Rebecca (raccoon)

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Grace Coolidge and Rebecca.jpg
First Lady Grace holding Rebecca
DiedWashington D.C.
OwnerCalvin Coolidge
Grace Coolidge
ResidenceWhite House

Rebecca was a raccoon kept as a pet by US president Calvin Coolidge and First Lady Grace Coolidge.

Rebecca came from Mississippi.[1] She had been sent to the White House to be served for the 1926 Thanksgiving dinner. Since the 1913 death of Horace Vose, the traditional provider of the White House Thanksgiving turkey, numerous farmers had been angling to provide the President's Thanksgiving meal, and despite Coolidge's requests to stop the practice in 1923, the unsolicited gifts continued and became increasingly unusual, with the live raccoon being the furthest out of the ordinary fare. Coolidge, who had never eaten raccoon and had no appetite to try it, kept Rebecca as a pet instead.[2]

For Christmas, an embroidered collar was made for Rebecca, inscribed with the title "White House Raccoon". She enjoyed participating in the annual White House Easter egg roll.[3] She was fed shrimp and persimmons, and eggs were a favorite.[4] Rebecca was let loose in the White House and walked on a leash outdoors. At times, she could be mischievous, and was known to unscrew lightbulbs, open cabinets and unpot houseplants.[5]

As First Lady Grace wrote:[4]

We had a house made for her in one of the large trees, with a wire fence built around it for protection. We kept her chained when out of doors, but in the house she had her liberty. She was a mischievous, inquisitive party and we had to keep watch of her when she was in the house. She enjoyed nothing better than being placed in a bathtub with a little water in it and given a cake of soap with which to play. In this fashion she would amuse herself for an hour or more.

In March 1927, during a White House renovation, Coolidge brought Rebecca to his temporary quarters in a Dupont Circle mansion.[6] When the Coolidges took a vacation in the Black Hills, they brought Rebecca along in a basket, together with two of their dogs,[7] Rob Roy and Prudence Prim as well as five canaries on the 1,800-mile railroad journey.[3][6] In preparation for leaving the White House at the end of the president's term in 1929, the Coolidges donated Rebecca to the zoological quarters in Rock Creek Park (now the National Zoo) in Washington, DC.[3][8] However, Rebecca "failed to adapt to zoo life and died shortly thereafter".[9]

Other animals[edit]

As a companion for Rebecca, Reuben, a male raccoon, was acquired by a White House police officer. Reuben frequently escaped, being recovered by White House staff;[3] however, he ultimately disappeared without a trace.[3][4] Grace Coolidge wrote about the incident:[10]

Rebecca had lived alone and had her own way so long that I fear she was a little overbearing and dictatorial, perhaps reminding her spouse that he was living on her bounty. [Afterward, Rebecca] continued to live in single blessedness.

Herbert Hoover was next to occupy the White House; soon thereafter, a wild opossum moved into Rebecca's vacant tree-house and was adopted by the Hoovers and named Billy Possum.[3][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pietrusza, David (2008), Silent Cal's Almanack: The Homespun Wit and Wisdom of Vermont's Calvin Coolidge, p. 195
  2. ^ Giambrone, Jennifer (November 19, 2015). "White House Thanksgiving Turkeys in the Roaring '20s". White House Historical Association. Retrieved November 18, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Costello, Matthew (June 8, 2018). "Raccoons at the White House". The White House Historical Association. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Pietrusza, David. ""Wombats and Such": Calvin and Grace Coolidge and Their Pets". Archived from the original on 3 February 2018. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  5. ^ Truman, Margaret (2007), The President's House: 1800 to the Present, Random House, p. 150, ISBN 9780307417312
  6. ^ a b Klein, Christopher (November 18, 2016). "The Thanksgiving Raccoon That Became a Presidential Pet". HISTORY. Retrieved 2020-11-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ Tupper, Seth (2017), Calvin Coolidge in the Black Hills, Arcadia Publishing, p. 37, ISBN 9781625857668
  8. ^ Otfinoski, Steven (2010), Raccoons, Animals Animals, Marshall Cavendish, p. 34, ISBN 9780761448419
  9. ^ Daley, Jason (November 27, 2019). "Raccoon Was Once a Thanksgiving Feast Fit for a President". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2020-11-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ McGraw, Eliza (November 25, 2019). "This raccoon could have been a president's Thanksgiving meal. It became a White House pet instead". Washington Post. Retrieved 25 November 2022.
  11. ^ Dessem, Matthew (2021-01-31). "The Best (and Worst) Presidential Pets in American History, Ranked". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2021-01-31.