White House Christmas tree

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The 2005 Blue Room Christmas Tree

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

History[edit]

President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy with the first themed Blue Room tree in 1961.
The 2002 Blue Room Christmas tree.

First tree[edit]

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

General[edit]

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

Years without a tree[edit]

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

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

Controversy[edit]

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

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

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

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

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

Tree[edit]

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

Description[edit]

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

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

List of White House Christmas trees (1961–2013)[edit]

Year Species and location grown Ornamentation notes First Lady Location Theme
2014 Michelle Obama Blue Room
2013 Douglass fir, Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania[33] Michelle Obama Blue Room Gather Around: Stories of the Season[34]
2012 Fraser fir, Jefferson, North Carolina[35] Tree dedicated to U.S. military members, veterans and their families. Ornaments were decorated by children living on U.S. military bases worldwide.[36] Michelle Obama Blue Room Joy to All[36]
2011 Balsam fir, Neshkoro, Wisconsin[37] Medals, badges, and patches from all of the military branches were displayed on ornaments.[38] Michelle Obama Blue Room[37] Shine, Give, Share[38]
2010 Douglas fir,[39] Lehighton, Pennsylvania[40] The Blue Room tree had a specific theme within the overall theme – "Gift of the American Spirit."[41] It honored state and county fairs and featured prize ribbons from each state and territory.[42] Michelle Obama Blue Room[39] "Simple Gifts"[42]
2009 Douglas fir, Shepherdstown, West Virginia[43] "We took about 800 ornaments left over from previous administrations, we sent them to 60 local community groups throughout the country, and asked them to decorate them to pay tribute to a favorite local landmark and then send them back to us for display here at the White House."[44] Michelle Obama Blue Room[43] Reflect, Rejoice, Renew[44]
2008 Fraser fir, Crumpler, North Carolina[45] Ornaments designed by artists from around the country selected by members of Congress. The ornaments had a patriotic theme.[45] Laura Bush Blue Room[45] A Red, White, and Blue Christmas[45]
2007 Fraser fir, Laurel Springs, North Carolina[46] Each ornament represented one of the 391 National Park Service sites.[24] Laura Bush Blue Room[24] Holiday in the National Parks[46]
2006 Douglas fir, Lehighton, Pennsylvania[47] Crystals and ornaments of iridescent glass[47] Laura Bush Blue Room[47] Deck the Halls and Welcome All[47]
2005 Fraser fir, Laurel Springs, North Carolina[48] White lilies, crystal spheres and light-catching garland[48] Laura Bush Blue Room[48] All Things Bright and Beautiful[48]
2004 Noble fir, Rochester, Washington[49] Musical instruments hand-painted by members of the Society of Decorative Painters.[49] Laura Bush Blue Room[24] A Season of Merriment and Melody[24]
2003 Fraser fir, Wisconsin[50] Ornaments first used by Barbara Bush in 1989.[50] Laura Bush Blue Room[50] A Season of Stories[50]
2002 Noble fir, Elma, Washington[51][52] An artist from each state designed an ornament based on a native bird.[51] Laura Bush Blue Room All Creatures Great and Small[51]
2001 White fir, Middleburg, Pennsylvania[53] An artist from each state designed miniature replicas of historic houses from their region.[53] Laura Bush Blue Room[53] Home for the Holidays
2000 Douglas fir, Auburn, Pennsylvania[30] Ornaments were from the First Lady's past.[54] Hillary Clinton Blue Room[54] Holiday Reflections[54]
1999 Noble fir, Elma, Washington[55] Doll makers fashioned toys of American historical figures for this tree.[54] Hillary Clinton Blue Room[55] Holiday Treasures at the White House[54]
1998 Balsam fir, Endeavor, Wisconsin[56] Knitting Guild of America and the Society of Decorative Painters worked together with fabric artists from each state on the ornaments.[54] Hillary Clinton Blue Room[57] Winter Wonderland[54]
1997 Fraser fir,[25] Grassy Creek, North Carolina[58] Members of the National Needlework Association and Council of Fashion Designers of America joined with glass artisans to design the trimmings.[54] Hillary Clinton Blue Room[59] Santa's Workshop[54]
1996 Colorado blue spruce, Coshocton, Ohio[60] Woodcraft artisans and professional ballet companies helped with the ornaments.[54] Hillary Clinton Blue Room[60] Nutcracker Suite[54]
1995 Fraser fir, North Carolina[18] Ornaments contributed by American architecture students and members of the American Institute of Architects.[54] Hillary Clinton Blue Room[61] A Visit From St. Nicholas[54]
1994 Blue spruce, Missouri[62] Ornaments contributed by American art students.[54] Hillary Clinton Blue Room[54] The Twelve Days of Christmas[54]
1993 Fraser fir, North Carolina[62] More than 1,000 artists contributed angel-themed ornaments.[63] Hillary Clinton Blue Room[63] Angels[63]
1992 Grand fir,[62] Oregon[64] White House florists made 88 gift-giving characters.[65] Barbara Bush Blue Room[64] Gift-givers[65]
1991 Noble fir, Salem, Oregon[66] Saintly Stitchers of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston created a needlepoint village and 92 pieces for a White House staff built Noah's Ark.[65] Barbara Bush Blue Room[66] Needle work tree[65]
1990 Fraser fir, North Carolina[62] Used miniature porcelain dancers.[65] Barbara Bush Blue Room[24] Nutcracker Suite[65]
1989 Fraser fir, Pennsylvania[62] White House staff created 80 soft-sculpture literary characters.[65] Barbara Bush Blue Room[65] Family literacy[65]
1988 Balsam fir, Montello, Wisconsin[67] Reused hand-blown glass ornaments from the Eisenhower administration, and reused Nixon's state flower balls. White House carpenters made 300 wood candles.[68] Nancy Reagan Blue Room[67] Old-fashioned tree[68]
1987 Fraser fir, West Virginia[62] Miniature instruments, notes and sheet music made by patients at Second Genesis, drug-treatment program.[68] Nancy Reagan Blue Room[69] Musical theme[68]
1986 Fraser fir, Washington[62] 15 soft-sculpture nursery rhyme scenes and 100 geese made by patients at Second Genesis, drug-treatment program.[68] Nancy Reagan Blue Room[70] Mother Goose theme[68]
1985 Blue spruce, Michigan[62] 1,500 Ornaments made by patients at Second Genesis, drug-treatment program.[68] Nancy Reagan Blue Room[71] Ornaments made from Christmas cards sent to the Reagans in 1984.[68]
1984 Fraser fir, North Carolina[62] Ornaments made by patients at Second Genesis, drug-treatment program.[68] Nancy Reagan Blue Room[72] Ornaments made from plant material and other handcrafted natural ornaments.[68]
1983 Noble fir, Orting, Washington[73] Reused 1982 ornaments and added old-fashioned toys lent by Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum.[68] Nancy Reagan Blue Room[73] Old-Fashioned toys.[68]
1982 Fraser fir, North Carolina[62] Ornaments made by patients at Second Genesis, drug-treatment program.[68] Nancy Reagan Blue Room[74] Foil paper cones and metallic snowflakes[68]
1981 Douglas fir,[75] Pennsylvania[62] Nancy Reagan's first tree did not involve Second Genesis. The ornaments were loaned by the Museum of American Folk Art.[68] Nancy Reagan Blue Room[68] Ornaments from the Museum of American Folk Art.[68]
1980 Douglas fir, Bristol, Indiana[76] Dolls, hats, fans, tapestries and laces.[77] Rosalynn Carter Blue Room[78] Victorian theme[77]
1979 Douglas fir, West Virginia[79] Corcoran School of Art created ornaments from balsa wood, fabric and dried flowers.[77] Rosalynn Carter American folk art of the colonial period[77]
1978 Veitch fir, New York[62] Victorian dolls and miniature furniture lent by the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum.[77] Rosalynn Carter Blue Room[80] Antique toys[77]
1977 Noble fir, Washington[62] National Association for Retarded Citizens made eggshell ornaments.[77] Rosalynn Carter Blue Room[77] Painted milkweed pods, nut pods, foil and eggshell ornaments.[77]
1976 Balsam fir, Wisconsin[62] Natural ornaments made by the Garden Club of America.[81] Betty Ford Blue Room[81] "Love that is the spirit of Christmas"
1975 Douglas fir, New York[82] Used ornaments from 1974 plus experts from Colonial Williamsburg made ornaments from paper snowflakes, acorns, dried fruits, pinecones, vegetables, straw, cookies and yarn.[81] Betty Ford Blue Room[24] Old-fashioned children's Christmas[81]
1974 Concolor fir, Michigan[62] Ornaments made by Appalachian women and senior citizens groups.[81] Betty Ford Blue Room[81] Handmade crafts, thrift and recycling[81]
1973 Fraser fir, North Carolina[62] In honor of James Madison[83] Pat Nixon Gold theme[83]
1972 Noble fir, Washington[62] Reused 1969 ornaments, added 3,000 pastel satin finish balls, and 150 gold federal stars.[83] Pat Nixon Still Life with Fruit and Nature’s Bounty, paintings by Severin Roesen[83]
1971 Fraser fir, North Carolina[62] Reused 1969 ornaments, added Monroe fans, and gold foil angels.[83] Pat Nixon American Flower Tree[83]
1970 White spruce, Wisconsin[62] Reused 1969 ornaments, added 53 Monroe fans.[83] Pat Nixon Blue Room[83] American Flower Tree[83]
1969 Blue spruce, Ohio[62] Disabled workers from Florida made velvet and satin balls featuring each state's state flower.[83] Pat Nixon North Entrance[24] American Flower Tree[83]
1968 White pine, Indianapolis[84] 19th century American style with gingerbread cookies.[85] Claudia 'Lady Bird' Johnson Blue Room[85] 19th century gingerbread tree[85]
1967 Blue spruce, Ohio[62] Same as 1965–66 but with silver baubles, silver stars, and round mirrors added.[86] Claudia 'Lady Bird' Johnson Blue Room[86] Early American[86]
1966 Balsam fir, Wisconsin[62] Traditional ornaments: nuts, fruit, popcorn, dried seedpods, gingerbread cookies and wood roses from Hawaii.[86] Claudia 'Lady Bird' Johnson Blue Room[86] Early American[86]
1965 Traditional ornaments: nuts, fruit, popcorn, dried seedpods, gingerbread cookies and wood roses from Hawaii.[86] Claudia 'Lady Bird' Johnson Blue Room[86] Early American[86]
1964 Balsam fir[87] Claudia 'Lady Bird' Johnson Blue Room[88]
1963 Claudia 'Lady Bird' Johnson
1962 Reused ornaments from 1961 plus other ornaments made by disabled and senior citizens.[9] Jacqueline Kennedy[9] North Entrance[9] Childhood[9]
1961 Balsam fir[85] Toys, birds, and angels modeled after Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite ballet.[9] Jacqueline Kennedy[9] Blue Room[9] Nutcracker Suite[9]

List of other known White House Christmas trees[edit]

Year Species and location grown General notes First Lady Location Theme (if any)
1960 "Presents were piled high under the magnificent tree and stretched for yards into the East Room."[89] Mamie Eisenhower East Room[89]
1959 Of the 26 trees there were trees in the laundry room, the maid's sitting room and David Eisenhower had his own private tree in the children's quarters.[85] Mamie Eisenhower 26 trees throughout the White House[85]
1958 ". . . decorated with electric candle lights, glass balls and large amounts of tinsel."[90] Mamie Eisenhower 27 trees throughout the White House[90]
1954 Silver tinsel, Eisenhower grandchildren opened presents under this tree.[91] Mamie Eisenhower East Room[91]
1947 Bess Truman East Room[92]
1944 Elliot Roosevelt: ". . . the Christmas tree was in place and decorated, the piles of presents were ready for the unwrapping – each person's pile heaped on a separate chair."[1] Eleanor Roosevelt Family quarters[1]
1937 ". . . gleamed with snow and silver trimming."[93] Eleanor Roosevelt East Room[93]
1936 Eleanor Roosevelt East Room[94]
1934 Multiple trees were installed in the White House, some for public viewing and others for private enjoyment of the Roosevelts.[93] A large tree was installed in the White House East Room.[95] Eleanor Roosevelt East Room[95]
1929 First "official" White House tree.[6] Lou Henry Hoover
1926 Mrs. Coolidge chose to display three Christmas trees at the White House.[96] Grace Coolidge
1923 Norway spruce[97] White House had two Christmas trees.[97] Grace Coolidge Blue Room, and family quarters[97]
1917[98] Edith Bolling Galt Wilson
1916 Edith Bolling Galt Wilson Library[99] The tree was for Wilson's great niece Josephine Cothran.[100]
1915 Laden with gifts from members of the family and household.[101] Edith Bolling Galt Wilson Library
1914 none White House library[102]
1912 Helen Taft Blue Room[103]
1908 The first time there was a tree in the Roosevelt White House that was not attributed to young Archie Roosevelt.[104] Edith Roosevelt
1905 Tree decorated and set up by Archie Roosevelt, as the only member of the family who had "a fondness" for Christmas trees he distributed the presents "through this medium".[105] Edith Roosevelt
1903 Tree decorated solely by young Archie Roosevelt.[106] Edith Roosevelt Living Room (The President's Den)[106][107] (then Archie Roosevelt's bedroom)[106][107]
1896 Decorated with red, white and blue electric lights.[108] The decorating was supervised by Mrs. Cleveland and included tinsel ornaments and toys.[16] Frances Cleveland Library[108]
1895 Cedar[109] Tree featured electric lights.[7] Frances Cleveland Library[109]
1894 "Beautifully trimmed and decorated".[110] Decorated with "tiny parti-colored electric lamps instead of the old-time wax candles."[111] Frances Cleveland Library[110]
1893 Frances Cleveland Library[16]
1891 Caroline Harrison Library[112]
1890 At least one tree was displayed "for the little ones".[113] Caroline Harrison
1889 Foxtail hemlock[114] Glass balls and pendants, gold tinsel.[114] Four-sided-lanterns[114] used candles used for lighting.[6] Credited as the first White House Christmas tree though the claim is disputed (see above). Caroline Harrison Yellow Oval Room[6]
1853[1] or 1856[4] Decorated for a group of Washington, D.C. school children.[115] Credited as the first White House Christmas tree though the claim is disputed (see above). Jane Pierce

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]