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.
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.