Thursday, December 15, 2011

Collecting White House Christmas Ornaments

We started collecting the White House Christmas ornaments a number of years ago, and have all of them except the first two - 1981 and 1982. We found many of the older ones shopping online. This year we are displaying them in the foyer on this "wall Christmas Tree".

The 2011 White House Christmas ornament honors the administration of Theodore Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth president of the United States. This year's ornament reflects the excitement that President Roosevelt, his wife Edith, and their lively young family brought to life at the White House. The front face of the ornament is a color illustration derived from a political cartoon drawn by William A. Rogers in 1901. Capturing the anticipation associated with the family's first White House Christmas, a jolly Santa Claus crosses the snow covered North Lawn carrying a large bag of toys over his shoulder and announces, "I hear that there are some kids in the White House this year."

I wanted to write a blog about the history of the White House Ornaments, but in doing my research found this fabulous article by John Atchison which I am sharing here:
The History of White House Christmas Ornaments
by John Atchison
Created on: November 12, 2010
"To many, Christmas trees and the way that you decorate them makes a statement.  Some go for tons of lights and tinsel, while others are more traditional in nature.  In that traditional framework some also like to incorporate different themes from year to year, hoping to build a rich lore for their families to continue for years into the future.  Are you one of these types?  If you are, there is an ornament collection that you just might be interested in.   The collection comes from the White House and it is rich in history and fabulous to look at.

The collection began in 1981 when The White House Historical Association began selling ornaments to the public, with one ornament created each year.  In the one that started the tradition, an ornament was crafted that was a replica of a famous weathervane angel from back in Massachusetts lore.  This decoration actually hung on a Christmas Tree in the White House Blue Room that year and thus began this unique collection that goes through today.
The following year also went the historic weathervane route, this time recreating the Dove of Peace weathervane that had been present for many years at Mount Vernon, home of the 1st President of the United States, George Washington.  This would be the last White House ornament that would be based on an historic weathervane, but gave hints as to what the continuous theme from then on would be.  Due to the fact that 1982 was the 250th birthday of George Washington, the ornament was crafted from something to do with him.  After this point though, the ornaments would be based on scenes, themes, or memories of different administrations.

1983 became the first ornament that featured the actual White House building's North Facade, this time reflecting its look during the Presidency of John Adams.  It was to symbolize that Adams was the first President to actually live in the White House.  1984 would bring Thomas Jefferson into the fold, with a very unique looking reproduction of the Peace Medal which bears his name.  It is stunning in gold and rich in detail.  1985 ushered in the second consecutive ornament that had the likeness of a President on it, but this time also included a First Lady.  President James Madison and his wife Dolly appear, held up by an American Eagle.  Visually stunning to say the least.
1986 would return to a reproduction of the White House,this time from how it looked during the Presidency of James Monroe.  This one introduced for the first time color other than gold plate, putting white on the facade of the White House.  John Quincy Adams was the feature for 1987, with it portraying the double Mahogany front doors of the White House adorned with wreaths and poinsettias just like olden times.  Red and green make their first appearance on an ornament. 1988 was a scene from a Christmas celebration of President Jackson in the East room picturing children around a Christmas Tree.

The year 1989 took an important symbol and made it the ornament, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Presidential Seal.  This version was the one approved of 200 years ago during the Hayes Administration.  1990 featured the first room of the White House in detail, showing us the Blue Room as it was in the time of President Martin Van Buren.  The color blue appears for the first time on one of these White House gems.  1991 shows William Henry Harrison in all of his glory aboard his white charger horse in full military uniform.  1992 was the 200th anniversary of the White House itself and showed a photo like production of the White House back in Colonial times.   1993 featured the first ornament with just a First Lady appearing, this time the second wife of President John Tyler.  The picture again looks like a photo recreation of some sort.

1994 - James Polk and wife being serenaded by Marine Band
1995 - Zachary Taylor remembered with a Flag and Eagle symbol featured in his White House
1996 - Millard Fillmore and the Presidential Seal that he commissioned during his Presidency
1997 - Photo of Franklin Pierce's White House improvements in artist recreation form
1998 - James Buchanan and his Republican Court - featuring flowers by Harriet Lane
1999 - Abe Lincoln recreated from a portrait done of him while in Office
2000 - 200th Anniversary of President in the White House - ornament made from same stone that Washington had used to build the White House
2001 - Presidential carriage in the times of Andrew Johnson
2002 - - East Room in the time of Teddy Roosevelt
2003 - Ulysses S. Grant's son riding a rocking horse on the ornament
2004 - Horse drawn carriage of Rutherford B. Hayes and wife on a snowy night
2005 - South Front of the White House during the time of President James Garfield
2006 - Chester A. Arthur's Tiffany White House  available at
2007 - Marriage of President Cleveland in White House during first Administration is recreated
2008 - Christmas Tree from Benjamin Harrison Era
2009 - Unique location of Grover Cleveland's Christmas Tree in the White House all lit up
2010 - Army - Navy Band Musical reception during William McKinley's Administration

The bottom line here is this.  What better way to put together a Christmas tree decorated in true magnificence that looks stunningly elegant, and features scenes and pieces of the rich history of the Nation's most important house and office?  Whether you collect them for yourself, give them away to friends, or want to teach you children something of American culture, this is a collection we should all have.  The best thing about it is in most cases you can still get these treasures.  Go to the website listed below, click on ornaments, and read the stories.  You can also purchase this year's ornament and ones from other years as well.  Make this part of your Christmas tradition."

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