While I was looking for pictures of the 2010 White House Christmas tree at Google images, I was bombarded by White House Christmas trees from years past, and that gave me the idea to do a photo essay of White House Christmas trees.
Franklin Pierce was the first President to have a White House Christmas tree.
Pierce’s 1856 Christmas tree in the White House was put up for the enjoyment of the Sunday School students from the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington.
The first Christmas tree put up for the joy of a president’s immediate family was in 1889 during the administration of Benjamin Harrison.
The earliest White House Christmas tree I was able to find a picture of was the Cleveland family’s Christmas tree:
Cleveland family Christmas tree in the family room and library (today the Yellow Oval Room), ca. 1895.
Beginning with the Harrisons, it became customary to have a Christmas tree in the White House. However, the tradition did not sit well with ardent conservationist Theodore Roosevelt, who was president from September 1901 to March 1909. He thought that the cutting down of trees for use at Christmas led to deforestation.
Though Roosevelt forbade Christmas trees in the White House, one Christmas two of his sons secretly brought in a tree and hid it in a closet. Division of Forestry chief Gifford Pinchot, a dedicated conservationist and Roosevelt confidant, defended the cutting down of trees for Christmas. Pinchot argued that doing so helped thin the forests. Roosevelt was not won over.
After that first Christmas tree made its way into the Roosevelt White House, the president let his son Archie put up a holiday tree annually in his room. However, the White House tried to keep this fact from appearing in the newspapers.
Not surprisingly, I could find no pictures of the Roosevelt’s Christmas trees.
The New York Times reported on Christmas day, 1912: XMAS TREE IN BLUE ROOM.; Miss Helen Taft’s Guvenile Party an Innovation in White House.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 25. — With the President and Mrs. Taft at Panama, their son and daughter established a new precedent at the White House in the way of a Christmas party to-night. A large and gracefully proportioned fir tree had been put in place in the Blue Room, which in all White House History has never before known a decoration of this kind.
I would never have guessed that the abbreviation, “XMAS” was in use back in the early 1900’s. And I love the quaint spelling of, “juvenile”.
On Christmas Eve in 1923, Calvin and Grace Coolidge lit the tree, a 48-foot balsam from Vermont, during a 5 p.m. ceremony.
Hoovers in front of the National Community Christmas tree, 1931
The Roosevelt’s Christmas tree 1942.
Truman Christmas Tree 1947
The silver-tinseled 1954 Eisenhower Tree
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy introduced the tradition of Christmas Tree themes in 1961 with a “Nutcracker Suite” theme.
The 1966 Johnson tree was based on an early American theme featuring nuts, popcorn, fruit, wood roses from Hawaii, a paper maché angel and gingerbread cookies.
The 1969 Nixon tree featured velvet and satin balls representing each of the 50 states made by disabled workers in Florida.
The 1974 Ford tree featured homemade items that emphasized thrift and recycling. Trimmings included patchwork and handmade ornaments.
The 1977 Carter tree featured trimming made by disabled men and women of the National Association of Retarded Citizens. The ornaments were made from nut pods, eggshells, foil, and painted milkweed pots.
The Reagans’ Blue Room Tree, 1981
The Reagan Family Christmas portrait by the White House residence Christmas tree: (from left to right) Patti Davis, Paul Grilley, Nancy Reagan, President Reagan, Doria Reagan, Ron Reagan. 12/25/83.
The 1984 White House Christmas Tree Lighting:
The 1986 Reagan tree featured decorations based on the theme, Mother Goose Christmas. The trimmings included wooden gingerbread cookie ornaments, state balls,
The 1991 Bush tree featured needlepoint tree ornaments, red glass balls, a turn-of-the-century needlepoint village and needlepoint figurines from Noah’s Ark.
President and Mrs. Bush in front of the 1992 White House Christmas tree.
The Clinton era trees:
1993 Blue Room Christmas tree
The Clintons’ Blue Room Tree, 1995
The 1998 Clinton tree was based on the theme “A Winter Wonderland.” The tree featured fabric snowmen ornaments, knitted mittens and hats, and painted wooden ornaments.
The Bush era:
The President and Mrs. Bush stand next to the 2001 tree, an 18-foot Concolor fir that was grown in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania. For ornaments, artists from all 50 states and the District of Columbia designed miniature replicas of historic houses from their regions.
President George W. Bush and Laura Bush stand before the Blue Room Christmas Tree Sunday, December 8, 2002 prior to hosting a reception for the Kennedy Center Honorees. Mrs. Bush is wearing a floor length gown designed by Arnold Scaasi. White House photo by Eric Draper.
The President and First Lady In front of the White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room, December 7, 2003.
U.S. President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush stand in front of the official White House Christmas Tree during the 2004 holiday season in the Blue Room of the White House December 5, 2004 in Washington, DC.
Celebrating the 2007 holiday season, President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush pose in front of the Christmas Tree in the Blue Room of the White House
President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush pose for their 2008 holiday portrait Sunday, Dec. 7, 2008, in the Blue Room of the White House.
The Obama’s 2009 Christmas tree featured hand-made paper mache ornaments which included images of transvestite Hedda Lettuce, and Chairman Mao.
The Obama’s 2010 Christmas tree.
The Obama’s 2011 Christmas tree via The Daily Mail: A White House Christmas: Michelle unveils holiday decorations to military families as Obamas celebrate the season with 37 Christmas trees, a 400lb gingerbread house and a replica of family dog Bo in almost EVERY room:
First dog Bo is upstaging the Christmas decorations at the White House this holiday season.
The Obamas’ Portuguese water dog is in almost every room of the ground and State floors, ranging from a miniature licorice and marshmallow version to a felt design four-and-a-half feet tall.
2011: The Blue Room Christmas Tree, seen from the Cross Hall of the White House (left), features cards written by children of U.S. military members and medals, badges and patches from all branches of the U.S. military
The History of Christmas at the White House (1901-1953)
Oprah: White House Christmas Trees
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
Nice Deb: The Obamas’ Hacky-Tacky White House Christmas Tree
The White House Historical Association
The White House (GW Bush): White House Christmas Trees
Linked by Pirate’s Cove, thanks!