ g 

csi O 


S .5 



S ^ 




340 The Medicine-Ball Cabinet 

over the edges, some of them almost touching the tablecloth. 

The Hoovers and their royal guests sat at the center of the 
table near the entrance door in high-backed tapestried chairs, 
the King on the right of the President, the Queen on his left, 
and the First Lady on the King's right. The Monroe plateau 
was laden with pink tulips, roses, spirea, and snapdragons. 

The menu included a rare species of fish, cold lobster, cun- 
ningly devised beet baskets stacked with cucumbers, smothered 
chicken breast, endive in spring salad, fruits, ices, and candy. 
Each guest found two glasses at his place, one for water, the 
other for Apollinaris water. Coffee was served to the ladies 
in the Green Room and to the men in the Red Room. 

There is no indication as to how long the dinner lasted, but 
usually if one lasted longer than an hour the President be- 
came impatient and signaled the housekeeper that he wanted 
the meal to end. Often she eliminated a course to shorten 
a meal. 

President Hoover, like Teddy Roosevelt, had his troubles 
over protocol. There had been a social feud between Dolly 
Gann, Vice President Curtis' sister, and Alice Longworth, wife 
of the Speaker of the House, each claiming precedence over 
the other. The Vice President felt that his sister should have 
precedence over the Speaker's wife. The President settled the 
question by increasing the official dinners to five, the last of 
these to be the Vice President's dinner. 

President Hoover's hopes for reelection proved to be futile 
indeed, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the first Democratic 
President since Woodrow Wilson, moved into the White 
House on March 4, 1933. 


New Deal in the White House 

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt 

The Franklin D. Roosevelts probably set and broke more 
precedents than any family that ever lived in the White House. 
Roosevelt was the first President to be inaugurated on the 
twentieth of January (this change was made by the twentieth 
amendment to the Constitution) ; the first to serve more than 
two terms ; the first to entertain a ruling British monarch ; and 
the first to abolish the New Year's Day reception, which had 
long been a burden and a bore to all concerned with its presen- 
tation. The Roosevelts reinstated the President's birthday ball, 
which Jefferson had discontinued. They entertained more 
guests, including royalty and heads of state, than any previous 
administration had done. 

Though Franklin Roosevelt was seriously handicapped as 
a result of infantile paralysis, which he had contracted in 1921, 
he steadfastly refused to act the invalid. As a child he had 
had many interests stamp collecting, ship models, sea lore, 
piano lessons, horseback-riding, sailing, swimming and his 

342 New Deal in the White House 

zest for activity and change sustained him throughout his life. 

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were married in 1905. She 
was given in marriage by her uncle, the former President 
Theodore Roosevelt. Eleanor and Franklin shared many in- 
terests, including politics and world affairs, and it was she, 
more than anyone else, who urged him not to retire from the 
world of affairs when his disease had left him permanently 

Roosevelt's day in the White House began about nine 
o'clock, usually with breakfast in bed while conferring with 
his physician, secretaries, and General Watson, his military 
aide, who had charge of his appointments. These meetings 
with Watson were pleasant, for the General was jolly and a 
good storyteller, and they liked to match wits. Occasionally the 
President breakfasted with Mrs. Roosevelt in the glassed-in 
sun porch that jutted out on the roof. After reading or work- 
ing until ten-thirty or eleven he went to the office in his wheel- 
chair, remaining until around five-thirty. He then had a swim 
in the White House pool or a massage. 

As a rule his lunch was served on trays at his desk with 
one or two members of his Cabinet or a guest. If he was alone, 
a member of the family often joined him. At times he lunched 
in his study (the second-floor Oval Room) or with Mrs. 
Roosevelt, who preferred lunching in the sun porch, garden, 
or in her sitting room. 

The Roosevelts ate dinner in the family dining room. The 
President and Mrs. Roosevelt loved having their children and 
grandchildren with them; they were jolly and enjoyed one an- 
other. The President was "Pa" ; Mrs. Roosevelt was "Ma" 
to the President and the children. They teased, joked, and ar- 
gued sometimes even the butlers left the dining room laugh- 
ing over their quips. 

The small, informal dinner that was customary before an 
official reception was another enjoyable meal. Guests entered 
at the Pennsylvania Avenue side, where ordinarily on formal 

344 New Deal in the White House 

occasions only those of great importance were admitted. After 
they removed their wraps, an usher led them through the long 
corridor into the Red Room, where each was introduced to 
those who had already entered and were standing in line. 
After a few minutes the erect Mrs. Roosevelt, stately in a 
tailored evening gown, would appear and greet each guest. 
"How nice that you are here !" ; "I am so glad to see you" ; or, 
u How are you?" she would say with her familiar warm 

Greetings over, she would ask her guests, usually numbering 
around sixteen (that was the comfortable seating capacity of 
the family table, though twenty-two have been seated by the 
use of smaller chairs), to come to the dining room. There the 
President, in black tie, seated at the center of one side of the 
table, greeted each as they passed. Mrs. Roosevelt took her 
seat opposite the President. No alcoholic cocktails were served 
and no wine glasses were on the table. 

Sunday-night supper was an intimate occasion, invitations 
to which were highly prized. The President would sit at one 
end of the table and Mrs. Roosevelt at the opposite, where 
she scrambled eggs in a chafing dish. Among the guests would 
be artists, sculptors, writers, ambassadors, world travelers, 
friends, and others with whom the Roosevelts enjoyed chat- 
ting. Ham, bacon, or sausage, a salad, dessert, coffee, and 
Sanka, which the Roosevelts favored, were served. 

Mrs. Roosevelt's day began early and ended late. It started 
with a horseback ride along the Potomac or a swim in the 
White House pool an addition made early in Roosevelt's 
administration, and paid for by public subscription. She went 
from charity affairs to community meetings ; she wrote a syndi- 
cated column, "My Day"; her articles appeared in magazines 
and she made speeches the country over; she held public wel- 
fare project conferences, sometimes presiding and sometimes 
sitting quietly with her knitting. She was her husband's con- 
fidante, his u eyes and ears" in many distant places. Her re- 

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt 345 

ports on her trips were filed for his information and use. With 
all her varied interests, she was always at the White House 
when she was needed there. If she had to be absent when a 
social function was scheduled, she made sure a substitute hos- 
tess would be there. 

Never had there been so much entertaining in the Executive 
Mansion nor has there been since, for that matter. The 
Roosevelt family was a big one, and the doors were always 
open to family, friends, and guests. Mrs. Roosevelt gave up 
her own bed one night and slept on a couch ! Ail guests were 
honor guests and treated as such; they were made to feel at 
home and given whatever they requested. Breakfast was sent 
to their rooms on trays brightened with cheery flowers and 
cigarettes, from six in the morning until twelve noon. 

Inauguration Days were probably the busiest days of all 
for the housekeeper. On January 20, 1941, she served a full 
luncheon soup, ham, beef, tongue, a salad, cake, ice cream, 
and coffee to twelve hundred guests within an hour. Two 
buffet tables were set, a long one in the East Room and an- 
other in the State Dining Room, each decorated with red 
carnations. The guests ate standing. Two and a half hours 
later four thousand guests were present for tea. Sandwiches 
and cakes were eaten along with one hundred and thirty gal- 
lons of tea and sixty gallons of coffee. 

On other particularly busy days, especially in the spring, 
large conventions and organizations were honored at tea. 
At times there would be two teas in the garden during an 
afternoon, one following the other, serving possibly two thou- 
sand or more guests! 

Mrs. Roosevelt had employed all colored men and women. 
Included among them were musicians, lawyers, teachers, and 
collegians. On special occasions a hundred and fifty extras were 
called in. Out of this group who worked under the Roosevelts 
was organized the Private Butlers' Association, Inc., which to- 
day has about seventy members. Only on the recommendation 

346 New Deal in the White House 

of an old member may a new one be admitted, and he has to 
pass about as rigid an examination as if he were joining the 
White House staff. Once accepted, he is taught carving and 
how to serve anything from an informal to the most formal 
dinner; he learns how to handle every type of party; and he 
receives the benefit of lectures by experts on subjects pertain- 
ing to his vocation. 

Mrs. Nesbitt, the housekeeper, wished all guests were as 
honest as the house staff. Alonzo Fields, head butler, and 
his assistants cherished the historical pieces at the White 
House and handled them as if they were sacred. But many 
guests were guilty of walking off with ashtrays, ornaments, 
dishes, glassware, napkins anything they could pick up and 
hide under their coats. So many spoons vanished at one large 
tea that it was decided none should be used at the next one ! 
Twelve-inch trays were hard to keep. One afternoon two 
large silver trays and a specially made silver bowl, out of a 
set of four, vanished. 

The housekeeper wanted White House guests to see and 
enjoy the benefit of the best the mansion afforded. She knew 
and appreciated the fact that many were disappointed at seeing 
ordinary plate and china in the President's House, but the 
loss of valuables had been so great that to keep expenses down 
she instituted the use of plated, unmonogrammed silver and 
either borrowed or rented government cafeteria china for 
large occasions. 

The traditional pomp and ceremony that has always marked 
state functions at the White House was observed by the Roose- 
velts, and yet, with them, a delightful feeling of informality 
and real friendliness prevailed. 

During Roosevelt's administrations, invitations were en- 
graved on a card measuring 4M x S/^ inches, bearing the 
President's seal embossed in gold at the top. These dinner 
invitations were binding, for, according to official etiquette, 
they were not to be declined except in the case of sickness or 

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt 347 

absence from the city. In the early years of Franklin Roose- 
velt's administration they were sent out by messenger, a cus- 
tom that had been in practice since George Washington's 
Presidency. But as the old "City of Washington" began bulg- 
ing over its sixty-nine-square-mile District of Columbia area 
into the depths of the Maryland and Virginia hills (where 
many official families made their homes) it became necessary 
to mail them. Mailed three weeks in advance of either a lunch- 
eon or dinner, the invitations had to be acknowledged imme- 
diately in order that proper seating arrangements could be 
made. A typical acceptance, written on note paper by hand 
and in the third person, is as follows : 

Mr. and Mrs. 

have the honor of accepting 

the kind invitation of 
The President and Mrs. 

to dinner 
on Tuesday, February 

at eight o'clock 

This was addressed to The Social Secretary, The White 
House, and mailed not delivered, as had been the previous 

Formal dress was required for all evening affairs at the 
White House, unless attire was designated otherwise. The 
well-dres'sed women wore sleeveless gowns with long gloves, 
which were removed after sitting down at the table and put 
on again after dinner. For the men, tailcoats, white ties, and 
white gloves were the inviolable rule except in the case of 
military affairs, when many of the foreign representatives 
dressed in their full national regalia, medals and all. 

High-ranking dignitaries attending a state dinner entered 
the White House at the wide Pennsylvania Avenue entrance, 
while the majority of guests entered by way of the east en- 
trance and were met in the vestibule by aides. After presenting 

348 New Deal in the White House 

admission cards they were ushered into the coat rooms, where 
they left their wraps. They were then ushered to a desk to 
pick up envelopes the gentleman's bearing the name of his 
dinner partner and the lady's the name of her escort. On the 
back of each card appeared a miniature diagram of the table 
showing where they were to sit. The seating was further sim- 
plified by an aide pointing out the guests' places on a large 
chart of the table, and a name card was at each cover. 

After the guests ascended the stairs to the main floor, an 
aide proffered his arm to the wife and, the husband following, 
took the couple through a column of dress-uniformed army 
and navy aides, past the Marine Band, through the corridor, 
and into the East Room, where they were introduced to an 
aide who in turn announced them to senior military and naval 
aides. After the guests were greeted with handshakes by the 
military and naval aides, they were turned over to the aide 
who carried their names on his list; each list aide was re- 
sponsible for ten guests. 

The list aide proffered his right arm to the lady, her hus- 
band following, and led the couple to their place a matter 
of protocol in a circle, each gentleman standing to the left 
of his wife so that his name would be the first announced to 
the President. The aide then inquired of the husband whether 
he knew his dinner partner. If not, he was taken over for an 
introduction ; otherwise he went to speak with her if he wished. 

After the guests were assembled, President and Mrs. Roose- 
velt entered the East Room, stopping just inside the door. 
The line of guests, each woman behind her husband, filed by to 
greet the President and First Lady, the list aide repeating the 
guests' names to the senior aide, who made the introduction to 
the President and Mrs. Roosevelt. Then there was a tempo- 
rary mixup as the men left their wives and began searching 
for their dinner partners. The circle soon re-formed, and as 
the Marine Band played a march, the President with the rank- 
ing lady guest, preceded by military and naval aides and fol- 

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt 349 

lowed by Mrs. Roosevelt on the arm of the ranking gentle- 
man, led the procession through the long corridor into the 
State Dining Room. 

The following order of protocol was observed for official 
entertainment during the Roosevelt administration: 


1. The President 

[No guest ever precedes the President. He precedes everyone, 
including his wife, in entering rooms, passing through doors, 
and getting into vehicles and the like. The only exceptions are 
aides and the Secret Service men, who may precede the Presi- 
dent for security reasons.] 

2. The Vice President 

3. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court 

4. Ex-Presidents of the United States 

5. Ambassadors of foreign countries, in the order of the date of their 


6. Widows of former United States Presidents 

7. The Speaker of the House of Representatives 

8. The Secretary of State 

9. Ministers of foreign countries, in the order, of the date of their 


10. Associate Justices of the Supreme Court 
n. The Cabinet 

[Members of the Cabinet rank according to the date the de- 
partments were established.] 

(The Secretary of State ranks above foreign ministers.) 

Secretary of the Treasury 

Secretary of War 

Attorney General 

Postmaster General 

Secretary of the Navy 

Secretary of the Interior 

Secretary of Agriculture 

Secretary of Commerce 

Secretary of Labor 
12. Governors of States 

[Governors rank according to the order in which their states 

were admitted to the Union.] 

350 New Deal in the White House 

13. Senators 

[The president pro tern ranks with, but ahead of, his col- 
leagues. Senators rank according to the length of their service. 
In the case of two or more whose years in the Senate are 
equal, precedence is given in the order of the dates of admis- 
sion of their respective states to the Union.] 

14. Ex-Vice Presidents 

15. The Chief of Staff of the Army 

16. The Chief of Naval Operations 

17. Members of the House of Representatives, in the order of length 

of service 

1 8. Undersecretary of State 

19. Charges d'affaires ad interim of foreign powers 

20. Four-star generals 

21. Four-star admirals 

22. Undersecretaries of the executive departments 

[These follow the same sequence as the Cabinet listing.] 

23. Assistant Secretaries of the executive departments 

24. Counselors of embassies or legations of foreign countries 

25. Brigadier generals and commodores 

The Table of Precedence is subject to changes or variations 
in any new administration. At the time the above table was in 
use, the question was under debate as to which ranked higher, 
an ambassador or the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. It 
was finally resolved in favor of the Chief Justice. The Truman 
administration brought on the change combining the War and 
Navy Departments under a single Secretary of Defense, whose 
rank took the place of the Secretary of War. 

Guests were seated as they reached their places at the table, 
the ladies' chairs having been drawn by butlers in most cases, 
but if necessary by the gentlemen. 

When guests entered the English oak dining room, they 
saw the horseshoe table set in practically the same manner as 
shown in the picture taken shortly after the enlargement of the 
dining room in the Theodore Roosevelt administration. (See 
page 293.) The most notable change was that the elk's head 
shown in the picture had been removed and the Healy por- 

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt 351 

trait of Lincoln was in its place over the fireplace. The only 
other wall decorations were the silver girandoles which 
matched the silver chandelier. 

The horseshoe table around which the company sat is of 
yellow pine and consists of twenty-two sections. When fully 
extended it stretches around three sides of the room, com- 
fortably seating one hundred and four persons. When there 
were fewer than forty-four guests, a long straight table was 
used. The oval-backed, gilded bent-wood chairs, purchased to 
go with the table, were made more comfortable by the addi- 
tion of removable gold plush cushions. 

The tablecloth of white Irish linen, four yards wide, woven 
to special size, was divided into sections and cut on the bias 
at the turns of the table to fit the curves. The matching 
twenty-four-inch-square napkins bore the seal of the United 

The President occupied the high-backed chair in the cen- 
tral position on the outer side of the curve near the entrance, 
and Mrs. Roosevelt sat opposite him. The ranking lady guest 
sat at the right of the President, and the ranking gentleman 
at the right of the First Lady. Other guests were seated ac- 
cordingly, with the lowest in rank at the ends of the table. 

In the center curve of the table, between the President and 
Mrs. Roosevelt, was the famed Monroe plateau. 

The service plates were part of a seventeen-hundred-piece 
set of American Lenox china purchased by the Franklin Roose- 
velts. The President had a good sense of value and an eagle 
eye for detail, and always had the final say as to what was to 
be purchased in the way of china, glassware, rugs, and even 
draperies for the White House. When a sample of the new 
glassware that had been ordered etched in the President's 
crest was received for approval, the eagle looked over the 
wrong shoulder (the President's eagle looks to the left and 
the United States eagle to the right) and the President refused 
to accept the order until the necessary correction was made. 

352 New Deal in the White House 

The Roosevelts chose china to harmonize with the gold 
service. It is the finest quality vitrified china, a practically un- 
breakable translucent ware. A rich ivory-toned border is 
rimmed with a narrow band of the Stars and Stripes motif in 
blue and gold, with an inner etching of the formal rose and 
triple-feather design of the Roosevelt coat of arms. The Presi- 
dent's seal in gold is at the top of each piece. 

The flatware service, except that required for the dessert 
course, was in place at the beginning of this dinner the 
English pearl-handled knives with gold blades for the meat 
and fish courses, the gold soup spoon, and the cocktail fork 

at the right of the service plate, and three gold-beaded forks 
for fish, meat, and salad at the left. 

The gold service at each cover was relieved by a heavy 
cut-glass water goblet and a small lightweight sherry glass, 
both bearing the United States coat of arms and relics of the 
Theodore Roosevelt regime, and a green beaded glass for 
sauterne. The green glass had been used for hock in the Cleve- 
land administration. These two glasses constituted the wine 
service at the Franklin D. Roosevelt dinners; more than two 
wines were never served except on those occasions when roy- 
alty was entertained. 

The food was prepared in the White House kitchen by the 
three cooks, each of whom had two assistants. It was served 
by the regular dining-room staff of ten colored butlers with 
well-trained helpers who were called in. A butler and an as- 
sistant were assigned to every eight guests, the butler passing 
one dish and his assistant following with another dish. As 
soon as everyone was seated, the President and First Lady 
were simultaneously served. As they started helping them- 
selves, the other butlers began serving their special groups 
of guests. 

The serving of the ice cream was a matter of clockwork 
precision. Although the cream was already sliced, it appeared 
to be in bulk form on the silver platter. As it was passed from 

S 5 


R <o 

354 New Deal in the White House 

one guest to another, the butler separated a slice from the 
bulk form, laying it between the serving fork and spoon in 
readiness for the guest to help himself. (No second helping 
is ever served at the formal dinners.) 

When the dinner was finished Mrs. Roosevelt stood up 
at which signal everyone present rose and the ranking gen- 
tleman accompanied her to the door. The ladies then followed 
her into the Green Room, where coffee and cigarettes were 
passed to them. There was no smoking at the table during 
dinner. Coffee was poured in the pantry and the cups were 
passed on trays. 

The men remained in the dining room, those nearest the 
President drawing their chairs up nearer to chat, and others 
bunching up at other places around the table for a demitasse, 
a smoke, and another glass of wine before joining their din- 
ner partners in the Green Room, from which they would pro- 
ceed to the East Room for the musicale. 

Often as many as two hundred extra guests were invited to 
attend the musicales, which ordinarily began at ten o'clock. 
On such occasions the President joined the First Lady in the 
hall, and both stood at the right of the entrance to the East 
Room to receive the additional guests. 

The artists never received remuneration for participating 
in the musicale. They were always entertained at supper in 
the family dining room afterward. When the evening's enter- 
tainment came to an end, the President took his leave first, 
and Mrs. Roosevelt stood alone near the door to the hall to 
bid good night to the guests as they left. 

The Franklin Roosevelts were hosts to the first British 
monarch to set foot on American soil when King George VI 
and Queen Elizabeth arrived on the morning of June 8, 1939, 
to spend a full day and night with them at the White House. 
They demonstrated to the King and Queen the American way 
of entertaining, and served typical American food at all three 

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt 355 

The luncheon consisted of minted cantaloupe balls, green 
turtle soup, broiled sweetbreads, mushrooms, asparagus, Sara- 
toga chips, hearts-of-lettuce salad with Roquefort dressing, 
pineapple sponge shortcake, coffee, nuts, and candies. It was 
a quiet meal, served in the family dining room with only the 
Roosevelt family and their house guests present. The chil- 
dren came home for the occasion, but because of lack of room 
at the White House were obliged to sleep at hotels. Mrs. 
Roosevelt wrote that her boys were so subdued at the luncheon 
the President noticed it and remarked to the Queen that it was 
rare when something did not bring about a vociferous argu- 
ment in their family. 

The evening turned out to be one of the grandest occasions 
the mansion had ever witnessed. The whole place was a pro- 
fusion of flowers sent from north, east, south, and west. Even 
on the south porch a vase of large purple gladioli stood by 
each column and, providing a homey touch, Franklin's Great 
Dane roamed the south lawn. 

The State Dining Room was a fairyland! "It was a colorful 
sight," Mrs. Roosevelt wrote, u and her Majesty looked the 
part of the Fairy Queen." The ladies wore their prettiest 
gowns to the dinner several wore tiaras and every gen- 
tleman who had a decoration put it on. 

Queen Elizabeth, a radiantly beautiful woman, wore a 
tiara of huge pearl-shaped rubies surrounded with diamonds, 
and matching necklace, long earrings, and bracelets. Her gown 
was a three-tiered white tulle sprinkled with golden flecks. 
Mrs. Roosevelt's gown was of natural Alengon lace, fashioned 
on princess lines. It had a wide flared skirt which formed into 
a train. Jeweled clips drew the neckline into a heart shape, 
and she wore an heirloom diamond necklace. 

The gold service was, of course, used, with masses of giant 
white crimson-tongued orchids mixed with lilies-of-the-valley, 
baby's breath, and sprays of smaller orchids as table decora- 
tions. There were eighty-two covers. The menu consisted of 

356 New Deal in the White House 

clam cocktail, caifs-head soup, Maryland terrapin, corn 
bread, and sliced tomatoes, boned capon with cranberry sauce, 
peas, buttered beets, sweet-potato cones, frozen cheese and 
cress salad, maple and almond ice cream with white pound 
cake, and coffee. Wine was served with the dinner. 

The President sat with the Queen at his right, and the First 
Lady opposite him with the King at her right. The President 
and the King were served simultaneously, and the First Lady 
and Queen thirty seconds later. 

After dinner President and Mrs. Roosevelt entertained 
their royal guests with a variety show in the East Room. The 
program included such distinctly American features as Law- 
rence Tibbett's rendition of u The Pilgrim's Song," Kate 
Smith singing u When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain," 
Alan Lomax's folk song, "Git Along, Little Dpgie," a spir- 
itual, "My Soul's Been Anchored in the Lord," sung by 
Marian Anderson, and an example of authentic mountaineer 
dancing by the Soco Gap Square Dancers from the state of 
North Carolina. 

To make it possible for the King and Queen to experience 
typical American home life, President and Mrs. Roosevelt 
took them for a visit to their country home at Hyde Park, 
New York. Their Majesties worshiped beside the President 
and Mrs. Roosevelt in the 128-year-old St. James Episcopal 
Church at Hyde Park; they bowed in prayer, joined in singing 
hymns, and heard a sermon on "Neighborliness" by the Rev- 
erend Henry St. George Tucker, bishop of the Protestant 
Episcopal Church in America. They rode through the Roose- 
velt Duchess Hill estate with the President at the wheel. They 
ate "hot dogs," which they apparently enjoyed, at a picnic, 
and they went swimming in an outdoor pool all without the 
presence of reporters or photographers. 

The visit, however, was not without incident. Mrs. Roose- 
velt, in her "My Day" column published in the Washington 
Daily News of June 14, 1939, wrote: 


On June 8, 1939, President and Mrs. Roosevelt greeted Queen Elizabeth and 
King George in the Presidential Reception Room of the Union Station in 

358 New Deal in the White House 

At Hyde Park the servants we brought from Washington suffered 
from a jinx which followed its course in three mishaps! My mother- 
in-law's serving table in the dining room has a center standard. Too 
many dishes were put on one side, and in the middle of the dinner the 
table tipped over. No one could think for a minute because of the 
noise of breaking china. Later in the evening, with a tray full of 
glasses, water, ginger ale, and bottles, one of our men going into the 
big library slipped and dropped the entire tray on the floor. And as a 
final catastrophe ... my husband, moving backwards across the 
grass by the swimming pool, almost sat on another tray of glasses 
and pop bottles! 

War clouds hovered over Europe at the time of the royal 
guests' visit, and four months later Germany invaded Poland. 
But it was not until December, 1941, when we went to war 
with Japan, that a quietus was put on social activities in the 
Executive Mansion. For the duration of World War II the 
White House was practically enveloped in a blackout; an air 
raid shelter was constructed off the East Wing. 

There was a limited amount of entertainment, of course, 
chiefly of deposed royalty and foreign emissaries coming to 
the United States in connection with war problems. Among the 
visitors of the dark years of Roosevelt's administration were 
King George II of Greece; King Peter of Yugoslavia; Queen 
Wilhelmina of the Netherlands; Crown Prince Gustavus 
Adolphus of Sweden; Crown Prince Frederick and Princess 
Ingrid of Denmark; Crown Prince Olaf and Crown Princess 
Martha of Norway; Crown Princess Juliana and Prince Bern- 
hard of the Netherlands; Grand Duchess Charlotte of Lux- 
emburg, her consort, Prince Felix, and their son, Grand Duke 
Jean; also Madame Chiang Kai-shek of China; Prime Min- 
ister Winston Churchill of Britain; and presidents, heads of 
state, and a multitude of persons of lesser rank from all over 
the world. Most of these guests were entertained by the 
Roosevelts at either dinner or luncheon. 

President Roosevelt was inaugurated for the fourth time 
on January 20, 1945- The country was still at war, and the 

r E H f 

o r^ 

55* fS 

? J* 'v fc 

r i 

*. ., , 
> ^ ^ 

(. a/-/. 



/ x 


Library of Congress 

The U-table seating arrangement for the dinner given in honor of the King 
and Queen on the evening of June 8. The semicircles indicate dinner partners; 
six men are without partners. 

360 New Deal in the White House 

Inauguration took place on the south portico of the White 

In the late afternoon of April 12 of that year, the news 
was flashed that President Roosevelt had died of a massive 
cerebral hemorrhage at Warm Springs, Georgia. That eve- 
ning, in the Cabinet room of the executive offices of the White 
House, Vice President Harry S. Truman took the oath of 
office as the thirty-third President of the United States. 


Strawberry Festival 

Harry and Bess Truman 

Word of President Roosevelt's death reached Vice President 
Harry S. Truman while he was in his office in the Senate 
Office Building on the afternoon of April 12, 1945. At 7:09 
that evening, with Mrs. Truman, their daughter Margaret, 
and Cabinet members in attendance, Truman was sworn in 
by Chief Justice Harlan Stone as the thirty-third President 
of the United States. "I pray God I can measure up to the 
task," said Truman. 

Newspaper correspondents have described Truman as "the 
friendliest and kindest man ever to live in the White House. " 
Though fiery-tempered, the new President who called him- 
self a Missouri clodhopper was essentially a person of mod- 
esty and humility. He liked people and made friends easily, 
meeting them, he would say, "as if at a strawberry festival." 

The Trumans were a close-knit family. Harry Truman had 
married the former Bess Wallace of Independence, Missouri, 
two years before he was elected to his first political office 

362 Strawberry Festival 

county judge at Kansas City. They had one daughter, Mar- 
garet, and the new President enjoyed nothing more than sit- 
ting down at the piano and playing a duet with his daughter, 
who was at that time a student at George Washington Uni- 

Bess Truman quickly made herself loved by the entire 
White House staff. She was highly respected for her faculty 
of "knowing what she wanted, how a job should be done, and 
her ability to give specific orders in such a nice way." Truman 
often referred to her as "the boss." 

It was not until World War II had ended that White 
House official entertaining began to return to normal. The 
diplomatic corps had increased so considerably in number by 
that time that two dinners had to be given in order to accom- 
modate them in the State Dining Room. The corps was split 
into two groups: the odd numbers, as listed in the State De- 
partment's little blue book, received invitations to the first 
dinner, and the even numbers were invited to the second 

On June 6, 1946, the Trumans honored President-elect and 
Senora Mariano Ospina-Perez of Colombia at a luncheon. 
Sixty-five guests attended and were seated at the horseshoe 
table in the State Dining Room, which was decorated with a 
centerpiece of pink roses and white and lavender larkspur. 

On April 29, 1947, President and Mrs. Truman enter- 
tained President Miguel Aleman of Mexico at a state dinner. 
In toasting President Aleman, President Truman remarked: 
"We are living in an age of friendship and unity in the West- 
ern Hemisphere." Then, turning to Secretary of State Mar- 
shall, he added: "I think that we can set an example for the 
other side of the world because our neighbors to the north and 
south are not afraid of us." 

Truman presented an unusual gift to President Aleman 
a book of mathematics which an American soldier had taken 
from the Military Academy of Mexico in 1847, during the 

Jackie Martin Photo 

The Trumans: Margaret, Bess, and Harry. 

364 Strawberry Festival 

Mexican War. New Hampshire's State Historical Society had 
discovered the volume in its collection, and felt it should be 
returned to Mexico. 

The election of 1948, in which Harry Truman gained a 
four-year lease on the White House in his own right, was 
hardly over when the walls of the mansion all but caved in 
on the Trumans. It was necessary for them to move to Blair 
House, the nation's official guest house, while the White 
House was extensively renovated. Blair House was not adapt- 
able to large-scale entertaining and the usual official state 
functions were discontinued. The nearby Carlton Hotel was 
used for entertaining foreign visitors. 

It was at the Carlton that one of the most brilliant fetes 
of the Truman administration was staged, honoring Presi- 
dent Gabriel Gonzales Videla, his wife, and their daughter, 
Senora de Campos, of Chile. Sixty-eight guests sat around the 
traditional horseshoe table in the Carlton Room. The presi- 
dential party was seated in high-backed chairs at the center, 
the two Presidents sitting together, with Senora de Gonzales 
on President Truman's right and Mrs. Truman on the left of 
the Chilean Chief Executive. Mrs. Truman wore silver-gray 
lace touched with cerise velvet ; Senora de Gonzales wore off- 
white taffeta, with a corsage of white orchids. Margaret Tru- 
man's dress was a ballerina-length white tulle sparkling with 

The table was covered with a white damask cloth, and the 
service was off-white, gold-banded Bavarian china, with a gold- 
banded crystal water goblet and four matching wine glasses 
at each place. Silver candelabra (holding white candles and 
arrangements of pink carnations, roses, pink and white snap- 
dragons, and blue delphiniums) were placed at intervals along 
the inner edge of the table, with fern connecting them and fall- 
ing over the edge. The half-moon section directly in front of 
the presidential party was completely draped with the fern. 
Within the curve of the horseshoe, a garden of pink hydran- 



* 'K 

3 2 

w "5: t* 



-2 1 s 

cq a, 

366 Strawberry Festival 

geas and ferns surrounded a fountain sparkling under col- 
ored lights. 

When President Truman toasted and presented his honor 
guest with a specially cast twenty-ounce solid gold medallion 
as u a token of the friendship and good feeling toward him by 
the President and the people of the United States," President 
Gonzalez replied: 

I have followed your words with the greatest satisfaction. The 
people of Chile and their President have listened to the sincere voice 
of this friendly country, represented by its illustrious Chief Executive. 
For my part I repeat that the firm policy of Chile and its government 
is one of friendship and solidarity with the United States on the basis 
of equal sovereignty* 

On the American continent, there are no imperialistic nations, nor 
satellites. There are free nations which direct their own destinies and 
which act internationally and in conformity with a voluntary system, 
in the management of their common interests, as expressed in the 
pacts of Rio and Bogota. 

He congratulated President Truman on his five years in 
office and lifted his glass in a toast u for the enduring pros- 
perity of the people of the United States and for the continued 
personal happiness of his excellency, President Truman, and 
his devoted wife and daughter." 

President and Mrs. Truman were hosts at Blair House to 
Princess Elizabeth, the fifth member of British royalty to visit 
the United States, and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of 
Edinburgh, from October 31 to November 3, 1951. (The 
Princess became Queen Elizabeth II, the sixth reigning Queen 
of England, on the death of her father, King George VI, 
three months and eight days later.) 

There was pomp and ceremony, as befitted a future queen, 
at the small dinner given for her at the Blair House on 
Wednesday evening, October 31. The Princess wore a gown of 
white and gold lace in a diagonal pattern. A diamond tiara 
glittered above her dark hair, which was softly curled around 

Courtesy National Park Service 

At the end of her four-day visit at Blair House in 1951, Princess Elizabeth 
presented to President Truman the over-mantel which now hangs on the wall 
of the State Dining Room. The gift, presented on behalf of her father, King 
George VI, is an heirloom dating from the eighteenth century. 

368 Strawberry Festival 

her face and fell into a soft roll at the nape of her neck. She 
also wore a diamond necklace and the Order of the Garter 
Star and Ribbon a blue sash which is held to the left shoul- 
der and crosses to the right at the waistline. On it were fas- 
tened miniatures of her grandfather, the late King George V, 
and her father, King George VI. When she appeared just be- 
fore dinner, the President called her a u fairy princess." 

Mrs. Truman wore blue brocade, and Margaret was 
dressed in shimmering pale-lavender satin. The Marine Band 
played to dinnertime conversation, and for the reception that 
followed. Only eighteen the limit for the Blair House dining 
room sat down at the damask-covered table, on which glit- 
tered the Monroe plateau. From the crown wells of the pla- 
teau glowed tall tapers; red roses, white snapdragons, and 
ferns filled the flower recesses. 

Promptly at ten o'clock the doors of Blair House opened 
to the first of a hundred guests invited to meet the royal vis- 
itors at the after-dinner reception: the Cabinet, the Supreme 
Court, government officials, and their wives. 

The next day, on a tour of the Capitol, the Princess told 
an aide she liked the way Southern Washingtonians say, 
u Howdy, Ma'am" and "Howdy, Sir." 

Princess Elizabeth's last official ceremony was performed 
(in a typical London mist) on an elevated canopied platform 
in the White House rose garden at noon on the Friday she 
and Prince Philip were to begin their return trip to Canada. 
As she presented to President Truman an heirloom on behalf 
of her father, King George VI, she said: 

The renovation of the White House has attracted interest all over 
the world. Everyone knows how closely it has been bound up with 
the history of your country and how important it is to your people 
as a symbol of national pride. . , . We are glad to join with you in 
celebrating its restoration. My father, who has many happy memories 
of his own stay in the White House, has wished to mark the event 
with a personal gift. ... It gave the King great pleasure when he 

Harry and Bess Truman 369 

found the over-mantel which is before you now. The work of eight- 
eenth-century artists, and embodying the finest British craftsmanship, 
it seems perfectly suited for the place which it will occupy. ... It is 
his hope, and mine, that it will be a welcome ornament to one of 
your proudest national possessions, and that it will remain here, as a 
mark of our friendship, so long as the White House shall stand. 

President Truman replied : 

It has been a very great pleasure to have you as our guests. I am 
sure I speak for all the people of the United States, and especially for 
the people of Washington. We have many distinguished visitors here 
in this city, but never before have we had such a wonderful young cou- 
ple that so completely captured the hearts of all of us. You will leave 
many happy memories among the people who have greeted you here. 

President Truman then said he was especially glad that 
Elizabeth's father, the King, had sent "something for this 
building which means so much to the people of the United 
States . . ." and that the over-mantel would be placed in 
the White House, and would be "greatly cherished as a mark 
of the close ties that bind our two countries together. " 

"Over the years," he said, "we have built these ties into a 
remarkable international friendship. We have had our differ- 
ences in the past, but today it would be just as hard to imagine 
a war between our countries as it would to imagine another 
war between the states of this country. It just couldn't hap- 
pen. ... I hope the day will soon come when the same thing 
will be true among all the nations of the world, when war will 
be impossible in the world." 

The President and First Lady returned to 1600 Pennsyl- 
vania Avenue on March 27, 1952, to find the servants lined 
up on the north veranda to greet them. The entire capital city, 
as well as the Truman family, was happy at this "homecom- 
ing." The original "President's Palace" now had an al- 
most entirely new interior. When they had moved out in 
1949, the mansion had had 62 rooms and 14 baths. Its ceilings 

370 Strawberry Festival 

were sagging, its walls were in danger of cracking under the 
strain of the third floor and new roof which had been added 
in 1927, and the floor in Margaret's room had given way 
under the weight of her piano. 

When they moved back, the White House had 132 rooms, 
20 baths and showers, and five elevators instead of one. Only 
the sandstone outer walls had been retained intact, and these 
were now supported with a steel framework on concrete piers, 
the sinking of which required excavating to a depth of nearly 
thirty feet under the building; this excavation incidentally pro- 
vided new basement space. The original rooms were copied as 
closely as possible, even to the extent of saving beautiful wood 
paneling and woodwork to use in the restored rooms and re- 
creating old cornices and moldings which had long since lost 
their original beauty. The main stair was given a new location 
which made it visible from the entrance foyer. 

In the long corridor which connects the East Room with 
the State Dining Room hung two crystal chandeliers, older 
than the White House itself, which were anonymously pre- 
sented to President Truman for the purpose. These are the 
most beautiful chandeliers in the White House. 

The President and his family could now enjoy breakfast in 
the new top-floor solarium, which overlooked the Washington 
and Lincoln Memorials, the beautiful Potomac, and the Vir- 
ginia hills. They could also enjoy the controversial ten-thou- 
sand-dollar balcony that Truman had added to the second floor 
in 1946. Altogether, Congress appropriated $5,761,000 for 
the renovation (the original White House cost less than half 
a million dollars). 

President Truman had "curry-combed" the contractors to 
speed up the reconstruction of the mansion in preparation for 
the arrival of the Queen of the Netherlands on April 2, 1952, 
but the new electric kitchen was still not equipped to take care 
of a large dinner when she did arrive. 

The handsome forty-two-year-old Queen Juliana and her 

372 Strawberry Festival 

consort, His Royal Highness Prince Bernhard, who were the 
first guests to visit in the newly resplendent White House, 
were there overnight, but were honored at a state dinner that 
evening at the Carlton Hotel. The table was set for ninety-six 
guests. No cocktails were served, but four wine glasses stood 
at each place. 

Queen Juliana wore a diamond coronet on her chestnut hair, 
and a diamond necklace and bracelet. She wore no decorations 
on her pearl-gray chiffon gown, made with a pleated bodice 
and narrow draped skirt. A bolero of matching Chantilly lace 
covered the strapless bodice, and her long gloves were of the 
same color. Her slippers were silver. 

Prince Bernhard, in white tie and tails, wore a string of 
medals across his chest, and the ribbon and medals of the 
American Legion of Merit around his neck. Mrs. Truman's 
gown for this occasion was of smoke-gray mousseline-de-soie 
over pale-gray taffeta, with sprays of embroidered lace cas- 
cading down the very full skirt. 

The next day, after the Queen addressed the Congress, the 
royal couple was honored at a luncheon in the White House. 

Following their departure, the First Lady began a series of 
five o'clock teas for Washington's officialdom so that they 
might have a look at the newly refurbished mansion. The dip- 
lomatic corps was the first to be received. 

One of the most interesting parties given under Mrs. Tru- 
man's supervision at the White House took place on April 20, 
1946, when it came her turn to entertain the Spanish class 
she belonged to. At nine o'clock that morning she, her Spanish 
teacher, Professor Ramon Ramos, Mrs. Dean Acheson, wife 
of the then Assistant Secretary of State, Mrs. Lester Pearson, 
wife of the Canadian ambassador, Representative Jessie 
Sumner of Illinois, and Mrs. Leverett Saltonstall, wife of 
the Senator from Massachusetts took over the White House 
kitchen to prepare a luncheon with a Latin-American flavor. 

The chief dish served was Picadillo, a triumph of the Pro- 

374 Strawberry Festival 

fessor. Under his tutelage, the class chopped and mixed four 
varieties of meat with rice, seasoned the mixture with hot 
spices and plenty of garlic, and garnished it with almonds, 
pimiento, olives, and raisins, and made a vegetable salad to 
serve with it. The dessert was a mixture of Mexican cheese 
and guavas in syrup. 

Waitresses for this occasion included Mrs. Dwight D. 
Eisenhower, wife of the Chief of Staff of the United States 
Army; Mrs. Hugo Black, wife of the Supreme Court Justice; 
Mrs. Robert P. Patterson, wife of the Undersecretary of 
War; Mrs. John L. Sullivan, wife of the Assistant Secretary 
of the Navy; Mrs. George Allen, wife of the head of the 
Reconstruction Finance Corporation, and Mrs. Brien Mc- 
Mahon, wife of the Connecticut Senator. Sixty-six classmates 
were served at the horseshoe table in the State Dining Room. 

The Spanish luncheon was repeated by Mrs. Truman at 
the White House on April 18, 1947, to wind up Pan Amer- 
ican Week. Other nationally known ladies helped to do the 
honors on this occasion. 

This same Spanish-speaking group honored Mrs. Truman 
with a farewell tea just before she and the President returned 
to their home in Independence, Missouri. Mrs. Truman said 
it was the most beautiful tea she had ever attended. It was 
given in the brilliant crystal-chandeliered u Hall of The Amer- 
icas" at the Pan American Union, the most lavishly beautiful 
building in Washington. 

The tables were so odd and beautiful they are worth a 
description. The main tea table was about two-thirds as long 
as the width of the large hall and stood near one end of it. A 
white cloth was put on the table first, and then covered with a 
light-blue crinoline cloth. The centerpiece, of golden fall flow- 
ers, red leaves, fruits, and squash, was about two-thirds the 
length of the table. A seven-taper silver candelabrum, draped 
with grapes, stood at either end of the centerpiece. At one 
end of the table charcoal glittered in a large silver German 

Harry and Bess Truman 375 

samovar, keeping the water hot for tea; at the opposite end 
stood a silver antique English urn for coffee. A similarly 
"dressed-up" table standing lengthwise in the hall held two 
silver bowls of punch, one at each end. 

The food consisted of small, steaming-hot rolls with slivers 
of Virginia ham inserted in them, assorted sandwiches, cook- 
ies, nuts, mints, coffee, tea, and punch. It was placed on the 
tables on old-fashioned silver cake-tazzas. 

Chocolate dessert was almost a "must" on the menu dur- 
ing Truman's time, because Margaret was so fond of it; she 
liked chocolate ice cream, chocolate cake, and chocolate candy. 
At any time of the day or evening ham sandwiches were in 
order, and the third-floor refrigerator was always stocked 
with snacks for her and her college friends. 

The Truman family had simple meals. The following is a 
typical menu: 

Minted Orange Cup 

Pork Roast 
Apple Sauce 

Creamed Peas Buttered Carrots 

Mashed Potatoes 

Baked Chocolate Alaska 
Chocolate Sauce 

Here is a recipe for the dessert : 


Bake a sponge cake in the shape of a loaf of bread. Cut off the 
top, scoop out the inside, pack the shell with hard chocolate ice cream, 
and replace the top. Put into the freezing compartment of the refrigera- 
tor to harden. Just before serving, place on a paper-covered board, 
cover entirely with meringue, and brown quickly in a 450 oven. 

President Truman described himself as a u meat-and-potato 

376 Strawberry Festival 

man," which would lead one to believe that he was a big eater* 
but he was known to his friends as a very light eater. He 
doesn't smoke, doesn't drink coffee, and doesn't touch alco- 
holic beverages except to be sociable. 

President Truman would not permit himself to be u fenced 
in" at any meal. In good weather, breakfast, luncheon, and 
often dinner were served on the south-side porch; otherwise 
the family took their meals in the family dining room, one of 
the most beautiful and homelike rooms in the building. The 
entire room, including the vaulted ceiling, is off-white, and is 
set off by stately, highly polished antique mahogany furniture; 
the table has a seating capacity of sixteen. Over the table 
hangs a crystal chandelier which holds candles; candlelight is 
the only illumination used in this room. Glistening, antique 
silver in the china closet and on the buffet and serving table 
add brilliance to the room. The mantel is of marble, and 
has a mirror above it. 

The Truman family breakfasted at about a quarter of eight. 
From year to year the President chose practically the same 
menu: a glass of orange, grapefruit, or tomato juice; hot 
cereal in winter and dry at other times ; two pieces of whole- 
wheat toast, and a glass of milk. He was particularly fond of 
buttermilk. Eggs or hotcakes were never a part of his breakfast. 
He was also indifferent to salads, and, like many Midwestern- 
ers, he and his family were not too fond of fish. 

When there was no Cabinet or stag luncheon in the State 
Dining Room, the President would usually join his family for 
lunch; occasionally he lunched at the Capitol with Senate 
cronies or with his staff at the Executive Office. These were 
sometimes very jovial get-togethers, with the President lead- 
ing the banter. 

President Truman and Justice Bennett Champ Clark of 
the Court of Appeals had a common love for baked ham and 
greens with cornbread. When Truman was a newcomer, the 
Senate's "little man" from Missouri, Senator Clark, was al- 

Courtesy National Park Service 

The East Room was restored in white and gold; the two Chippendale sofas, 
which were donated, are blue. Portraits of George and Martha Washington 
(the former is the Gilbert Stuart saved by Dolly Madison in 1814) are set in 
gold frames fitted into the wall panels. Compare this picture with one of the 
East Room made before the 1902 renovation. 

Courtesy National Park Service 

37 8 Strawberry Festival 

ready famous as a connoisseur of Missouri ham and greens, 
often going to the market himself to select the tenderest 
leaves. The recipe for this dish was given to the author by 
Mrs. Clark when her husband was senior Senator : 


Take a combination of any two or more of the following greens: 

Poke (Poke must be parboiled) 

Wash them in about ten waters, or until clean and free of all sand. 
Put on in boiling water, and add three fair-sized pieces of hog's jowl, 
or enough salt pork to season if hog's jowl is not available. Cook 
slowly about 2^ hours. Season with salt to taste. 

When done, drain and place in serving dish and top with slices of 
the meat. Serve with cornbread and a dish of sliced tomatoes and 
finely chopped raw onions. 

When Harry Truman decided to withdraw from the 1952 
presidential race and return to Missouri, the hectic years that 
saw the renovation of the White House, the ending of World 
War II, and the greater part of the Korean War were over. 
The retiring President, with honor and distinction, relin- 
quished the reins of government to the popular and beloved 
"Ike" Dwight David Eisenhower. 


A Soldier, and a 
Soldier's Wife 

Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower 

After twenty years of Democratic occupancy the White House 
took on a new look when World War II hero Dwight D. 
Eisenhower moved in on January 20, 1953, after winning 
a landslide victory over Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois. 

The new First Lady, Mamie Doud Eisenhower, immedi- 
ately revealed herself to be a charming, warm-hearted per- 
son. The White House was to hold few surprises for her in 
the way of social obligations and the entertainment of foreign 
dignitaries; as the wife of General Eisenhower, Supreme Com- 
mander of NATO, she had traveled extensively and had en- 
tertained every manner of "Very Important Person" abroad. 
Her early years as the wife of an army lieutenant Eisen- 
hower was a recent West Point graduate when they married 
in 1916 had also taught her to adapt to many types of en- 
vironment, chiefly army posts ! 

President Eisenhower began his term in office by introduc- 
ing the "Knife and Fork" series breakfasts, luncheons, and 


380 A Soldier ; and a Soldier's Wife 

dinners at which he made the acquaintance of the members of 
Congress. Within four months he played host to five hun- 
dred and twenty-seven Senators and Congressmen only four 
House members were unable to attend. The first of these ses- 
sions was held in February, and the last on the twelfth of May. 

The "get-acquainted-with-Congress" phase of his social 
program completed, the President began to give small stag 
dinners for business leaders, administration officials, publish- 
ers, editors, writers, educators, Republican party leaders, sci- 
entists, artists, sportsmen, religious and labor leaders, and his 
old soldier friends. His purpose was, of course, to familiarize 
himself with the latest information and opinions in many fields. 
The dinner hour was seven-thirty. Guests were invited to wear 
business suits, but usually appeared in dinner jackets because 
the invitation noted that the President would probably wear 
a black tie. 

Eisenhower is an early riser, and usually breakfasts alone 
in his dressing room at about seven o'clock. He seldom has 
more than grapefruit, toast, and coffee, though he will occa- 
sionally take bacon or sausage and eggs. While eating, he 
scans the news or is briefed by an aide on the day's program. 

Mrs. Eisenhower's day begins at eight-thirty with break- 
fast in bed. She then goes over such details as menus, ques- 
tions pertaining to the running of the household, and her 
schedule of engagements for the day. There is no secrecy about 
the fact that Mamie Eisenhower dislikes to cook but the 
President's enthusiasm for cooking more than makes up for 
her lack of interest. 

When no official guests are scheduled for luncheon or din- 
ner, the President and Mrs. Eisenhower lunch and have dinner 
together in their second-floor living room, which is usually 
bedecked with flowers. In such cases, dinner is a leisurely meal, 
after which the President relaxes in his favorite wing chair 
and Mrs. Eisenhower probably with her shoes off watches 
television. If friends join them for dinner, as they often do, 

Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower 38 

"Ike" may take them to the glass-walled solarium at the top 
of the White House and prepare charcoal-broiled sirloin and 
corn roasted in the husk. Afterward they may play bridge or 
canasta, watch a movie, or just sit and talk. The President's 
other specialties are vegetable soup, cornmeal flapjacks, po- 
tato salad, trout, chili, and cake. 

Both the Eisenhowers enjoy hobbies. Mamie collects auto- 
graphs, plays the electric organ (a gift from her mother), 
and enjoys a game of canasta or Scrabble. Once when she and 
the President were returning from a visit with her mother 
in Denver, and he was scheduled to stop off in Indianapolis 
and make a speech, Mamie had the plane radio ahead to In- 
dianapolis to have a Scrabble set waiting at the airport so 
that she and her friends could while away the time with a 
game while waiting for him to return to the plane. 

President Eisenhower, too, has more than one hobby. 
Aside from cooking, he paints, hunts, fishes, and plays a fair 
game of golf and a better one of bridge. He will play with 
Republicans or Democrats, so long as they are good players. 
Usually he gets together a stag foursome and they start play- 
ing at about five o'clock on a Saturday afternoon. With time 
out for dinner, perhaps ordered from a Chinese restaurant, 
they play until ten or eleven in the evening. Sunday mornings 
are reserved for church, but sometimes an afternoon game is 
possible while Mamie and her friends play canasta. 

Mamie Eisenhower is a friendly, hospitable person, and as 
personally popular as her husband, but the White House 
social season is far less elaborate in this administration than 
it has been in the past. The First Lady receives a great many 
guests Girl Scouts, delegations of Republican women, church 
societies, patriotic organizations and sponsors many charity 
drives, benefit teas, and fashion shows. There is an air of 
breezy informality about these receptions. On one occasion an 
elderly woman in the line told Mrs. Eisenhower that it was 
her birthday. The woman couldn't have been more pleased 

382 A Soldier, and a Soldier's Wife 

when the First Lady planted a kiss on her cheek. After that, 
birthdays became a commonplace among elderly guests, all of 
whom probably hoped for the same attention. 

Mrs. Eisenhower soon changed the old system of receiving 
a long, unbroken line of guests. Instead, she had an aide usher 
a small group at a time into the Red Room, where a second 
aide was on hand to introduce each guest to her. She cordially 
shook hands and chatted for a moment ; when she reached the 
last guest, the group was ushered into the corridor and an- 
other was brought in to meet her. 

The Eisenhowers have entertained an unprecedented num- 
ber of heads of state and high-ranking officers of foreign gov- 
ernments. President Jose Antonio Remon of Panama and his 
wife were overnight guests on September 28, 1953, and were 
the first to be entertained at a full-fledged state dinner in the 
newly renovated White House. The table was covered with 
white damask, and the venerable Monroe plateau was decked 
with bowls of yellow roses, daisies, and snapdragons to har- 
monize with the light-green paneling, green chenille rug, and 
gold silk damask window draperies of the State Dining Room. 
The floral arrangements were alternated with eleven-tapered 
candelabra and epergnes overflowing with black grapes. 

On this occasion the white-and-green-bordered Truman 
china was used with the flatware inherited from the Monroe 
administration: fish, dinner, and salad forks were at the left 
of the plates, and an oyster fork, soup spoon, and the beautiful 
old pearl-handled fish and dinner knives were at the right. 
Three wine glasses were grouped about each water goblet. 

King Paul and Queen Frederika of Greece were the next 
visitors to the White House. They were honored with a state 
dinner on October 28 of the same year, at which time the table 
was formed in a U-shape. The President and King sat side 
by side, with the Queen at the President's right and Mrs. 
Eisenhower at the left of the King. A glittering fountain, 
banked in ferns, splashed in the well of the "U." 


384 A Soldier, and a Soldier's Wife 

Queen Frederika was dressed in cream satin heavily en- 
crusted with ivory beading, her skirt falling in soft folds to 
the floor; she wore a tiara and a diamond-and-emerald neck- 
lace. Mrs. Eisenhower wore coral peau de sou covered in 
black lace, with a strapless bodice; a black net dust ruffle edged 
the full skirt. Her gloves were of black net. 

When the champagne was poured, President Eisenhower 
presented to King Paul the Legion of Merit the highest 
decoration the United States can confer on a citizen of an- 
other country in time of peace. The King responded with 
thanks from his people for American aid and support during 
the war years and the postwar period. 

After dinner, Mrs. Eisenhower led the ladies to the Red 
Room for coffee and seated her Majesty on the sofa according 
to protocol. To avoid any stiffness at the party, she shelved 
the traditional rule that no one sit while the President and his 
wife stand, and planned beforehand with the Cabinet wives 
that they sit down and converse with the Queen to make her 
feel at ease. As soon as her royal guest was engaged in con- 
versation, the First Lady left her and began moving among 
the other groups of ladies. 

The Queen unwittingly revived a long-standing controversy 
which kept telephones buzzing long after she had departed. 
It centered about the sixteen- to twenty-button-length white 
gloves that are a "must" for official occasions. At the pre- 
dinner reception given by the President and Mrs. Eisenhower 
to introduce Cabinet and Little Cabinet members to the royal 
couple, the wives presented trimly gloved hands to her Maj- 
esty. In the meantime, guests not invited to the reception 
gathered in the East Room. When they were placed in line 
according to protocol and waiting for the President and his 
guests to enter, a dictum went down the line: "Take off your 
right-hand glove before presenting your hand to the Queen." 

The next day, King Paul and Queen Frederika entertained 
at a reception for two thousand guests at the Army and Navy 

The State Dining Room was painted light green in the Truman renovation, 
harmonizing with the verde-antique marble mantel and green chenille rug. 
Healy's portrait of Lincoln is framed in gold, and draperies and upholstered 
chairs are gold. The chandelier over the Hepplewhite table dates from 1902. 

Courtesy National Park Service 


3 86 A Soldier > and a Soldier's Wife 

Country Club, and the Queen received in a gloveless right 
hand. The Greek, Norwegian, French, and British embassies 
were deluged with calls: "Do you or don't you remove your 
glove before shaking hands with visiting royalty?" The of- 
ficial reply was, u ln Greece it is not considered polite to pre- 
sent anything but a bare hand to royalty." The Norwegian 
Embassy, whose ambassador was dean of the diplomatic 
corps in Washington, made this reply: "It is the custom for 
women in Continental Europe to remove the glove from the 
right hand when meeting royalty or other important people." 

The British Embassy, after poring over all available books 
of etiquette for the Court of St. James's, found that an Eng- 
lishwoman "never, never takes off her right glove going down 
a receiving line, not even for a Greek Queen or an American 
First Lady." 

The White House, of course, received its share of calls, 
most of which were inquiries as to whether Mrs. Eisenhower 
prefers to shake a gloved or ungloved hand. The reply was 
that she has no preference, but, speaking for herself, feels it 
is more friendly to shake hands without a glove. (Mrs. Roose- 
velt and Mrs. Truman always shook hands in gloves, because 
they found it less tiring.) 

In the first social season of the Eisenhower administration 
there were six official dinners for the Cabinet, the Supreme 
Court, the first and second diplomatic corps, the Vice Presi- 
dent, and the Speaker of the House and five receptions. 
These were for the diplomatic corps, the judiciary, govern- 
ment department heads, the army and navy, and Congress. 
The dinners and receptions were given on alternate weeks, 
with the exception of the two diplomatic dinners, which fol- 
lowed in succession. The dinners were at eight o'clock and the 
receptions at nine. 

In arranging the 1953-54 social calendar it was designated 
that two "pool reporters" from the White House press room 
would be invited, in turns, for the purpose of covering the 

Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower 38? 

news and passing it on to colleagues for publication. As it 
happened, the wines and liqueurs served at the Cabinet din- 
ner (first of the season) turned out to be the biggest news for 
the reporters, for it had been announced only a short time 
before that alcoholic beverages would be served only when 
required by protocol for exchange of toasts with foreign dig- 
nitaries* The furor caused by this revelation led to a slight 
change in procedure: the reporters who were to cover the 
Supreme Court dinner two weeks later were notified at their 
homes that the President and Mrs. Eisenhower would wel- 
come them as dinner guests but not as reporters. 

Just before the first diplomatic dinner was to take place, 
Mrs. Eisenhower was ordered to bed with a bronchial infec- 
tion. Of course she could not attend the dinner, and the ques- 
tion arose as to who would serve as hostess in her place. Mrs. 
Nixon, wife of the Vice President, was in the Far East. If 
Mrs. Dulles sat opposite the President at the table, where 
would her husband, the Secretary of State, sit? Traditionally, 
the Secretary of State and his wife attend diplomatic dinners 
and are placed in the normal line of protocol. The outcome 
was that at this function the role of hostess went unfilled. 

When President Celal Bayar the first Turkish chief of 
state to visit America and his wife were overnight guests 
on January 27, 1954, and were honored with a state dinner, 
the problem of communication arose. Mrs. Eisenhower spoke 
no Turkish and Mme. Bayar no English. The problem was 
solved, however, when pictures of the Eisenhower grandchil- 
dren and Mme. Bayar's children were brought out; the women 
managed to discuss them in French ! 

Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, was a guest on May 
26, and at the state dinner given that evening there was an- 
other "communications" problem. The Emperor remarked 
to Secretary of the Treasury George M. Humphrey that he 
could not understand why more Americans did not speak 
French but then he added: "The reason Americans don't 

388 A Soldier, and a Soldier's Wife 

learn to speak French is that they are proud of their country, 
and they think that eventually everyone else in the world will 
learn to speak English!" 

In 1956, the White House entertained President Giovanni 
Gronchi Italy's first chief of state to visit America and 
President Sukarno of Indonesia, and in 1957 Queen Eliza- 
beth II of England and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of 
Edinburgh, arrived for a visit on October 17. 

That evening, at the state dinner given to honor the royal 
guests, the Queen did not remove her long white glove to 
shake hands. Although the White House and State Depart- 
ment had made it known that for American women to curtsy 
to rulers of foreign countries "is not our democratic way" to 
greet them, a few did curtsy. For British guests, of course, it 
was obligatory for the women to curtsy and the men to bow. 

The next ruling monarch to walk down the red carpet at 
the National Airport was King Mohamed V of Morocco, on 
November 25, 1957. The President escorted the King to the 
door of the President's Guest House and departed, expecting 
to see him and his entourage at the state dinner being given 
in his honor that evening. But President Eisenhower returned 
to the White House with a chill (later diagnosed as a mild 
stroke), and, despite his protests, was confined to bed. Vice 
President Richard M. Nixon was pressed into service, and 
for the first time played host at a White House state dinner. 
Mrs. Eisenhower attended, and entered the State Dining 
Room on the arm of Mohamed V. 

Although every effort was made to mask concern about the 
President's health, the dinner was subdued and strained. Vice 
President Nixon again substituted for the President at the 
dinner given by the King on the last day of his visit. 

As time brought improvement in the President's health, he 
and the First Lady again took on important entertainment 
duties. In May of 1959, Sir Winston Churchill arrived in 
Washington for a visit with his old friend of the war years. 


. a 



R ^ 


* S.s 

* ? = 

," a 

390 ^ Soldier } and a Soldier's Wife 

An informal family dinner on the evening of his arrival was 
Sir Winston's first scheduled entertainment ; the next day the 
President took him to the Gettysburg farm by helicopter. 

Shortly after the Churchill visit, the twenty-eight-year-old 
King of the Belgians paid a three-day official visit to the 
capital city. King Baudouin stayed at Blair House and that 
evening a dinner was given for him in the State Dining Room. 
The dessert served was called Betty Brune de Pommes, and 
it drew a tongue-in-cheek comment on the editorial page of the 
Washington Dally News the next day: "You don't need a 
French-English dictionary to recognize . . . plain, old, re- 
spectable, uninspired Brown Betty. . . . We don't know 
what kind of dessert the White House cooked up for Win- 
ston Churchill, but that was the time for Brown Betty, if ever 
such time must be. The British are raised on Bird's custard, 
bread pudding, trifle, junket, and something known as 'grey 
shape.' Brown Betty would put them in ecstasy. But for the 
King of the Belgians, a people with a civilized palate, no, 
no, no!" 

The year 1959 was a historically momentous one so far as 
entertaining was concerned. Churchill, King Baudouin, Princess 
Beatrix of the Netherlands, and Nikita Khrushchev visited 
the White House. Princess Beatrix was entertained at a White 
House luncheon on September 14. The visit of the pink- 
cheeked, twenty-one-year-old Princess was a short one. She 
spent only one day in Washington, but found it u thrilling." 

The next day, at half-past noon, a giant Soviet jet aircraft 
landed at Andrews Air Force Base, and Chairman Nikita S. 
Khrushchev of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R. 
stepped out to greet the President of the United States, the 
Secretary of State and Mrs. Christian Herter, the United 
States Representative to the United Nations and Mrs. Henry 
Cabot Lodge, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and 
Mrs. Nathan Twining, the dean of the diplomatic corps of 
seventy-eight embassies and six legations in Washington, Mrs. 

The Chartran portrait of Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt is one of those adorning 
the marble walls of the ground floor corridor. The library, china room, broad- 
casting room, and diplomatic reception room open into the corridor. 

Courtesy National Park Service 

392. A Soldiery and a Soldier's Wife 

Guillermo Sevilla-Sacasa of Nicaragua, and many others. 

After luncheon and a brief rest at the President's Guest 
House (Blair House, just across the Avenue from the Execu- 
tive Mansion), the Soviet Premier and President Eisenhower 
conferred for nearly two hours in the President's office in the 
White House. At eight o'clock that evening Premier Khrush- 
chev and his entourage were entertained at a formal dinner 
at the White House, where some one hundred guests were 
seated at the E-shaped table in the State Dining Room. Al- 
though the dinner was a "white tie" affair, the Premier ap- 
peared in a dark business suit, and Mrs. Khrushchev wore a 
simple teal-blue gown with a diamond-and-emerald brooch at 
the neck. Mrs. Eisenhower wore a gown of gold brocade, 
diamond earrings, and a necklace of diamonds and pearls. 

On the eighteenth, Premier and Mrs. Khrushchev enter- 
tained the Eisenhowers at the Soviet Embassy. The Presi- 
dent's dinner for Mr. Khrushchev had featured curry soup, 
roast turkey with cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and a tossed 
salad. The Premier's menu for the President was : 

Fresh Caviar and Assorted Fish Fillets 

Stuffed Partridges 

Choice of Perch Soup or Ukrainian Borscht 

Sterlet (Flounder) in Champagne 

Caucasian Shashlik 

White Sec Red Sec 


Baked Alaska Fresh Macaroons 

Mints, Nuts, Demitasse 


Assorted Fresh Fruits after Dinner 

co 5 

O ^ 



S 5 


2 . 

*> k 

O j; 

394 d Soldier, and a Soldier's Wife 

The following morning, Thursday, Mr. Khrushchev and 
his party boarded an early train for New York, first stop on 
a whirlwind cross-country tour. He returned ten days later, 
stayed overnight at Blair House, and the following day left 
with President Eisenhower for Camp David, a mountain re- 
treat about twenty miles south of Gettysburg. On the first of 
October, the Premier returned to Washington, held his final 
news conference at the National Press Club, made a farewell 
telecast at the National Broadcasting Company's Washing- 
ton studio, and left Washington in his jet plane at about ten 

Many White House events of the Eisenhower administra- 
tion have, of course, been concerned with people and things 
related only to "home." Mrs. Eisenhower received the final 
addition to the collection of china used by the Presidents over 
a period of nearly two hundred years ; this was a sugar bowl, 
two saucers, and a serving plate which had belonged to Presi- 
dent Andrew Johnson. Presentation of this "missing link" 
was made by Johnson's granddaughter, Margaret Johnson 
Patterson Bartlett of Greenville, Tennessee. Five Presidents 
must remain unrepresented, since they purchased no special 
china Jackson, Taft, Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. The 
one piece of china that has remained in the White House ever 
since its purchase is the Dolly Madison punch bowl. This 
charming French porcelain bowl is about thirty inches high, 
and is blue with a gold-dotted border and shield. It is upheld 
by figures of the three graces. 

Mrs. Eisenhower herself has presented twenty-six gold- 
framed plates, with portraits of former First Ladies in the 
centers, to the collection now housed in the White House 
China Room. 

In May, 1959, another event with nostalgic connotations 
took the form of a White House tea at which descendants of 
former Presidents were the guests. Eight children, and a num- 
ber of relations further removed, attended, and for most of 

Courtesy National Park Service 

396 A Soldier, and a Soldier's Wife 

them the White House held very specific memories. There was 
a good deal of comparing done, but all agreed that the rooms 
are much "lighter and brighter" today than they used to be. 
Heirlooms and descendants form strong links with the past, 
but the White House itself is stronger than either. It has been 
"home" to thirty-two of the thirty-three men who have held 
the office of Chief Executive, and it would have been "home" 
to George Washington if it had existed in his time. As a build- 
ing it is subject to deterioration and heedless abuse. As a sym- 
bol it will never lose its power, so long as the prayer of John 
Adams is taken to heart by his successors. This prayer is en- 
graved on the mantel over the fireplace in the State Dining 
Room : 

I Pray Heaven to Bestow 

The Best of Blessings on 


and on All that shall hereafter 

Inhabit it. May none but Honest 

and Wise Men ever rule under This Roof! 

NOV. 2, 1800 


Page numbers in italics refer to illustration captions. 

Acheson, Mrs. Dean, 372 

Adams, Abigail Smith, 10, 12, 21, 24, 25, 
28, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34-36, 79, 8$, 138 

Adams, John, II; 4, 6, 9, 20, 21, 24, 2^, 
3 x > 37^ 39> 79> 2 45 social policies of, 
38, 44, 50; prayer of, 396 

Adams, John Quincy, VI; 70, 72, 80, 85, 
86, 8j, 92, 106; social policies of, 79, 

Adams, Louisa Catherine Johnson, 70, 
72, 79, 81 

Albert I, King of the Belgians, 306-307 

Albert, Prince Consort of Victoria, 173 

Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, 148- 
150, 151, 152 

alcoholic beverages, ban on, 124, 136, 
194, 209, 214, 225; expenditures on, 14, 
50, 147; liquor, policy on serving of, 
82, 113, 120, 265, 290, 300, 314, 345, 
374, 389; wine, policy on serving of, 9, 
12, 21, 32, 42, 48, 58-59, 73, 82, 90, 92, 

144, 147, l68, 174, 200, 211, 214, 231, 

232, 235, 240, 241, 247, 276, 289, 294, 
300, 314, 340, 344, 352, 356, 372, 382, 


Airman, Miguel, 362 
Alexis, Grand Duke of Russia, 205, 214 
Allen, Mrs, George, 374 
Allison, William Boyd, 264 
American Red Cross, 304, 305, 32,5 
Anderson, Marian, 356 
anniversaries, wedding, 216, 2/7, 218, 

292, 294 

Appleton, Rev. Jesse, 142 
Arthur, Duke of Connaught, 200, 201 
Arthur, Chester Alan, XXI; 225, 22^, 

233, 240; social policies of, 228, 231 
Axson, Rev. S. E., 298 

Bagot, Charles, 60 

Bahkmeteff, Baron, 293 

Bain, George Grantham, 260 

Baker, Sen. Edward Dickinson, 163 

Balfour, Arthur, 306 

Ball, Inaugural, the first, 54-55; Andrew 
Jackson's, 105; James K. Polk's, 125; 
Ulysses S. Grant's, 195; Wilson's dis- 
continuance of the, 298; Congres- 
sional objection to the, 311 

Ball, President's Birthday, the first, 22; 
Jefferson's abolition of the, 41; Roose- 
velt's revival of the, 341 

Barren, Commodore James, 71 

Barry, William T., 95 

Bartlett, Margaret Johnson Patterson, 

394> 395 

Baudouin, King of the Belgians, 390 
Bayar, President Celal, 387 
Bayard, Thomas F., 241 
Beatrix, Princess of the Netherlands, 390 
Benton, Thomas Hart, 92, 96 
Bernhard, Prince of the Netherlands, 

358, 372 

Bertinatti, Chevalier, 167 
Black, Mrs. Hugo, 374 
"Black Sam." See Fraunces, Samuel. 
Blair House, 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 388, 

390 392, 394 
Bliss, Betty Taylor, 130 
Bliss, Major W. W. S., 130 
Blue Room, 243, 256, 257 
Bonaparte, Je'rdme, 51, 168 
Bonaparte, Mme. Joseph, 64 
Bonaparte, Prince Napoleon, 168, 169, 


Bones, Helen, 299, 301, 302, 300 
Bowdoin College, 142 


398 Index 

bowing, custom of, 8, 42, 65, 150, 155, 

167, 388 

Bradbury, Theophllus, 20 
Branch, John, 95 
breakfast, guests at, 12, 289, 314, 322, 332, 


Brissot de Warville, Jacques Pierre, 22 
broadcasting room, 389 
Brown, Captain Wilson, 325 
Browning, Orville Hickman, 174 
Bryn Mawr, 299 
Buchanan, James, XV; 96, 132, 142, 146, 

751, 153,, 157, 759, 162, 163, 777; social 

policies of, 156 
Burr, Aaron, 40, 72 
Butler, William O., 142 
Butt, Major Archibald, 284, 292, 296 

Calderon de la Barca, 104 

Calhoun, John C., 95 

Cameron, Simon, 206 

Cannon, Joseph G., 282 

Carusi's, 104 

Cass, Lewis, 142 

Centennial Exposition, 198, 202, 203, 
204, 207 

Charlotte, Queen of England, 34-35 

Charlotte, Grand Duchess of Luxem- 
burg, 358 

Chase, Kate, 174, 179, 180 

Chase, Salmon P., 169, 174, 179 

Chiang Kai-shek, Mme., 361 

china, 13, 23, 37, 6i 9 68, 74, 77, 85, 727, 
212, 275, 244, 250, 255, 274, 288, 308, 

309^ 347> 35L 352, 364* 382, 394> 395 
china collection, White House, 254, 394 
Churchill, Sir Winston, 358, 388, 390 
Cincinnati, The, 10 
Cincinnati Orchestra, 296 
Civil War, 132, 162, 172, 178, 186, 192, 

193, 210, 224, 233, 234 
Clark, Bennett Champ, 86, 376 
Cleveland, Esther, 249 
Cleveland, Frances Folsom, 242, 243, 

Cleveland, Grover, XXII; 237, 247, 249, 

352; marriage of, 242-245, 243; second 

administration of, 260, 261; social 

policies of, 248, 258 
Cleveland, Rose Elizabeth, 240 
Cleveland, Rev. William, 242, 244 
Clinton, George, 9 
Clotilde, Princess of Italy, 168 
Collins, Pattie L., 231-232 
Colman, Edna, 120 

Confederate States of America, 130, 162 
Conrad, Charles M., 138 

Conrad's boarding house, 39, 41 
conservatory, Miss Lane's, 157, 158, 188, 

224, 236, 254 
Constitution, frigate, 103 
Cooley, E., 82 
Coolidge, Calvin, XXIX; 316, 319, 329, 

394; social policies of, 324, 331 
Coolidge, Grace Anne Goodhue, 323, 

324, 325-326, 327 
Cooper, James Fenimore, 73 
Cooper, Thomas A., 114 
Corning Glass Works, 245 
corridor, ground floor, 3^-7 
corridor, main, 377 
Corwin, Thomas, 138 
Cosby, Col. Spencer, 292 
Crittenden, John J., 138 
Curtis, Charles, 340 
Custine, Count Adam Philippe, 13 
Custis, Eleanor, 12 
Custis, George" Washington Parke, 11, 

12, 15, 22, 30, 134 
Custis, Nellie, 328 
Cutts, Ada, i2j 
Czolgosz, Leon, 270, 271 

Dalton, Tristram, 10, 21 

dancing, ban on, 124, 147 

Daughters of the American Revolution, 


Davidson College, 298 

Davis, Jefferson, 130, 162 

Davis, Sarah Taylor, 130 

Davis, Theodore R., 212, 275 

Davis, Varina Howell, 144 

Dawes, Charles G., 320 

de Aspiroz, Manuel, 264 

de Campos, Senora, 364 

Decatur, Stephen, 70, 71 

Dent, Frederick, 196 

Dewey, Admiral George, 265, 267 

Dewey, Mildred McLean, 266 

Dickens, Charles, 1 14, 225 

dinner parties, etiquette of, 9, 18, 21-22, 
4 6 > 5 8 -59> 73> !43> !5 6 l6 7 168-169, 
190, 200, 206, 235, 241, 250, 264-265, 
282, 290-291, 296, 324, 326, 338, 340, 
342, 344, 347-350* 354. 362, 380, 384* 
386-387. (See also table decorations; 
table seating.) 

diplomatic reception room, 353 

Dodge, Harrison H., 328 

Dom Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil, 201- 

Donelson, Andrew Jackson, 90 

Donelson, Emily, 90, 91 f 93, 95 

Douglas, Stephen A., 142, 164 

Index 399 

Douglas, Mrs. Stephen A., 165 
drawing-rooms. See receptions. 
Dulles, John Foster, 387 

East Room, 145, 19$, 279, 283, 377 

Hasten, Mary, 90 

Eaton, John H., 94-96 

Edward VII, King of England, 148 

Edward, Prince of Wales, 324 

egg-rolling festival, 214, 247, 525 

Eisenhower, Dwight David, XXXIII; 

378, 393; social policies of, 379 
Eisenhower, Mamie Geneva Doud, 339, 

374> 379 38 1 384* 392, 393, 395 
Elizabeth, Queen of the Belgians, 306 
Elizabeth, Queen Consort of George VI, 

354-358, 557. 359 
Elizabeth II, Queen of Great Britain, 

366, 367, 368, 388 
Emma, Queen Dowager of the Sandwich 

Islands, 190, 19 1, 192 
Eppes, John Wales, 44 
Eppes, Mary Jefferson, 44 
etiquette, Cabinet conferences on, 6, 70; 
French, 34; pell-mell system of, 44, 46; 
Van Buren's code of, 106. (See also 
dinner parties, first call, protocol, re- 

Eulalie, Infanta of Spain, 248 
Evans, Admiral, 278 
Everett, Edward, 138 
Executive Mansion 
in New York, 3, 6, 7 
in Philadelphia, 12, 29 
in Washington, D.C., 24, 29, 31; baths, 
28, 30, 135, 136, 254, 289, 332, 369- 
370; burning of the, 60, 63, 64, 67, 
100; construction of the, 27, 28, 39, 
^5, 67: dairy, 190; electricity in- 
stalled in the, 254; elevators in the, 
227-228, 370; enlargements and ad- 
ditions to the, 52, loo, 157, 274, 358; 
370; heating of the, 30, 144, 332; 
kitchen, 32, 135, 136, 389; landscap- 
ing, 31, 52, 300; library, 135, 136, 
139; lighting of the, 30, 126, 128, 
239, 254; plan of the, 28; renova- 
tions of the, 67, 100, 160, 186, 188, 
254 273-274, 364, 368-370, 373; 
water supply, 28, 30, 100, 136. (See 
also conservatory.) 

household staff of the, 14, 15, 16, 30, 
46, 55> 59' 73> 9* 167, 231, 245, 258, 
286, 288, 296, 332, 345-346, 352; 
domestic management of the, 156, 
167, 253, 318 

interior decoration and furnishings of 
the, 32, 41, 50-51, 55, 67, 68, 106, 
144, 160, 188, 227-228, 229, 232, 274, 
370, 376, 377, 385. (See also illustra- 
tions listed under Blue Room, East 
Room, family dining room, Green 
Room, Red Room, State Dining 

Fair lie, Mary, 1 14 

family dining room, 259 

Felix, Prince of Luxemburg, 358 

Fields, Alonzo, 346 

Fillmore, Abigail Powers, 138, 139, 140 

Fillmore, Mary Abigail, 138 

Fillmore, Millard, XIII; 134, 137 

first call, etiquette of the, 10, 30, 34, 36, 

68, 70, 71, 262 
Fish, Hamilton, 202, 211 
flatware, 18, 68, 74, 106, 108, 245, 286, 

326, 346, 352, 355, 382 
floral decorations, 198, 211, 216, 231, 234, 

240, 242, 244, 248, 250, 264, 265-266, 

278, 282, 291, 293, 326, 328, 340, 355, 

362, 364, 366, 368, 374, 382 
Foch, Marshal Ferdinand, 324 
Folsom, Oscar, 242 
food. See menus, recipes. 
Foot, Solomon, 169 
Foote, Henry Stuart, 134 
Ford's Theater, 180 

Forney, John, 84, 98, 108, 144, 158, 179 
Foundry M. E. Church, 223 
Franklin, Benjamin, 22, 34 
Franklin, Walter, 3 
Fraunces, Samuel, 12-16, 231 
Frederick, Crown Prince of Denmark, 


Frederika, Queen of Greece, 382, 384 
Frelinghuysen, F. T., 236 
Frelinghuysen, Mrs. F. T., 232, 235 
French, Col. B. B., 188 
Fushimi, Prince of Japan, 291 

Gadsby's Hotel, 104 

Gales, Joseph, 57, 98 

Gallatin, Albert, 60 

Gait, Edith Boiling. See Wilson, Edith 

Gann, Dolly, 340 

Gardiner, David, 117, 118 

Garfield, James Abram, XX; 223, 326; 
social policies of, 224-225; assassina- 
tion of, 225, 227 

Garfield, Lucretia, 222, 224 

George III, King of Great Britain, 34- 

400 Index 

George V, King of Great Britain, 368 
George VI, King of Great Britain, 339, 

355-3 6l > 557> 359> 3 66 3 6 7> 3^8, 3 6 9 
George II, King of Greece, 358 
George Augustus Frederick, Prince of 

Wales, 35 

Gerolt, Baron von, 168 
gifts, to the President, 30, 36, 99, 101, 

*55> J 77. *9 8 > 20 3> 2 59> 282, 284, 307, 

326, 367, 368-369; presented by the 

President, 362, 366 
Gillette, Mrs. F. S., 258 
Gillott, Joseph, 96 
Gilmer, Thomas W., 118 
Gleig, 60, 62 

gloves, use of, 35, 149, 347, 384, 386, 388 
Goddard, Andrew, 98 
Gonzales Videla, Gabriel, 364 
Gouverneur, Samuel Lawrence, 70-72 
Grant, Julia Dent, 197, 201, 204, 205, 

206, 234, 235 

Grant, Nellie, 196, 197, 199 
Grant, Ulysses S., XVIII; 180, 189, 192, 

*95> I 99> 2O 3> 2O 5> 211 2 34> 2 59> social 

policies of, 194, 196, 200, 206 
Grayson, Dr. Gary T., 301, 302 
Green Room, 269 
Greene, Nathanael, 10, 11 
Griffin, Capt. Charles, 173 
Griffin, Mrs. Charles, 174 
Grimsley, Elizabeth Todd, 164, 166, 167, 


Griswold, Rufus, 8, 22, 24 
Gronchi, President Giovanni, 388 
Guista, Michael Anthony, 92 
Guiteau, Charles, 225 
Gustavus Adolphus, Crown Prince of 

Sweden, 358 
Gwinn, Mrs. Duke, 236 

Hagner, Belle, 299 

Hall, Dr. J. C., 98 

Hamilton, Alexander, 6, 24, 25, 106 

Hamlin, Hannibal, 167 

handshaking, etiquette of, 8, 35, 42, 149, 

150, 165, 189, 204, 218, 232, 314, 382, 

386, 388 
Harding, Florence Kling, 311, 312, 313, 

Harding, Warren Gamaliel, XXVIII; 

394; social policies of, 312, 314; death 

of, 316 

Harrison, Anna, no 
Harrison, Benjamin, 109 
Harrison, Benjamin, XXIII; no, 248, 

2 55> 256; social policies of, 258, 260 

Harrison, Caroline Lavinia Scott, 253, 


Harrison, Jane Finley, no 
Harrison, William Henry, IX; 108, in, 

115, 253; death of, no 
Haven, Solomon G., 140 
Hawthorne, Alice, 149 
Hay, George, 72 
Hay, Mrs. George, 68, 71, 73 
Hayes, Lucy, 211, 213, 214, 215, 2/7, 

218, 219, 220, 222, 224, 225, 247 
Hayes, Rutherford Birchard, XIX; 206, 

217, 219, 221, 240, 244; social policies 

of, 209, 214 

Healy, George P. A., 351, 385 
Hengelmuller, Mme., 264 
Henry, Prince of Prussia, 276-280, 279, 


Henry, J. Buchanan, 156 
Henry, Patrick, ^5, 46 
Herron, John W., 292 
Hersey, Ira G., 324 
Herter, Christian, 390 
Hoban, James, 28, 67 
Hobart, Garrett A., 262 
Hoes, Laurence Gouverneur, vi, 68, 76 
Hoes, Rose Gouverneur, 68 
Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 220 
Hoover, Herbert Clark, XXX; 330, 333, 

394; social policies of, 331, 334, 337, 


Hoover, Ike, 254, 285, 289 
Hoover, Lou Henry, 334, 335, 339 
hostesses, official, 44, 46, 47, 53, 90, 91 f 

104, 106, 110, 114, 130, 138, 142, 148- 

160, 184, 230, 240 
Hubbard, Samuel D., 138 
Humboldt, Baron Alexander von, 51 
Humphreys, Col. Davis, 3, 4, 6, 17, 34, 35 
Hyde, John, 15 

Ileana, Princess of Rumania, 324-326, 

Illustrated Newspaper, 145, 158, 171, 

173-174, 775, 190, 191, 223, 247 
Inaugural Ball. See Ball, Inaugural. 
Ingham, Samuel D., 95 
Ingrid, Princess of Denmark, 358 
introductions. See receptions. 
Irving, Henry, 150 
Irving, Washington, 54, 58 
Izard, Ralph, 38 

Jackson, Andrew, VII; 80, 88, 91, 97, 
103, 136, 165, 236, 394; social policies 
of, 99-100, 106 

Index 401 

Jackson, Rachel Donelson Robards, go, 

9*> 93> 95 

Jackson, Major William, 1617 
Jaffray, Elizabeth, 288, 315, 318, 321 
Japanese Embassy, first, 153, 154-155; 

gift of water basin, 155, 174, 177 

Jay, John, 6, 21, 25 
ean, Grand Duke of Luxemburg, 358 
Jefferson, Martha Wales Skelton, 44 
Jefferson, Thomas, III; 6, 17, 24, 31, 34, 
38, 43, 45, 53, 55, 64, 72, 76, 168, 341; 
social policies of, 41, 42, 44, 51, 76 
Jennings, Paul, 62 
Joffre, Marshal Joseph, 306, 315, 324 
Johnson, Andrew, XVII; 101, 180, 191, 

193' 2/4, ?95,396 

Johnson, Eliza McCardle, 183-184 
Johnson, Capt. Graham L., 292 

{ones, John P., 228 
uliana, Queen of the Netherlands, 358, 
370, 372 
Jusserand, Jean Jules, 316 

Kalakaua, King of the Sandwich Islands, 

Kamehameha IV, King of the Sandwich 

Islands, 190 
Kamehameha V, 192 
Keckley, Elizabeth, 164 
Kennedy, John P., 138 
Khrushchev, Nikita S., 390, 392, 393, 394 
King, William R., 58 

Lafayette, Marquis de, 34, 88 

Lambord, Dr. Levi, 266, 270 

Lane, Franklin K., 301 

Lane, Harriet, 148, 151, 157, 163, 186 

Lane, Jane Buchanan, 148 

Langdon, John, 10, 21 

Latrobe, Benjamin H., 52 

Lawrence, David, 297 

Lear, Tobias, 3, 4, 8, 10, 16, 21 

Lee, Robert E., 180 

Lemaire, Etienne, 46, 49 

L'Enfant, Pierre Charles, 28 

Lenox Pottery, 308, 352 

Leopold, Prince of the Belgians, 306 

Leslie, Frank. See: Illustrated News- 

levees, etiquette of, 6, 8, 9, 50, 59, 64, 72, 
92, 126, 164, 178, 188, 189-190, 194; 
abolition of, 41, 44 

Lewis, Delia, 90 

Lewis, George, 21 

Lewis, Robert, 11, 17 

Lewis, William B., 90 

Lincoln, Abraham, XVI; 159, 160, 771, 

777, 181, 193, 288, 352, 38$; assassina- 
tion of, 180 

Lincoln, Mary Todd, 164, 165, 168, 169, 
iji, 173, 178, 179-180, 183 

Lindbergh, Charles, 324 

Listen, Robert, 24 

Livingston, Robert B., 4 

Lodge, Henry Cabot, 390 

Lomax, Alan, 356 

Long, Ava, 320, 334 

Long, Breckenridge, 306 

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 220 

Longworth, Alice Roosevelt, 278, 285- 
286, 340 

Longworth, Nicholas, 280, 340 

Luzerne, Chevalier de la, 34 

Lyons, Lord, 152, 166, 169 

McAdoo, Eleanor Wilson, 298, 299, 301 
McAdoo, William Gibbs, 300, 301 
McCabe, Dr. L. D., 216 
McCauley, Major Charles, 282 
McClellan, Gen. George B., 169, 173 
MacDonald, Ishbel, 338 
MacDonald, J. Ramsay, 338 
McElroy, Rev. John E., 230 
McElroy, Mary Arthur, 230, 236 
McKinley, Ida Saxton, 261, 263, 270 
McKinley, William, XXIV; 263, 267; so- 
cial policies of, 261-262, 264; assas- 
sination of, 270, 273 
McLean, Edward Beale, 311 
McLean, Evalyn Walsh, 313 
McMahon, Mrs. Brien, 374 

Maclay, William, 10, 17, 21, 22, 38, 48 

Madison, Dolly (Dorothy Payne Todd), 

46, 5*> 53~55> 57> 59> 6 *> 6 3> 6 5> 68 > 1O 4> 

1O6, 113, 115, 121, 126, 128, 184, 211, 


Madison, James, IV; 6, 46, 63, 126, 136; 
social policies of, 76 

Magruder, Patrick, 58 

Maher, Jemmy, 99 

Manderson, Charles Frederick, 236 

Manning, Daniel, 241 

Marie, Queen of Rumania, 324-330 

Marine Band, 30, 86, 88, 103, 124, 152, 
161, 166, 169, 174, 235, 241, 242, 291, 
300, 301, 302, 312, 316, 348, 368 

Marshall, Aim, 49 

Marshall, George C., 362 

Marshall, John, 40-41 

Martha, Princess of Norway, 358 

Maxcy, Virgil, 118 

Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico, 264 

Means, Abby Kent, 142 

402 Index 

Mellon, Andrew, 326 
menus, 21, 174, 244, 258, 276, 278, 281, 
282, 288, 290, 300, 301, 325, 340, 355, 

35^> 374. 375' 392 
Mexican War, 104, 124, 126, 129, 142, 

3 6 4 

Mohamed V, King of Morocco, 388 
Mohawk Indians, 198, 203, 259 
Monroe, Elizabeth Kortright, 65, 68, 73 
Monroe, James, V; 69, 77, 80, 106, 293, 

339* social policies of, 70, 76, 79 
Monroe plateau, 19, 74, 75. See also 

table decorations. 
Montgomery, Richard, 1 1 
Moore, Willis L., 292 
Morris, Gouverneur, 18, 20 
Morris, Robert, 20 
Morton, Levi, 258 
Mount Vernon, 3, 4, 5, 9, 15, 19, 20, 24, 

30, 48, 150, 157, 152, 204, 328, 330 
musical instruments, 32, 45, 51, 59, 81, 

116, 138,212, 266,362, 370 

Napoleon III, 264 

Napoleon Bonaparte, 51 

Nast, Thomas, 195 

National Intelligencer, The, 40, 48, 54, 

57* 71, 116, 118, 150 
Nelson, Thomas, 11, 12, 17 
Nesbitt, Henrietta, v, 346 
Newcastle, Duke of, 149, 150 
Newcomb, Simon, 202 
Nicholas, Prince of Rumania, 324, 326, 


Nicolay, John G., 169, 173, 178, 179 
Nilsson, Christine, 235 
Nixon, Patricia, 387 
Nixon, Richard M., 388 
Nobel prize, 284 

Octagon House, 63, 64 
Olaf, Crown Prince of Norway, 358 
O'Neal, Peggy, 93-96 
Ospina-Perez, Mariano, 362 

Pageot, Alphonse de, 90 

Palace of the President. See Executive 


Palmer, Lt. Cmdr. Leigh C., 292 
Patterson, David T., 184 
Patterson, Elizabeth, 51 
Patterson, Martha Johnson, 184 
Patterson, Mrs. Robert P., 374 
Paul, King of Greece, 382 
Pearce, James Alfred, 163 
Pearson, Mrs. Lester, 372 
Pendel, Thomas, 198, 220 

Perley. See Poor, Benjamin Perley. 
Pershing, Gen. John J., 315, 324 
Peter, King of Yugoslavia, 358 
Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, 366, 368, 


Pierce, Benjamin, 141, 142 
Pierce, Franklin, XIV; 140, 143, 145, 

147; social policies of, 144 
Pierce, Jane Means Appleton, 142 
Polk, James Knox, XI; go, 120, 122, 125, 

127, 134, 147, 184; social policies of, 


Polk, Lucius J., 90 
Polk, Sarah Childress, 123-124 
Poor, Benjamin Perley, 86, 101, 104, 

105, 120, 125, 131, 133, 134, 156, 188, 

189, 196, 2OO, 2O9-21O, 212, 2l8, 225, 

232, 235, 241. 246 
Porter, Sarah Harver, 84 
Powers, Rev. Lemuel, 136 
Prajadhipok, King of Siam, 338 
precedence, establishment of rules of, 

17; order of, 46, 166, 262, 284, 290-291, 

297, 312, 317, 340; table of, 349-35 
President's Birthday Ball. See Ball, etc. 
Preston, William Campbell, 104 
Princeton, SS, 116, iij, 118, 119 
Princeton University, 53, 297, 298 
Private Butlers' Association, Inc., 345- 

protocol, rules of, 44, 76, 167, 297, 317, 

340, 348, 384. See also precedence; 

table seating. 

Rambai Barni, Queen of Siam, 338 

Ramos, Ramon, 374 

Randolph, James Madison, 44, 47 

Randolph, Martha Jefferson, 44, 47, 76 

Randolph, Mary, 18, 49, 92, 93 

Rattley, Mary, 334, 336 

receptions, etiquette of, 11, 30, 41-42, 
43' 57' 64, 72, 76, 86, 104, 106, 126, 
145, 149-150, 154-155* 166, 169-170, 
J 73> J 75> !78, 18$, 187* 1 9> !94> 225, 
232, 233, 236, 241, 258, 260, 261-262, 
263, 290, 302, 315-316, 381, 382, 384, 

recipes: asparagus souffle^ 337; baked 
chocolate Alaska, 375; boiled peas, 
337; corn muffins, 321; custard pie, 
322; Dolly Madison's bouillon, 56; 
Dolly Madison's layer cake, 56; fish 
a-la-daub, 93; fish in jelly, 93; ham 
and greens, 378; Maryland caramel to- 
matoes, 337; mint julep (non-alco- 
holic), 74; Mr. Jefferson's persimmon 
beer, 48; Monticello sponge cake, 49; 

Index 403 

pound cake, 49; savory jelly, 92; seed 
cake, 56; trifle, 18; Virginia ham, 336 

Red Room, 268, 383 

refreshments, policy on serving, 1112, 
30, 32, 42, 55, 60, 65, 82, 86, 92, 106, 
147, 180, 198, 201, 222, 237, 294, 345 

Remon, President Jose Antonio, 382 

Rogers, Will, 324 

Roosevelt, Edith Kermit Carow, 254, 
273, 286, 288, 391 

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 344-345, 357, 386 

Roosevelt, Franklin Delano, XXXI; 9, 
228, $19, 343, 353, 357, 361; social 
policies of, 345, 346-347, 360; death of, 

Roosevelt, Theodore, XXV; 271, 285, 
297, 342, 351, 352; social policies of, 
276, 289; Nobel prize winner, 284 

Ross, Ishbel, 83 

Rossiter, Thomas Pritchard, 151 

Rouzee, W. M., 219 

Royall, Anne, 83-84, 197 

royalty, etiquette of entertaining, 201- 
202, 205, 278, 317, 325, 338 

St. Germains, Lord, 150 

Salisbury, Marquess of, 262 

Saltonstall, Mrs. Leverett, 374 

Sartoris, Algernon, 197 

Satterlee, Henry Yates, 282 

Sayre, Francis B., 300 

Sayre, Jessie Wilson, 298, 300; 301 

Scott, Gen. Winfield, 168, 169 

Seaton, Sarah, 48, 57, 60, 64, 65, 70, 71, 

72, 73, 88 

Seaton, William W., 57, 58, 98 
Selassie, Haile, 387-388 
Semple, Letitia Tyler, 115-116 
Sevilla-Sacasa, Mrs. Guillermo, 392 
Seward, William H., 162, 164, 168 
Sheridan, Gen. Philip Henry, 236 
Sherman, James S., 290 
Sherman, John, 262, 263 
Sherrill, Col. Charles Hitchcock, 320, 


Shorter College, 299 
Singleton, Angelica, 104, 707, 353 
Singleton, Esther, 247 
Singleton, Robert, 104 
Sioussant, Jean Pierre, 55 
Smith, Kate, 356 
Smith, Samuel Harrison, 57 
Smith, Mrs. Samuel Harrison, 54, 57 
solarium, 575 

Sousa, John Philip, 242, 244 
Spanish-American War, 261 
Sprague, William, 179 

Stanbery, Henry, 190 

Stanton, Edwin, 180, 192 

"Star Mary," 270 

State Dining Room, 143, 275, 277, 293, 

&> 3*5 

Stevenson, Adiai, 379 
Stockton, Capt. R. F., 116, 118 
Stone, Harlan, 361 
Story, Joseph. 84 
Stover, Col. Daniel, 188 
Stover, Marie, 188 
Stuart, Alexander H. H., 138 
Stuart, Gilbert, 577 
Sukarno, President of Indonesia, 388 
Sullivan, Mrs. John L., 374 
Sumner, Jessie, 372 
Sumner, Charles, 169 
Sunderland, Rev. Dr. Byron, 242 

table decorations, 18, 19, 21, 73-74, 75, 

108, 176, 198, 200, 218, 230-231, 234- 

235, 240, 248, 264, 265-266, 291, 293, 

326, 330, 338, 340, 351* 355. 3 6 4> 374- 

375' 382 
table seating, 17-18, 44, 58, 149, 168-169, 

230, 235, 241, 264, 265, 266, 267, 283, 

284, 317, 340, 348, 351, 356, 359, 364, 


table service. See china; flatware. 
Taft, Helen Herron, 286, 287, 291, 292, 

Taft, William Howard, XXVI; 250, 284, 

295, 394; social policies of, 288-291 
Tayloe house. See Octagon House. 
Taylor, Margaret Mackall Smith, 130, 

Taylor, Zachary, XII; 128, 131, 133; 

social policies of, 132,* death of, 134 
temperance movement, 136, 142, 144, 


Thackeray, William Makepeace, 140 
Theresa, Empress of Brazil, 202 
Thompson, Mrs. Jacob, 150 
Thompson, Mrs. Smith, 74 
Thomson, Charles, 3 
Tibbett, Lawrence, 356 
Tiffany, Louis, 228, 229, 232 
Timberlake, John, 94 
Todd, Payne, 58 
Todd, Thomas, 60 
Tracy, Benjamin F., 260 
Truman, Bess Wallace, 362, 363, 364, 

368, 372, 386 
Truman, Harry, XXXII; 329, 350, 360, 

3 6 3>3 6 5>3 6 7>3 8 5 f fi 
Truman, Margaret, 361, 362, 363 
Trusler, John, 17 

404 Index 

Tucker, Rev. Henry St. George, 356 
Twining, Nathan, 390 
Tyler, Elizabeth, 113 
Tyler, John, X; 1 12, 7/7, 119, 199; social 
policies of, 1 13; second marriage of, 1 18 
Tyler, Julia Gardiner, 116, 119, 122, 353 
Tyler, Letitia Christian, 114 
Tyler, Mary, 121 
Tyler, Priscilla Cooper, 114 
Tyler, Robert, 1 14 

"Uncle Harkless," 15-16 
Upshur, Abel P., 118 

Van Buren, Col. Abraham, 104 

Van Buren, Hannah, 104 

Van Buren, Martin, VIII; 74, 95, ioj, 

136, 3,53; social policies of, 100, 106, 


Victoria, Queen, 148, 173, 200 
visits, social, etiquette of, 6, 8, 9, 10, 30, 

158, 194, 228, 276, 278, 290 
Viviani, Rene, 306 

Wade, Ben, 172 

Waite, Morrison R., 211, 221, 225 

Walker, Dr. Mary, 232, 233, 234 

Waller, William, 113 

Wansey, Henry, 12 

Washington, D.C., as capital city, 27-28, 
2 9> 30, 50; descriptions of, 30, 39, 62, 
104, 108, 206, 347; society in, 44, 68, 
70, 94-95, 115, 120, 122, 147, 148, 156, 
172, 184, 186, 193, 196-197, 209-210, 
224, 235, 237, 266, 297 

Washington, George, I; 5, 13, 19, 25, 27- 
28, 32, 35, 39, 41, 44, 50, 62, 67, 92, jjjr, 
152, 317, 328, 347, 377, 396; social 
policies of, 6, 11, 16, 42 

Washington, Lucy Payne, 59 

Washington, Martha, 5, 9-12, 25, 30, 41, 

48, 93 377 

Washington, Phillip Steptoe, 59 
Washington Cathedral, 282 

Webster, Daniel, 114, 115 

weddings, in the Executive Mansion, 59, 
70-73, 90, 113-114, 197-198, *99> 241- 
245, 243 , 280, 282, 300-301; of the 
Presidents, 199, 241-245, 243, 302 

Weightman, Roger, 98 

Welles, Gideon, 190 

West Point, 104, 173, 379 

Wheeler, William A., 212 

White, Mrs. Clement, 166 

White, Bishop William, 24 

White House. See Executive Mansion. 

Whitney, William C., 244 

Whittier, John Greenleaf, 220 

Wilhelmina, Queen of the Netherlands, 


Willard's Hotel, 140, 154, 161, 162, 163 
Willis, Nathaniel P., 96 
Wilson, Edith Gait, 303, 304 
Wilson, Eleanor, 298, 299, 301 
Wilson, Ellen Louisa Axson, 299, 300, 


Wilson, Jessie, 298, 300, 301 
Wilson, Joseph, 77 
Wilson, Rev. Joseph Ruggles, 298 
Wilson, Margaret, 298, 301, 304 
Wilson, Woodrow, XXVII; 23, 296, 303, 

309, 311, 340; second marriage of, 302; 

social policies of, 297, 302, 304; death 

of, 308 

Windsor, Duke of, 324 
wine. See alcoholic beverages. 
Wingate, Paine, 9 
Woman's Christian Temperance Union, 

136, 220, 225 

World War I, 304, 305, 306, 308 
World War II, 358, 379 

Yale University, 286 
York town, 73 
Young, John, 190 
Yu, Mme. Yang, 248 

Ziemann, Hugo, 258 

The Wlte House 

Admit at Snihwest Gate