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White House

HISTORY

The Kennedy WhITe hOUSe:

Part Two LeGACy

Journal of the White house historical Association number 14

White House

HISTORY A journal published by the White House Historical Association Washington

This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

White House

HISTORY White House Historical Association Washington Number fourteeN • Winter 2004

2

foreword

William Seale

4

Circa 1961: the Kennedy White House Interiors

Elaine Rice Bachmann

22

the Historic Guide to America’s House

William Seale

36

major Publications of the White House Historical Association

39

A New Look at the John f. Kennedys and the Arts

Elise K. Kirk

52

A Small Slice of Kennedy Decor: the Queens’ Sitting room

William G. Allman

58

About the Authors

This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association. To obtain printed copies please see White House History: Collection Set 3

Foreword This is the second of our two issues on the Kennedy administration and the White House. It is of special interest to the White House Historical Association, which was founded at that time, as part of the overall historical program introduced to the White House by the first lady. The articles here presented continue the theme of innovation and feature for the most part traditions already in place at the White House that were dusted off and improved during the Kennedy administration. It was not only that “the Kennedys”—as the administration is universally remembered—took so strong a personal interest in music and décor; they realized the value of such items as soft news that, broadcast through the press, provided human interest for the public and drew attention not only to the White House but to the affairs of the day. So much of what they did to the house seemed to respond to a question down inside every one of us: “What would I do if I lived there?” It was fascinating to see how the Kennedys answered that question on their terms. The White House seems more magical than it is, but it is that appearance of magic, that wondrous mystique, that covers up the reality of hard work and tension that naturally go along with living and working there every day. About the only relaxation from the urgency is the short time on Inauguration Day between the departure of the outgoing president and the return of the new president from the Capitol. Only a matter of a few hours, it is the only lazy time the White House ever has. Even the clocks seem to tick sleepily, as the staff, as busy as ever though not as emotionally pressed, prepares for the new players in what Abraham Lincoln called “this big white house.” Presidents cultivate the special qualities of the White House as one means of reaching the public. The Kennedy administration did this with a flair and made it news, at time when in its newness, the vast sweep of press coverage carried the story worldwide. It was in the context of this general awareness that the White House became the foremost symbol of the American presidency.

Donald J. Crump’s photo of the White House across the South Lawn, showing Andrew Jackson’s magnolias to the left of the South Portico and Harry S. Truman’s to the right. Crump who died this past winter, was with White House History from the first, always ready with his photographic skill and editorial advise. PhotograPh by DoNaLD J. CrumP For the white house historiCaL assoCiatioN

William Seale editor, White House History This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

Circa 1961: the Kennedy White House Interiors rI Ce

do with the brevity of their days as president and first lady and the tragic circumstances that ended the Kennedy administration. Just as surely, the enormous popular appeal of this young couple, who personified the glamour and sophistication of 1960s high society, left much of the nation star struck: Hollywood could hardly have cast a better pair for the roles of host and hostess of America’s New frontier. but while these elements account for the Kennedys’ permanent status as international style icons, it is the substance of their style that marks their true contribution to the history of the White House. the Kennedys’ personal interest in making their home a showcase of art and culture ultimately reached beyond the walls of the White House to affect the American people’s sense of their own history. Coinciding with the burgeoning industry of printed media

Opposite: Robert Frost and President Kennedy at the White House on the day of Kennedy’s inauguration. Frost had delivered his poem, “A Gift Outright,” at the ceremony, January 20, 1961. Right: Interior decorator “Sister” Parish (Mrs. Henry Parish II) who had designed rooms for the Kennedys before they moved into the White House, was brought in to advise on the family quarters. This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

oPPosite: Library oF CoNgress

he word “style” has become so ubiquitous in descriptions of the Kennedy White House that a future scholar could be led to believe that all earlier residents of the famous house lived within its walls uninspired. While there may be some truth to this conclusion in a very few cases, evidence of the undeniably stylish interiors of such presidents as Chester Arthur, benjamin Harrison, and theodore roosevelt is well documented.1 Later 20th-century presidents, including richard Nixon, ronald reagan, and bill Clinton also left their own decorative arts impressions on the White House, some even surpassing the Kennedys in the acquisition of period furnishings and efforts to re-create the historically accurate.2 And while the Kennedys, and particularly Jacqueline Kennedy, are often credited with restoring history and beauty to the White House through a program of “restoration” rather than “redecoration,” their efforts were not unique, as the earlier work of Grace Coolidge and Lou Hoover would attest.3 Why then, 40 years after their fabled “thousand days” in the White House, do John and Jacqueline Kennedy remain firmly fixed in the national consciousness as the arbiters of good taste in the White House and the most prominent champions of its role as the premier historic house in the nation? Certainly the reason has much to

bA CH m A N N

LeFt: Courtesy susaN bartLett Crater

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eLA IN e

oPPosite: Parish-haDLey assoCiates, iNC. PaPers, JohN F. KeNNeDy Library LeFt: JohN F. KeNNeDy Library

and television, and preceding the age of tabloid journalism, the Kennedys’ residence in the White House occupies a unique period in history, a period ideally suited to broadcast their ideas to the nation and seal John and Jacqueline Kennedy’s place among the most stylish residents of the White House. If, as White House historian William Seale states, it was theodore roosevelt’s job to convey to the American people the meaning of his new presidency in the renovation of 1902,4 then it was John f. Kennedy’s job to do the same in 1961. the youngest president in history when elected, and the first roman Catholic, coming on the heels of the hero-general and elder statesman Dwight D. eisenhower, Kennedy looked to establish himself on the national stage as more than the scion of a privileged east Coast family. His youthful, energetic image, honed by

Above: The Yellow Oval Room looking toward President Kennedy’s bedroom. Some of Mrs. Kennedy’s personal items included in the redecoration are the large fur over the sofa and the pair of French consoles. Opposite: Decorator’s “story board” with fabric and trim samples for the Yellow Oval Room, 1962.

years of carefully orchestrated media attention, helped get him elected. In a time when his Irish immigrant roots still labeled him a foreigner to some, Kennedy emphasized his potential to motivate young Americans, whatever their race or ethnicity, in shaping the future of the country. National events and international crises would define his political role on the world’s stage, while at home a domestic agenda focused on cultivating the arts shaped his image

6 WHIte HouSe HIStorY 14) History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. This ebook was originally published as (Number White House No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

aP/wiDe worLD Photos JohN F. KeNNeDy Library

as an advocate for all that was “the best and brightest” in American culture. the White House became an extension of that agenda. Like theodore roosevelt, John Kennedy sought to create a backdrop for his presidency rooted in the great history of the building and its inhabitants—and in doing so legitimized his place as a rightful successor to that legacy. Kennedy’s inauguration in January 1961 lit a spark of enthusiasm among the many artists and writers who were invited to attend. the inclusion of eminent American poet robert frost among the speakers that day was heralded as the first artistic achievement of the Kennedy administration and a sign that the arts would play a prominent role.5 fortunately, for those hopeful for government advocacy of the arts, at the president’s side was a first lady whose cultured tastes and interest in history equaled and, by most accounts, surpassed his own. Jacqueline bouvier Kennedy, at 31 one of the youngest first ladies in history, had strong interest in and knowledge of art and literature. Her education in fine art and literature complemented the president’s deep interest in history and biography. Longtime friend William Walton described the Kennedys’ mutual interest in the arts saying, “It is woven into the pattern of their lives.”6 It is no surprise, then, that advocacy of the arts became a priority during their time in Washington. but while previous first ladies chose to pursue their interests quietly, in the shadow of their husband’s work, Jacqueline Kennedy quickly emerged on the national scene as a leader in her own right. by choosing to focus her attention on the home, she managed to stay within the traditional confines for women of the period. However, her efforts to dramatically enrich the image of the White House mark a serious attempt by a first lady to establish her own national agenda. In her prize-winning essay for Vogue’s “Prix de Paris,” written at the age of 21, Jacqueline bouvier imagined herself an “over-all Art Director of the twentieth Century.”7 the prescience of her words is remarkable given the influence she ultimately had on fashion, interior decoration, and architectural preservation from the early 1960s until her death in 1994. A disappointing visit to the executive mansion when she was 11 left a deep impression, one she immediately acted upon when she knew she was to become first lady. recalling that visit, she told journalist Hugh Sidey, “from the outside I remember the feeling of the place. but inside, all I remember is shuffling through. there wasn’t even a booklet you could buy.

8 WHIte HouSe HIStorY 14) History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. This ebook was originally published as (Number White House No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

Top opposite: Henry Francis du Pont, right, receives the

Right: Fabric samples for the Red Room.

Overleaf: Perhaps the most striking of all the Kennedy transformations was the Red Room. The design motif was inspired by American cabinetmaking of the 1820s.

This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004Circa by the 1961: White House Historical White Association. All rights reserved. the Kennedy House Interiors 9 No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

LeFt: Parish-haDLey assoCiates, iNC. PaPers, JohN F. KeNNeDy Library

Below opposite: The French interior decorator, StĂŠphane Boudin, photographed by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in late 1961. He is shown in the Treaty Room as it was being decorated under his direction.

overLeaF: JohN F. KeNNeDy Library

first Thomas Jefferson Award from Arturo Pini di san Miniato, president of the National Society of Interior Designers. Du Pont was honored for his work as chairman of the White House Decoration Committee, to which First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy appointed him.

oPPosite: Parish-haDLey assoCiates, iNC. PaPers, JohN F. KeNNeDy Library right: JohN F. KeNNeDy Library

Above: Mrs. Kennedy’s bedroom, designed by Sister Parish and Jacqueline Kennedy. Opposite: Fabric samples for Mrs. Kennedy’s bedroom.

mount Vernon and the National Gallery and the fbI made a far greater impression.”8 She experienced this same feeling of disappointment after touring her new home with mamie eisenhower in December 1960. Accustomed to living in houses furnished with fine antiques and in interiors that reflected the social position of her family, mrs. Kennedy was shocked to realize that the president of the united States was expected to live and entertain in rooms that she felt resembled a second-rate hotel. by then Jacqueline Kennedy was already planning the conversion of the family quarters into a suitable living space for her and the president and their two young children, having secured the services of society decorator mrs. Henry Parish II. A doyenne of domestic interiors, “Sister” Parish was yet to achieve her ultimate fame as the senior partner in Parish

Circa 1961: Kennedy White HouseAllInteriors 13 This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the Whitethe House Historical Association. rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

oPPosite: Parish-haDLey assoCiates, iNC. PaPers, JohN F. KeNNeDy Library right: robert KNuDseN, JohN F. KeNNeDy Library

Above: Caroline Kennedy’s bedroom as decorated by Sister Parish, May 8, 1962. Opposite: Fabric samples for Caroline Kennedy’s and John Kennedy Jr.’s rooms.

Hadley, and mentor to a generation of decorators, when she conspired with Jacqueline Kennedy to transform the private rooms of the White House into a home suitable for a young family. Within two weeks of moving into the White House, the Kennedys had spent the entire $50,000 appropriation for improvements on the private quarters alone, which included the creation of a kitchen and private dining room for the family. Sister Parish’s characteristic chintz-laden, casually elegant style defined the family rooms, which in some part were re-creations of the interiors of the Kennedys’ Georgetown townhouse. Parish’s ambition to be a part of the more historically guided work in the Kennedy White House is evidenced by her role in the transformation of the Yellow oval room, a family living room in the private quarters. this room, where President and mrs. eisenhower had placed companion television sets, became a Louis XVI-style semiformal

Circa 1961: Kennedy White HouseAllInteriors 15 This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the Whitethe House Historical Association. rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

parlor where President Kennedy chose to greet foreign dignitaries and hold private meetings. the extensive refurbishment was sponsored in large part by donors to the restoration project willing to furnish nonpublic rooms. In so doing, the Kennedys paved the way for soliciting private funds to redecorate the family areas of the White House.9 furthermore, Jacqueline Kennedy’s choice of a leading society decorator set a precedent followed in later years by Nancy reagan and barbara bush, who hired, respectively, Hollywood’s ted Graber and mark Hampton of New York to decorate their family’s private rooms. Satisfied that her family would have suitable accommodations, Jacqueline Kennedy expanded her redecorating plans to include the State rooms of the White House as well. even before moving in, she began educating herself about the history of the White House and its furnishings, requesting that relevant material from the Library of Congress be sent to her in Palm beach, where she was recuperating from her son John’s birth prior to the inauguration. Not satisfied merely to replace curtains and carpets, as might be expected of any new president’s wife, Jacqueline Kennedy was determined to obliterate the institutional aesthetic that pervaded the White House and make it instead a home reflecting the lives of those who had lived there and the historic events that had taken place within its walls. Instead of department store reproductions, she envisioned museum-quality furniture from the period of the earliest occupancy of the White House. Dismayed by the prevalence of 1950s-era carpeting and curtains, she envisioned grandly designed window treatments and rugs based on historic documents. And where there was little to show visitors that evoked the great story of America and its people, Jacqueline Kennedy envisioned a White House that was a showcase for the finest examples of American art and culture—a residence befitting the nation’s highest elected official, with an American stateliness and grandeur to match in power the palaces of europe. Jacqueline Kennedy made the unprecedented move of leaking her plans to the press even before her husband was inaugurated.10 Not intimidated by warnings that the public would not approve of the first lady making changes to the White House, Jacqueline Kennedy trusted her instincts that if done correctly, a redecoration based on “restoration” would be viewed as a legitimate initiative for the president’s wife. Similar ideas of establishing historic “period” decoration in the White House had been pursued

by Grace Coolidge in 1924, Lou Hoover in the 1930s, and even mamie eisenhower in 1960.11 Decoration by committee had been an established method for making decorative changes within the White House since the mid-1920s. Seen as a way to circumvent public criticism of first ladies’ efforts to redecorate, these advisory committees often failed to achieve their goals due to internal conflict over how to proceed with the various “restorations” of White House rooms.12 Where earlier efforts ultimately lacked significant impact on the White House interiors, Jacqueline Kennedy’s program had the benefit of better historical timing. Grace Coolidge’s efforts in soliciting historic furnishings for the White House had elicited no excitement from the public during the burgeoning Colonial revival period of the early 1920s, but in the years following World War II, when the united States viewed itself firmly as the premier world power, interest in Americana had become more prevalent. furthermore, recent tax laws had made charitable giving far more appealing to those able to make significant donations. the first lady’s enormous public appeal and social connections also played a major role in the success of her program. the Kennedys had the ability to call upon a host of wealthy and influential friends to donate to the project. And those who did get calls already knew Jacqueline Kennedy from her days as a debutante and senator’s wife and were now eager to become acquainted with the new first lady who was quickly becoming the most admired woman in America. this admiration proved mutually beneficial; wealthy donors became “friends” of the Kennedys and the White House received furnishings priced far beyond any government appropriation. on february 23, 1961, it was announced that the wealthy collector Henry francis du Pont, founder of the Winterthur museum of American Decorative Arts in Delaware, would chair the fine Arts Committee for the White House, with Jacqueline Kennedy serving as honorary chair. the committee was populated with wealthy society figures, both Democrats and republicans, whom marianne means so aptly described in her 1963 profile of mrs. Kennedy as “antiquarians with income permitting generosity.”13 Among the most influential were mr. and mrs. Charles Wrightsman, collectors of 18th-century Opposite: Fabric samples for President Kennedy’s bedroom

16 ebook WHIte HouSe HIStorY (Number 14)History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. This was originally published as White House No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

Parish-haDLey assoCiates, iNC. PaPers, JohN F. KeNNeDy Library

CeCiL staughtoN, JohN F. KeNNeDy Library

President Kennedy signing the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in the restored Treaty Room of the White House, October 7, 1963.

18 ebook WHIte HouSe HIStorY (Number 14)History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. This was originally published as White House No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

french furniture, a period of particular interest to mrs. Kennedy. Jayne Wrightsman served as a mentor to Jacqueline Kennedy, introducing her to the french decorator whose work would ultimately have the greatest impact on the White House interiors. With the fine Arts Committee securing donations, mass media secured the admiration of the public. by 1961, most Americans owned a television set and were inundated daily with images of the glamorous first family.14 magazines and newspapers, already focused on every move the Kennedys made, created a cause cé lè bre of her initiative to beautify the White House. A plethora of women’s magazines and the popularity of “women’s pages” in newspapers provided a constant forum for tidbits of information about mrs. Kennedy’s redecoration of the White House. the first lady’s appeal for public assistance in her efforts to restore beauty and history to the White House captured the national imagination. Immediately offers of furniture began pouring into Winterthur’s post office, where Henry du Pont’s secretary dutifully replied to each letter describing “Grandma’s rocking chair,” or “a piece we’ve always been told came from the White House.” for the first time, Americans felt welcomed into the process of decorating the White House. And while most of the furnishings acquired between 1961 and 1963 were found through antique dealers and committee members, a few important pieces came directly from public solicitation. most important, the public’s interest in the program led to a renewed appreciation for the house and its history. Improved mass transportation meant that more people than ever were traveling, and the White House became a “mustsee” destination in the nation’s capital. the publication of the guidebook—a book Jacqueline Kennedy’s critics feared would commercialize the White House—meant that everyone could take something home from what was now regarded as the most historic house in the nation. the televised tour of february 1962 was the pinnacle media event of its day. the television camera so adroitly exploited by her husband during the 1960 presidential campaign in turn became Jacqueline Kennedy’s tool in forever sealing the public’s approval for her refurbishment of the White House. Henry du Pont’s role as chair of the fine Arts Committee placed him in the most public role of defining the Kennedy interiors. As far as the public was concerned,

it was the antiquarian du Pont, revered as the most important collector of American decorative arts of his day, who would be responsible for ensuring the historical integrity of the White House State rooms. Du Pont’s former home turned museum, Winterthur, outside Wilmington, Delaware, contained nine stories of period rooms representing American interiors from the 17th through the 19th centuries. Jacqueline Kennedy visited Winterthur in may 1961 and looked to it as a model for the authenticity she hoped to bring to the White House. but while du Pont’s connections in the world of American antiques proved useful to the project, the fact remained that the White House was not a museum. In spite of the passage of Public Law 87-286 in September 1961 declaring a permanent White House furnishings collection and the establishment of a curator’s office, the primary function of the house as an official residence called for a grandiosity that transcended a museum interior.15 thanks to Jayne Wrightsman, Jacqueline Kennedy called upon the services of europe’s celebrated society decorator, Sté phane boudin, to infuse an international perspective into the decidedly American house. the principal designer for the Parisian firm Jansen & Co., boudin had worked with such high-profile clients as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, elsie de Wolfe, and Lady olive baillie. boudin was celebrated for his ability to translate a sense of historical grandeur in rooms comfortable enough for modern living. While he also guided the restoration of historic interiors such as empress Josephine’s malmaison, a museum house, and for Charles de Gaulle’s guest house, the Grand trianon at Versailles, boudin’s work was not characterized by a strict adherence to one historical period but rather by a more artistic interpretation of the past.16 Ironically, it was boudin’s international style that became representative of the newly restored “American” interiors in the White House. In utilizing the talents of two of the most influential interior designers of her day—Parish and boudin—and with the influence du Pont added in, Jacqueline Kennedy created a White House that was one part cozy family home, one part museum, and one part glittering international stage. It is a testament to her diplomatic savvy and mastery of detail that mrs. Kennedy, who by all accounts maintained personal control over her project at all times, was able to coordinate the work of these three unique personalities, sometimes implementing the ideas of all three in

Kennedy House 19 This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004Circa by the1961: White the House HistoricalWhite Association. AllInteriors rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

a single room. Perhaps more impressive is the fact that the press never discovered the extent to which the frenchman boudin was involved in the project. the most controversial evidence of his role appeared in the Washington Post in September 1962, in a series by maxine Cheshire,17 but by that time public admiration for the project seems to have surpassed concern over a foreigner selecting fabrics and fringe in the blue room. As the White House interiors evolved, with each room’s period furnishings described in scholarly detail to the American public, history came to represent good taste. Prior to the Kennedy restoration, America’s idea of historical interiors was largely shaped by images of Colonial Williamsburg with its staid, white plaster walls and simple brown furniture. the restoration of the White House interiors under Jacqueline Kennedy’s direction inspired a national craze for preservation. mrs. Kennedy’s program has been emulated in public residences throughout the country. During the 1960s, governors’ mansions in several states undertook historic restorations of their interiors, often simultaneously establishing furnishings committees and nonprofit foundations to ensure long-term preservation.18 the fabrics produced for the White House took on an immediate authenticity based on their use in America’s most famous historic house. Individual elements of the restored White House rooms, such as scenic wallpaper and the celebrated gold-embroidered cerise fabric produced for the red room (based on a 19th-century document) became immediately recognized icons of 19th-century American period design. to this day, the manhattan firm of Scalamandré , Inc., the original manufacturers of the red room fabric, leads their promotional material with a reference to their involvement in the creation of the Kennedy White House interiors.19 by November 1963, much of Jacqueline Kennedy’s vision had been realized, including the redecoration of her husband’s office, which was being fitted with new curtains and carpeting while the Kennedys were away in Dallas. What began as public fascination with mrs. Kennedy and her project became a reverential respect for the vision of this brave young widow. Had there been a second Kennedy administration, perhaps more criticism would have emerged, of the kind introduced by maxine Cheshire. over the ensuing years, with the inevitable change that comes to all public residences, critics appeared within the White House itself. there was even what has been

referred to as a “de-Kennedyization” of the interiors during the Nixon administration, which political analysts might attribute to President and mrs. Nixon’s continued hard feelings after the loss to Kennedy in 1960 but which was also fueled by changes in curatorial scholarship in early American design.20 regardless of questions about its historical accuracy, no other administration can claim so many achievements in preserving the White House for future generations. the years between 1961 and 1963 are a watershed in White House history. though marked by good intent, all earlier attempts to “restore” a historical appearance to the White House failed due to lack of infrastructure and government support to back up the efforts. the Kennedy restoration ensured that never again would White House furniture be auctioned off indiscriminately or “lost” in a warehouse. the office of the White House curator, initially one person operating out of a ground floor storeroom, now houses a small staff devoted to the preservation and interpretation of the White House Collection. the effort within the White House is backed up by valuable external support from the National Park Service. And Jacqueline Kennedy’s fine Arts Committee has evolved into the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, continuing to oversee all aspects of the decoration of the State rooms. the Kennedy restoration, so clearly identified as mrs. Kennedy’s initiative, also marks the most significant shift in the identity of America’s first lady away from the traditional White House hostess. Since then, first ladies have assumed increasingly more prominent roles and are, in fact, expected by the public to work as advocates for national issues. A 1961 article in Horizon magazine documents the achievements of John and Jacqueline Kennedy in supporting the arts in Washington and sponsoring the law to preserve the historical integrity of the White House interiors. In it, author Douglass Cater praises the Kennedys for their efforts and asks the rhetorical question, “Could a future President and first Lady use the same discretion in promoting culture as the present ones?”21 fortunately for the White House, the protective measures put in place by the Kennedys ensure that while less culturally motivated residents may move in, the likelihood of any diminishing of the historical integrity of the house is minimal. As for future residents who aspire to be style-setters to the nation, the brilliant precedent set by the Kennedys will undoubtedly cast a long shadow over their efforts for years to come.

20 ebook WHIte HouSe HIStorY (Number 14)History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. This was originally published as White House No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

NoteS

1.

for a comprehensive study of restoration and redecoration in the White House prior to 1960, see William Seale, The President’s House: A History (Washington, D.C.: White House Historical Association, 1986).

2.

the most prolific period of acquisition of 18th- and 19th-century furnishings occurred during the tenure of Clement e. Conger as White House curator. Conger guided the development of the White House Collection from 1970 to 1986.

3.

Grace Coolidge, in 1924, appointed an official committee of advisers to select historical period furnishings. Her campaign, while ultimately unsuccessful, did establish the precedent for period rooms within the White House, designating the Green room as a federal-style parlor. In the early 1930s, Lou Hoover completed a catalog of the historical furnishings of the White House, sponsoring the first serious research into the collection. In a time before curatorial control, when most of the original furnishings were already gone from the house, her efforts were of little impact. See Seale, President’s House, for thorough descriptions of these earlier efforts to establish historical authenticity in White House interiors.

4.

See William Seale, “theodore roosevelt’s White House,” White House History, no. 11 (2002): 29–37.

5.

for a profile of the Kennedy administration’s early advocacy of the arts, see Douglass Cater, “the Kennedy Look in the Arts,” Horizon, April 1961, 4–17. Cater states that the idea to invite artists and writers to the inauguration originated with Kay Halle, an influential Democrat and member of the Inaugural Committee. Cater further credits newly tapped Secretary of the Interior Stewart udall with the idea to invite frost to deliver a poem as part of the ceremony. Apparently udall became acquainted with frost while the latter was consultant to the Library of Congress.

6.

Quoted in marianne means, The Woman in the White House (New York: random House, 1963), 274.

7.

See Cater, “Kennedy Look in the Arts,” 9.

8.

Hugh Sidey, “the first Lady brings History and beauty to the White House,” Life, September 1, 1961, reprinted in White House History, no. 13 (2003): 6–17.

9.

the most significant campaign for furnishing the private rooms of the White House was sponsored by ronald and Nancy reagan, who raised nearly a million dollars to redecorate the family quarters between 1980 and 1988. As cited in William Seale, The White House: The History of an American Idea, 2d ed. (Washington, D.C.: White House Historical Association, 2001).

10. See betty boyd Caroli, First Ladies (New York: oxford university Press, 1987), 222. Caroli notes that through her social secretary, Letitia baldrige, Jacqueline Kennedy’s plans to make the White House a “showcase of American art and history” were mentioned in the New York Times on November 23, 1960. 11. See Seale, President’s House, 865–70, 908–12; James m. Abbott and elaine S. rice, Designing Camelot: The Kennedy White House Restoration (New York: Van Nostrand reinhold, 1997), 17.

12. of particular note are the efforts of Harriet barnes Pratt, who served on advisory committees for furnishing the White House from the Coolidge to the truman administrations. mrs. Pratt fervently pursued the goal of establishing period decoration in the White House rooms, advocating the first formal government oversight of the White House Collection of furnishings. unfortunately her efforts, and those of others, were often thwarted by political infighting among committee members and a lack of support for funding White House acquisitions. See Seale, President’s House, 864–70. 13. means, Woman in the White House, 280. 14. Caroli, First Ladies, 221. 15. In march 1961 Lorraine Waxman Pearce, a graduate of the Winterthur Program in early American Culture, was appointed the first White House curator. Pearce’s expertise in the work of french é migré cabinetmaker Charles-Honoré Lannuier and in french influence on early-19th-century American interiors made her an excellent choice to oversee the installation of the new “period” rooms in the White House and to provide a scholarly voice in the restoration. 16. boudin’s decorating style and his extensive role in the Kennedy restoration are documented in the 1995 exhibition catalog, A Frenchman in Camelot: The Decoration of the Kennedy White House by Stéphane Boudin (Cold Spring, N.Y.: boscobel restoration, 1995), by James Abbott and elaine rice, as well as in Abbott and rice, Designing Camelot. James Abbott has continued to document the relationship between boudin’s work in the White House and his redecoration of Leeds Castle, in Kent, england, for Lady olive baillie, for a forthcoming publication. 17. maxine Cheshire, “they Never Introduce m. boudin,” Washington Post, September 9, 1962. 18. See Cathy Keating, with mike brake and Patti rosenfeld, Our Governor’s Mansions (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1997). 19. It was Sté phane boudin who supplied the historic document for the red room fabric to Scalamandré . unbeknown to the American public, boudin also supervised the production of the famous blue room “eagle” fabric, which was secretly produced by tassinari and Châ tel in Paris. See Abbott and rice, Designing Camelot, 115. 20. James Abbott, “restoration: twenty-five Years of Interpretation,” bachelor’s thesis, Vassar College, 1986. Abbott describes Clement e. Conger’s direction of the White House interiors away from what the latter considered to be european-inspired decoration and to establish more authentic American period rooms. Interestingly, some later presidents and first ladies have returned specific elements of the Kennedy era to the White House rooms, perhaps in homage to the restoration of 1961–63. examples include Nancy reagan’s placement of a center table in the blue room and the return of a tentlike valance to the same room during the Clinton administration. 21. Cater, “Kennedy Look in the Arts,” 17.

Kennedy House 21 This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004Circa by the1961: White the House HistoricalWhite Association. AllInteriors rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

RobeRt F. SiSSon, national GeoGRaphic imaGe collection

the historic Guide to America’s house WIllI A M

T

he first edition of The White House:

S eA le

the

White house

An Historic Guide was published by the White house historical Association in 1962 with the help of the National Geographic Society. It was Mrs. Kennedy’s wish that such a book be written, and she actively participated in the editing. Now in its recently published 22nd edition, the guide has sold more than 4.5 million copies since 1962. this photo essay takes a look back at the early years of the guidebook and from its pages provides a selection of images of the interiors of the White house as they appeared in the book’s first edition in 1962 and its current edition, 41 years later.

Opposite: National Geographic photographer George F. Mobley climbed a fire ladder to photograph the White House for the cover of the first edition of the Guide in 1962. The classic photograph was used again on the cover of the 22nd edition in 2003. The view also captured the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Tidal Basin, and the distant Potomac River. Mobley underwent training with the fire department to climb the ladder.

This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

John F. Kennedy libRaRy

G U I d e b O O K p R e S e N tAt I O N A N d S A l e S

Above: David E. Finley, president of the White House Historical Association, presents the completed White House guide to President and Mrs. Kennedy in June 1962.

24 ebook WhIte hOUSe hIStORY (Number 14)History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. This was originally published as White House No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

libRaRy oF conGReSS

national aRchiveS

Right: Lady Bird Johnson presented a special inscribed copy of the one-millionth copy of the guide sold to Mrs. C. J. Vessell of Omaha, Nebraska on June 17, 1964.

libRaRy oF conGReSS

John F. Kennedy libRaRy

The guidebook was sold on the street and read by tourists as seen in these three random candids taken in 1962.

the House historic GuideAssociation. to America’s house 25 This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White Historical All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

white houSe hiStoRical aSSociation

photo by bRuce white FoR the white houSe hiStoRical aSSociation

t h e O vA l O f f I c e

the Oval Office as redecorated for president Kennedy (opposite) and as it appeared in the 22nd edition of the guide in 2003 (above). Use of the name “Oval Office” began toward the end of the Kennedy administration but did not enter the White house vernacular until the Nixon administration.

the House historic GuideAssociation. to America’s house 27 This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White Historical All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

white houSe hiStoRical aSSociation

28 ebook WhIte hOUSe hIStORY (Number 14)History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. This was originally published as White House No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

photo by peteR vitale FoR the white houSe hiStoRical aSSociation

t h e t R e At Y R O O M

the treaty Room, seen in the first edition of the Guide (opposite) and today (above) in the 22nd edition. Originally a bedroom, by the 1850s this room was being used as part of the office suite. After the building of the West Wing in 1902, the room became the president’s study. In 1931 Mrs. herbert hoover styled the study the Monroe Room and used reproductions of furniture Monroe used in the White house. because the

protocol that was prelude to the peace treaty ending the Spanish-American War was signed here in 1898 and the Nuclear test ban treaty in 1963, the room was renamed the treaty Room in the Kennedy renovation and decorated in a flamboyant victorian manner, using Grant’s cabinet table. president George h. W. bush returned the room to use as a study, which it remains.

the House historic GuideAssociation. to America’s house 29 This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White Historical All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

white houSe hiStoRical aSSociation

photo by bRuce white FoR the white houSe hiStoRical aSSociation

the eASt ROOM

Apart from reupholstery and new curtains (not in place in the 1962 view, opposite) little was done to change the east Room when Kennedy was in office. the red tennessee marble mantels were painted white and “marbelized.” Original chandeliers from 1902 were and remain in place. Over several administrations, alterations included new hangings, a new floor, and rugs for occasional use. during the clinton administration the paint was removed from the mantels and the east Room assumed the appearance (above) it has today.

the House historic GuideAssociation. to America’s house 31 This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White Historical All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

white houSe hiStoRical aSSociation

the GReeN ROOM

pictured above in 1962, the Green Room was the first of the revised rooms to be completed by Mrs. Kennedy. the chandelier and silk wall covering remain from franklin d. Roosevelt and truman administrations while the furniture conforms to the federal period.

32 ebook WhIte hOUSe hIStORY (Number 14)History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. This was originally published as White House No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

white houSe hiStoRical aSSociation

t h e d I p l O M At I c R e c e p t I O N R O O M

the renovations in the diplomatic Reception Room (pictured above in 1962) were begun by Mrs. eisenhower and completed by Mrs. Kennedy, who had the french scenic wallpaper “Wonders of America” installed. the room is essentially the same today.

the House historic GuideAssociation. to America’s house 33 This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White Historical All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

t h e Y e l l O W O vA l R O O M

the Yellow Oval Room today, continuing the decorative theme established by Mrs. Kennedy in 1961. throughout the history of the house this room has been the family “parlor� or library. It was never a formal room before the Kennedy administration, when it gained its french antiques. the truman balcony opens from this room and provides spectacular views outward. [photo by peteR vitale FoR the white houSe hiStoRical aSSociation]

Major Publications of the White House Historical Association, 1962–2003

Since 1962, the White House Historical Association has maintained a broad-ranging publications program. The following major publications are listed chronologically. The White House: An Historic Guide (1962) original text by Lorraine Pearce, edited variously over 22 editions, the most recent 2003. The classic guidebook of the White House, adapted to serve the various changes in the state rooms and collections, but essentially the same written by Mrs. Pearce and approved by Mrs. Kennedy in the first year of publication. 22nd edition, 2003. The Presidents of the United States of America (1964) by Frank Freidel and Hugh Sidey. Thumbnail biographies with official portraits of the presidents. 16th edition, 2002. The Living White House (1966) by Lonnelle Aikman. The personal White House, in terms of the first families and their lives there, richly illustrated and normally updated by administration. 11th edition, 2003. The First Ladies of the United States of America (1975) by Margaret Brown Klapthor and Allida Black. Thumbnail biographies with portraits of the first ladies. 10th edition, 2001. Official White House China (1975) by Margaret Brown Klapthor. The definitive work by the best known scholar on the subject. A pioneering work, Klapthor’s seminal volume brings together years of research on a subject first addressed a century ago. 2nd edition, 1999.

White House History: Journal of the White House Historical Association Published twice a year, containing articles of interest on the White House and its occupants. The journal first appeared in 1983 and resumed in regular sequences in 1998. The present issue is number 14. The President’s House: A History (1986) 2 vols. by William Seale. A narrative history of the White House from its construction, with emphasis upon the architecture and manner of living in the executive residence. Currently being revised and expanded. White House Glassware: Two Centuries of Presidential Entertaining (1989) by Jane Shadel Spillman. Comprehensive coverage of the subject, with a cultural history approach. This volume describes and illustrates historic tableware rarely seen outside the pantries and dining rooms of the White House. Art in the White House: A Nation’s Pride (1992) by William Kloss. The definitive analysis by leading art scholars of the fine art collections in the White House. This has been updated over the years with supplementary pages, 1992–2002. The White House: A History of an American Idea (1992) by William Seale. The story of the architecture of the White House. 2nd edition, 2001. Our Changing White House (1992) Wendell Garrett, editor. Articles written in celebration

This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

of the 200th anniversary of building the White House. Published in cooperation with Northeastern University Press.

and the era in which it took place. The articles were presented originally at the association’s commemorative symposium in Washington.

The White House: The First 200 Years (1994) Frank Freidel and William Penack, editors. Selected papers presented at the 1992 symposium organized by the White House Historical Association in Washington and attended by presidential and White House scholars. Illustrated with historic photographs.

The White House: Celebrating Two Hundred Years (2002). An elegantly presented limited edition that chronicles in words and pictures the formal celebration of John Adams’s occupation of the White House in the fall of 1800.

Tokens and Treasures: Gifts to Twelve Presidents (1996) by Lisa B. Auel. A lively illustrated account of official and private gifts to the presidents over 70 years from Hoover to Clinton. Published in cooperation with the National Archives Trust Fund. The White House Garden (1996) by William Seale. A history of the White House grounds, how they developed and why they were designed as they were. The book is illustrated with drawings, botanical prints, historic photography and elegant modern color photographs by Erik Kvalsvik. Lincoln at Home: Two Glimpses of Abraham Lincoln’s Domestic Life (1999) by David Herbert Donald. This charming small volume by the distinguished Lincoln scholar brings the reader close to the private lives and feelings of the Lincolns during their four-year and six-week occupancy of the White House. The White House: Its Historic Furnishings and First Families (2000) by Betty C. Monkman. The definitive work on the furniture and furnishings of the White House, from its inception to the present. Monkman, brings incomparable expertise to the subject and her classic book is enriched by Bruce White’s striking color coverage. The White House: Actors and Observers (2002) by William Seale, editor. Scholarly articles reflecting on the first occupation of the White House in 1800,

The White House ABC: A Presidential Alphabet (2004) by John Hutton. Whimsical drawings that bring the White House alive in an amusing story line full of facts and based upon the alphabet. Childrens’ Books are a special adjunct to the publications division of the White House Historical Association and have developed from the association’s educational program. A Kid’s Guide to the White House (1997) by Betty Debnam. A fact-filled book with activities of all kinds for children ages 8–12. The White House Coloring Book (1997) by Mort Kuff, author and illustrator. First families, first kids, and first pets. The White House Easter Egg Roll (1997) by C. L. Arbelbide, with illustrations by Barbara Leonard Gibson. A childrens’ history of the famous event that moved from the Capitol to the White House lawn more than 125 years ago at the behest of President Rutherford B. Hayes. Ages 6–10. The White House: An Illustrated History (2003) by Catherine O’Neill Grace. An overview for young people of the White House and a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what it takes to run a 132-room palace that must be home, office, museum, and ceremonial stage. Introduction by Laura Bush.

Major Publications of 2004 the White House Historical Association 1962–2003 37 This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

A New Look at the John F. Kennedys and the Arts

A

ELI S E

sk anyone to name the American president most often associated with the arts, and John F. Kennedy immediately comes to mind. Indeed, John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy brought to the White House fresh images of youth, vitality, and é lan that appealed to America’s sense of pride and self-confidence. In an American renaissance of grace and beauty, they turned the White House into a kaleidoscopic showcase for the performing arts—especially for ballet, chamber music, opera, and music theater. We often think of the Kennedys as having inaugurated a new appreciation of imagination and creativity in America. As those who attend performances at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts know very well, the president’s words on the faç ade ring true: “I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for our victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.”1 For all their accomplishments and prestigious reputation in the arts, however, John and Jacqueline Kennedy need to be re-examined in a new light.2 So often we are too myopic in our assessment, failing to see one particular administration within the long skein of history. To understand the shaping forces of action, thought, and mood, we need to stand back and ask some questions. What influences play out their drama in the personal and public image of a president? How do the Kennedys’ arts interests

Members of the Paul Winter Jazz Sextet during a White House performance in November 1962. The Kennedys

were the first to hold a jazz concert in the White House. national archives

K .

K I RK

compare with those of previous administrations? Were the Kennedys really the “first” to bring culture to the White House, as some have claimed? What, in fact, molded their love of the arts? And indeed, what has conditioned our admiring attitudes toward them today? If we go far back into White House history, we will see that from the earliest times presidents and first ladies recognized the value of culture, not only in the life of the nation but also in their own personal lives. Thomas Jefferson, who played the violin very well, once claimed that music was an “invaluable respite from the cares of the day.”3 Without modern theaters, motion pictures, or television, presidents and first ladies during the 19th century brought live music into their home for both personal relaxation and social entertainment. The White House musicale tradition—so prominent with the Kennedys—began as early as Abraham Lincoln, who invited a young opera singer, Meda Blanchard, to present a short concert for the Lincolns and their guests in 1861. Entertaining styles were simple then, but with Rutherford and Lucy Hayes, they became more festive. Between 1877 and 1881 more than 50 different performers from the concert and opera world entertained the Hayeses. It was President Chester A. Arthur, however, who was the first to use the great East Room for White House concerts. In 1881, he invited 100 guests to dinner and afterward to hear members of Her Majesty’s Opera Company sing arias from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Giuseppe Verdi, Richard Wagner, and Giacomo Meyerbeer. Like the Kennedy era that witnessed the development of Lincoln Center and other arts centers across the country, President Arthur brought great opera to the White House coincident with the opening of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York in 1883.

This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

As the arts continued to blossom during the early part of the 20th century, the roster of fine performers who appeared at the White House reads like the seasons at Carnegie Hall. After Steinway & Sons donated the first state concert grand piano to the White House during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, great artists appeared there in droves—Ferruccio Busoni, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Ignacy Paderewski, Myra Hess, Josef Hofmann, Madame Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Fritz Kreisler, and the young Pablo Casals, who would later make White House history in his performance for the Kennedys. This was indeed the Golden Age of White House music—30 years of the world’s finest artists and programs arranged by Steinway & Sons, usually in consultation with the first lady. When President Kennedy took office, a long, grand White House tradition was already well in place. There is an old saying that history repeats itself. Historic elements and events often swing like giant pendulums from one era to the next. Changes in the political, cultural, and social climate play out their roles on the chameleon-like stage of American life. One of the most interesting aspects of White House cultural history is the way the close of one administration appears to prepare for the next. This connection is especially true in the arts. For some administrations, these cultural segues predict the new administration more acutely than they define the old. Cultural bridges linking administrations are especially apparent from William McKinley to Theodore Roosevelt, from Herbert Hoover to Franklin D. Roosevelt, and from Dwight D. Eisenhower to John F. Kennedy. A brief overview of these connecting bridges will shed light on why the Kennedy administration may have moved in the direction it did. How and why we tend to focus on one administration of the connecting bridge over the other often has to do with the way a particular administration “advertised” or promoted its intentions to the public. Like the Theodore Roosevelts, for example, the previous administration— that of William McKinley—showcased chamber music and presented musicales with noted concert violinists and opera singers after large State Dinners. Under the McKinleys, however, printed musicale programs are rare. Judging from this alone, one might conclude that the McKinley White House had little going on musically. Edith Roosevelt, on the other hand, made certain her musicales would be remembered. Her large, comprehen-

The 1962 Paul Winter Jazz Sextet performance in the

East Room of the White House included several pieces in the newly emerging bossa nova style.

40 ebook WHITE HOUSE HISTORY (Number 14)History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. This was originally published as White House No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

national archives

sive collection of elegantly printed programs neatly pasted in red leather binders (now in the National Archives) is a tribute to her concern not only for social finesse but also for accurate preservation of the content and importance of her many musicales.4 Like Jacqueline Kennedy 50 years later, Mrs. Roosevelt knew the value of promotion through the printed word. Sometimes the characteristic musical style of one administration carries over into the beginning of the next. Rather than being only an artistic choice, however, the musical selections and artists often reflect the changing political and social tenor of the times. During most of Herbert Hoover’s administration, world-famous classical

artists performed—celebrities such as Vladimir Horowitz, Rosa Ponselle, and Mary Garden. But as the Great Depression intensified, President and Mrs. Hoover felt the need to reach out to more varied aspects of the American musical spirit. Their programs began to look like those of the Franklin Roosevelts, who followed them—that is, they included folk singers, dulcimer players, an American Indian singer, and fine African American choirs, such as those from the Hampton and Tuskegee Institutes. Perhaps the most interesting of the White House “cultural bridges” is that from Dwight D. Eisenhower to John F. Kennedy. The Eisenhowers had the usual round of large official dinners for the Speaker of the House, the

A New Look atHouse the John F. Kennedys and Arts 41 This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White Historical Association. Allthe rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

chief justice, the vice president, and the diplomatic corps. These dinners were usually followed by a short concert that featured the music the president and first lady especially enjoyed—that is, Broadway musicals, military music, and performances by popular stars, such as Guy Lombardo and Fred Waring. During Eisenhower’s second administration (1957–61), however, foreign heads of state and government leaders visited the country more frequently as air travel increased, and the president began to recognize his responsibility of inviting more world-renowned artists to perform for them at the White House. When King Baudouin of Belgium visited on May 11, 1959, the brilliant young pianist Leon Fleisher entertained in the East Room. Fleisher was the first American to win the prestigious Queen’s International Competition. The press was enchanted. And because music critics were invited to cover the concert, the Eisenhower image within America’s burgeoning cultural arena of the 1950s was greatly enhanced. Leon Fleisher’s concert was not an isolated cultural event at the Eisenhower White House, however. Other great performers during this time included cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, pianists Artur Rubinstein and Malcolm Frager, and conductor Leonard Bernstein with 44 members of the New York Philharmonic.5 But perhaps Eisenhower’s most significant achievement in the arts was the realization of the National Cultural Center through the act he signed on September 2, 1958.6 The giant complex—later to be renamed the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts—would provide a national focal point for the finest artists from every corner of the world. In Eisenhower’s ideology, “The development of American music, and the native development of any art, is the development of a national treasure.”7 There is a prophetic ring to these words. Soon President John F. Kennedy and his artistic wife would add their own special flair to the American cultural scene. The nation was ready. Bridges, however, can connect, but not construct. History can tell us only so much; the rest lies in the personas, politics, and perceptions of the time. There is far more to the Kennedy arts image than merely what it inherited from the Eisenhowers, or, for that matter, from earlier White House traditions.The Kennedys put forth an image of youth, dash, wisdom, and courage. The newspapers of the time were full of America’s great “cultural explosion,” and the young president became a sort of mythical symbol of it. In the words of singer Mahalia Jackson, “I feel I am

part of this man’s hopes. He lifts my spirit and makes me feel a part of the land I live in.”8 When Kennedy invited 158 scholars, artists, and other creative individuals to his inauguration in 1961, the entire national artistic community sat up and took notice. What would the president do next, many wondered? Then, too, John and Jacqueline Kennedy arrived upon the national scene at a particularly felicitous time in American cultural history. The United States was experiencing a new wave of urban life-style, advances in mass communications, and an awareness of education that provided fertile soil for artistic pursuits. Without the Kennedys to give these pursuits a clearly defined focus, however, they might have fallen on barren ground and progressed less vigorously. Leonard Bernstein summarized Kennedy’s rare attitude toward the arts as stemming from “the reverence he had for the functions of the human mind in whatever form, whether as pure thinking or political thinking or creative functions of any sort, including [those of] art and literature.”9 August Heckscher, who was appointed in February 1961 as special consultant to President Kennedy on the arts—the first White House cultural coordinator—noted that the president “came to feel . . . that progress in the arts was intimately related to all that he wanted America to be. . . . In part it was because he was responding, as any sensitive and enlightened leader must, to currents that were stirring within the social order.”10 The real spotlight on the American cultural scene, however, fell upon the White House itself—on the dramatic constellation of musical entertainments that now had a positive mission: “to demonstrate that the White House could be an influence in encouraging public acceptance of the arts.”11 It was more than just a question of bringing the finest quality of artists and programs to the great mansion, though; fine opera stars, dancers, and instrumentalists had performed there from the earliest years. Rather, it was the superb focus that the Kennedys managed to create. The White House became a deliberate showcase for America’s leading performing arts organizations—the Metropolitan Opera Studio, Jerome Robbins Ballet, American Ballet Theater, Interlochen Arts Academy, American Shakespeare Festival, New York City Center Light Opera Company, Opera Society of Washington, Robert Joffrey Ballet, and many others. Entire scenes were presented, tastefully staged with costumes and special lighting. “My main concern,” said Jacqueline Kennedy, “was to present the best in the arts,

42 ebook WHITE HOUSE HISTORY (Number 14)History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. This was originally published as White House No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

robert knudsen, john f. kennedy library

Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg compliments actor Basil Rathbone and members of the Consort Players, who presented an evening of Elizabethan poetry and music in the East Room, April 30, 1963.

abbie rowe, john f. kennedy library

Russian composer Igor Stravinsky arrives at the White House with his wife and is greeted by President and Mrs. Kennedy, January 18, 1962.

A New the John F. Kennedys Arts 43 This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by theLook WhiteatHouse Historical Association.and All the rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

john f. kennedy library

not necessarily what was popular at the time.”12 And indeed the best it was—all in a tragically short tenure of two and one-half years. In addition to bringing major arts organizations to perform in the White House, the Kennedys had many other new ideas. Youth concerts were not just presented for young people but also by them, and they were assembled into an effective series. Programs of chamber music included longer, more serious works, such as the complete 45-minute Schubert B-flat Trio performed as the evening’s only selection by the famous Stern/Istomin/Rose Trio for French Cultural Minister André Malraux. Elizabethan music, elegantly underpinning contemporaneous poetry readings, was played on authentic early instruments—viol, virginal, cittern, and lute.13 Jazz, a longtime poor sister of the classical arts, was now listened to attentively for its own artistic merits rather than used just for dancing. As Heckscher observed, “In all those areas, it wasn’t a matter of social entertainment in the White House at all. It became a mat-

ter of recognizing great achievement in the cultural field.”14 The press capitalized on the “Kennedy Command Performance,” and an enchanted America followed every nuance and interpretive detail of the White House artists that the media offered. But the most significant innovation of the Kennedys involved the guest lists. These included not only political and business leaders but also prominent performers, critics, composers, producers, and cultural luminaries from all over the nation. Leonard Bernstein summed up the joyous reactions of these honored guests. At an Eisenhower dinner, Bernstein recalled, the food was ordinary, the wines were inferior, and you couldn’t smoke. By the time I got to play I was a wreck. Compare that with the Casals dinner at the White House. . . . Dinner turns out to be not at a horseshoe table but many little tables, seating about ten people apiece, fires roaring in all the fireplaces, and these tables are laid in three adjacent rooms so that it’s all like having dinner with friends. . . . I’ll never forget the end of that evening,

44 ebook WHITE HOUSE HISTORY (Number 14)History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. This was originally published as White House No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

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Isaac Stern performs for President and Mrs. Kennedy and guests in the East Room (opposite) and talks with the Kennedys (right), May 11, 1962.

when there was dancing. The Marine Band was playing waltzes or something, and [American composers] Roy Harris and Walter Piston and people like that were kicking up their heels in the White House, a little high, just so delighted to be there, so glad that they had been asked, feeling that they had finally been recognized as honored artists of the Republic. You know, I’ve never seen so many happy artists in my life.15 Culture was by no means new to the Kennedys when they came to the White House; their support of the arts was a natural extension of their accustomed way of life. A Harvard graduate, John F. Kennedy won the Pulitzer Prize in history for his Profiles in Courage, and his professional dealings with words and images are legend. Music, however, was another matter, and his tastes ranged from middlebrow to noncommittal. He studied piano as a child but, as one report indicated, “Anybody studying this boy’s character when he was practicing scales would have said he’d never grow up to become President of the United States.”16

When Carl Sandburg’s daughter Helga sent a query to the White House regarding Kennedy’s favorite song, the president “wondered if Jackie might have a suggestion” for him. The reply to Ms. Sandburg was: “Greensleeves, a very old English song.”17 “It was not only that he didn’t particularly enjoy it [music], but I think it was really painful,” August Hecksher noted. “I don’t mean only painful for him to sit because of his back for any length of time, I think it hurt his ears. I really don’t think he liked music at all except a few things that he knew. . . . So it was a shading, really, from music, which I think he found painful, into poetry, which for various reasons he found both challenging and quite fascinating.”18 With Jacqueline Kennedy, the performing arts were quite a different matter, and there can be no doubt that the White House programs reflected her cultivated and intuitive tastes as well as her direct involvement in their planning. Mrs. Kennedy was educated at fine private schools. She wrote poems and stories for which she drew her own illustrations, and she studied piano and ballet. During her

A New Look at House the John F. Kennedys andAllthe Arts 45 This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White Historical Association. rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

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junior year at Vassar she studied in France, and its culture left a mark upon her throughout her life. One of the Kennedys’ most impressive parties took place on July 11, 1961, for President Mohammad Ayub Khan of Pakistan. Featuring a concert by the National Symphony Orchestra, the event made history. It was the first State Dinner to be held away from the White House, in this case at historic Mount Vernon. Might Mrs. Kennedy have been inspired by her recent visit to France, when President Charles de Gaulle charmed the president and first lady with a sumptuous dinner and ballet at Versailles? Quite possibly. For every administration from Theodore Roosevelt through the Eisenhowers, Steinway & Sons served the White House as consultants for the musicales. First Henry Junge, then John Steinway, recommended the artists and program focus, and their correspondence in the Steinway Archives with various first ladies reflects a joyous and dedicated service. But under the Kennedy administration, things changed. Mrs. Kennedy had her own ideas. One of her favorite arts advisers was Pierre Salinger, who had been quite a child prodigy on the violin. According to the first lady, “his great musical knowledge was enormously helpful in suggesting artists who might perform at the White House.”19 But ultimately, as Chief Usher J. B. West claimed, “Mrs. Kennedy was White House impresario. She knew all of the arts extremely well. When the ballet dancers rehearsed at the White House, she seemed to know even when they took a wrong step. . . . She often wrote to the artists herself inviting them to perform or even called them on the telephone. Can you imagine the performer’s reaction to the first lady saying, ‘Can you come and play for us at the White House?’”20 But, though he may not have been musically knowledgeable, President Kennedy recognized the important role that music played in the life of the nation. Music, he knew, could become a vital bond between cultures. When he wrote to the world-famous cellist, Pablo Casals, inviting him to perform at a State Dinner honoring Governor Luis Muñ oz-Marí n of Puerto Rico, Americans quickly understood how the White House wished to participate in the life of the nation. Music has the uncanny power to humanize the presidency, but it also can bind social, artistic, and spiritual ideals into a mesmerizing whole. Casals, who had played in the White House for Theodore Roosevelt in 1904, had discontinued his American appearances in 1938 because the United States recognized the

Pablo Casals made White House history with his performance in the East Room on November 13, 1961. He is pictured above rehearsing. Opposite: The Kennedys and their guests eagerly await the performance and greet Casals afterwards.

46 ebook WHITE HOUSE HISTORY (Number 14)History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. This was originally published as White House No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

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A New Look at House the John F. Kennedys andAllthe Arts 47 This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White Historical Association. rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

Last Monday night I played with all my heart—and I feel that the results have been rewarding. I am grateful and happy if my humble tribute to you may have at the same time contributed to music and culture. That whole day of November 13th will always have a very special meaning for me. My visit and conversation with you have strengthened and confirmed my faith and hopes for our ideals of Peace and Freedom. Thank you, Mr. President.23 Perhaps one reason we remember the musical interests of the Kennedys so vividly is that they regularly invited professional music critics to cover the White House

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Franco dictatorship that he despised. His long, selfimposed exile from his native Spain led him to establish residence in Puerto Rico. So when Casals accepted President Kennedy’s invitation, the event attracted international attention. It became the most publicized of all White House concerts—perhaps of any concert in America—and it drew press attention from all over the world. The concert harked back to the great musicale tradition of William Howard Taft, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover, but with an important distinction: now it was available for the world to enjoy. It was broadcast nationally by NBC and ABC radio (though turned down by CBS because the tape made by the Signal Corps did not meet the network’s standards). A recording was distributed commercially by Columbia with four pages of notes, critiques, and photographs. And in the New York Herald Tribune the distinguished critic and musicologist Paul Henry Lang wrote: “It is evident that the present first family has a proper appreciation of the relation of art to life.”21 Indeed, past administrations had also understood the relation of art to life, but under the Kennedys, this abstract concept became a practical reality. For the historic East Room concert, Pablo Casals was joined by pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski and violinist Alexander Schneider in works by Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, and Franç ois Couperin. But it was Casals’s simple encore that expressed the cellist’s feelings most eloquently. He closed his program with a piece from his birthplace, which he claimed depicted the people’s longing for freedom. “You might know this song,” he said almost weeping as he grasped the hand of Marine Band musician, John Bourgeois, after the concert. “It’s a Catalan folk song, ‘The Song of the Birds’—but for me, it’s the song of the exile.”22 After returning to Puerto Rico, Casals wrote to Kennedy:

concerts. These reviews were usually very good. But sometimes the critics just had to admit that the White House was not a typical opera house or concert hall. For the larger productions, the lighting was inadequate, dressing room space makeshift, and the performance area often too small. When the Opera Society of Washington staged The Magic Flute, the production had to be brought inside because of drenching rains. “This was an operation very much like pouring two quarts of milk into a one-pint bottle,” the music critic of the Washington Evening Star, Irving Lowens, remarked. “The scenery would not fit. . . . There was no place for the orchestra.” Conducting in the grand foyer, Paul Calloway stood, Lowens observed, “with one foot in the East Room and one foot out.”24 By the time the Lyndon Johnsons staged their ballets and musicals, the Harkness Ballet had donated a beautiful, specially designed, portable stage to the East Room— complete with built-in lighting and a gold damask curtain. It was used for at least 20 years, until it succumbed to the advances of more modern styles and technology. President and Mrs. Kennedy liked to feature the arts in a variety of ways. They were the first to hold a jazz concert in the White House. On November 19, 1962, the Paul Winter Jazz Sextet appeared on one of the youth concert series. Paul Winter had founded a talented combo of 20-year-olds who had toured Central and South America under the Cultural Exchange Program shortly before they played in the White House. Their program for the Kennedys included several pieces in the newly emerging bossa nova style, which combined Brazilian and American

48 ebook WHITE HOUSE HISTORY (Number 14)History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. This was originally published as White House No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

August Hecksher was appointed in 1961 as special consultant to President Kennedy on the arts.

copyright bob rowan, progressive image/corbis

The Kennedy Center at dusk. In 1964, Congress declared the proposed Natural Cultural Center as a “living memorial” to President Kennedy. Now known as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the center first opened to the public in 1971.

jazz idioms. How did all of these foot-stomping nuances impress the audience of diplomatic children? “They applauded politely but sat placidly through the concert,” noted the press.25 More pronounced reaction to the innovations of jazz came from the president’s daughter earlier in the year. In their program for the shah of Iran, the dynamic Jerome Robbins dancers wore deliberately understated white sweatshirts, black pants, and sneakers. Six-year-old Caroline kept asking when they were going to put on their costumes. Perhaps one of the most charming images of President Kennedy is that offered by Leonard Bernstein. On January 18, 1962, the Kennedys feted 79-year-old Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. Among the distinguished guests were Bernstein and his wife; Princess Lee Radziwill (Mrs. Kennedy’s sister); Goddard Lieberson,

This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White Historical Association. Allthe rights reserved. A New Look atHouse the John F. Kennedys and Arts 49 No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

president of Columbia Records, and his ballerina wife, Zorina; and Robert Craft, musical associate of Stravinsky. “When I came into the room,” recalls Bernstein, there was a line greeting Stravinsky, and when he came to me, he kissed me on both cheeks in the Russian fashion, and I kissed him on both cheeks. There was all this Russian kissing and embracing going on when I suddenly heard a voice from the other corner of the room saying, “Hey, how about me?” And it was the President. That’s the sort of thing I mean: it’s so endearing and so insanely unpresidential, and at the same time never losing dignity or that quality, I can’t think of the word, but stateliness is the only thing I can think of, majestic presence.26 It was indeed this “majestic presence” that was felt when John F. Kennedy was mourned everywhere after his assassination. Washington, London, Tokyo, Paris, Berlin, Nairobi: for a fleeting moment people throughout the world joined hands and with bowed heads turned to music to honor, eulogize, and comfort. There could be no other way. Musical artists, humble and great, paid tribute in ways they knew best. A young Bosnian in Sarajevo sang a lyrical epic to his own accompaniment on the ancient singlestringed gusle. In New York, Isaac Stern, Eugene Istomin, and Leonard Rose played on television the expressive slow movement from Schubert’s B-flat Trio, which they had performed at the White House for André Malraux. Symphony orchestras all over the land also paid their last respects, many with commemorative programs. One of the most hauntingly moving was the National Symphony’s postmidnight performance a few blocks from the White House—to a completely empty Constitution Hall. “The orchestra of the presidents,” as it had come to be called, was conducted by Howard Mitchell. The program included Debussy’s La mer in memory of the president’s love of the ocean and his valor as a naval officer, and the flowing Adagio for Strings by the American composer Samuel Barber, the last distinguished representative of the arts to be invited to the White House before the president’s death. Finally, as a tribute to Mrs. Kennedy, the Overture to Fidelio was played. For Mitchell, Beethoven’s glorious work was a fitting tribute to the first lady, whom he described as a “true heroine, who walked in tragic beauty during her days of sorrow.”27 Composer Igor Stravinsky, towering giant of the century, also paid his respects through music. His Elegy for JFK (1964) is a miniature for baritone (later revised

for mezzo-soprano) and three clarinets. The text by W. H. Auden consists of four stanzas of free haiku: When a just man dies Lamentation and praise, Sorrow and joy are one. Why then? Why there? Why thus, we cry, did he die? The Heavens are silent. What he was, he was; What he is fated to become Depends on us. Remembering his death How we choose to live Will decide its meaning.28 Most interesting about this little piece is the way music and message interact. The atonal, transparent textures seem to feature interplay between the diabolical tritone (G-sharp to D) and the eternally hopeful perfect fifth (D-sharp to A-sharp)—the “oneness,” perhaps of both “sorrow and joy.” Thus music, so vital during the Kennedy White House years, offers humanity a sense of hope and promise after a very bleak dawn. All throughout history, we have seen how in various degrees American presidents and first ladies have been an integral part of their times. In the arts, in particular, some have primarily reflected their eras—such as Abraham Lincoln, Chester Arthur, Herbert Hoover, and Harry Truman; others have been especially aggressive in exploring new cultural paths—such as Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon. The Kennedys did both. They knew the culture of their era, and they had the courage to show it in new ways to the American people. John F. Kennedy also knew that America would be remembered less for its economic and military achievements than for its culture—that compendium of pride, imagination, and humanity valued by every president from George Washington to modern times. As John Ruskin noted: “The acts of a nation may be triumphant by its good fortune; and its words mighty by the genius of a few of its children; but its art only by the general gifts and common sympathies of the race.”29 John and Jacqueline Kennedy recognized that ultimately, it is the adventure and mystery of the arts that lie at the core of a nation’s character. For America, their legacy has been a vital gift for generations to come.

50 ebook WHITE HOUSE HISTORY (Number 14)History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. This was originally published as White House No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

NOTES

1.

President Kennedy’s remarks on November 29, 1962, at the Washington, D.C., armory during the benefit for the construction of the National Cultural Center.

17. Evelyn Lincoln to Helga Sandburg, May 3, 1962, President’s Official File, Kennedy Papers.

2.

For more on the Kennedys as well as on other administrations from George Washington to George H. W. Bush, see Elise K. Kirk, Music at the White House: A History of the American Spirit (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1986) and Musical Highlights from the White House (Malabar, Fla: Krieger Publishing Company, 1992).

19. Onassis to Kirk, February 3, 1984. Mrs. Kennedy also founded the Office of the Curator of the White House, the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, and the White House Historical Association in 1961.

3.

Thomas Jefferson to Nathaniel Burwell, March 14, 1818, in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1903–4), 15:135.

4.

The binders are in Official White House Social Functions, Office of Public Buildings and Grounds, Record Group 42, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

5.

The Eisenhower programs are in the Mamie Dowd Eisenhower Papers, Social Records, Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Abilene, Kans.

6.

Public Law 85-874. One of the major theaters in the Kennedy Center is named after President Eisenhower.

7.

Quoted in Kirk, Musical Highlights from the White House, 134.

8.

Mahalia Jackson, Movin’ On Up (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1966), 139.

9.

Oral history interview with Leonard Bernstein, composer and music director of the New York Philharmonic, by Nelson Aldrich, New York, July 21, 1965, 2–4, Papers of John F. Kennedy, Kennedy Library, Boston, Mass.

10. August Heckscher, “Kennedy: The Man Who Lives On,” typescript address, Larchmont Temple, November 20, 1964, 6–7, August Heckscher Papers, Kennedy Library. 11. This concept was formulated by Pierre Salinger, Arthur Schlesinger, and Jacqueline Kennedy shortly after the inauguration. Arthur and Barbara Gelb, “Culture Makes a Hit at the White House,” New York Times, January 28, 1962. Stephen Birmingham notes that Jacqueline Kennedy was a decided political asset to the president, and he let her do pretty much what she wanted. See Birmingham, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1978), 106. 12. Letter from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to Elise Kirk, New York City, February 3, 1984.

18. Heckscher interview, 14–15.

20. J. B. West in an interview with Elise Kirk, Washington, D.C., July 22, 1981. 21. Paul Henry Lang, “Escape from Crisis—The Great Cellist Plays at the White House,” New York Herald Tribune, November 14, 1961. 22. Col. John Bourgeois in an interview with Elise Kirk, Washington, D.C., February 12, 1982. Col. Bourgeois became director of the Marine Band in 1979. 23. Pablo Casals to John F. Kennedy, November 17, 1961, Kennedy Papers. For more on the Casals event, see Marta Istomin interview with Elise Kirk, Washington, D.C., July 20, 1982; Pablo Casals, Joys and Sorrows: Reflections (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1970), 289–94; jacket notes, “Concert at the White House,” Columbia AKL5726. 24. Irving Lowens, “Move to East Room Solves ‘Magic Flute,’” Washington Evening Star, June 4, 1963. 25. “6 Jazzmen Play at the White House:Young People’s Program of First Lady Sets a Precedent,” New York Times, November 20, 1962; press release, Office of the Assistant Social Secretary for the Press, the White House, October 31, 1962, Performing Arts Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 26. Bernstein interview, 13. See also “Kennedy Entertains Igor Stravinksky at Dinner,” New York Times, January 19, 1962. 27. “National Symphony Gives Concert for Neighbor,” New York Times, November 27, 1963. 28. Igor Stravinksy, Elegy for JFK (London, Boosey and Hawkes, 1964). Auden’s poem is reprinted in Erwin A. Glikes and Paul P. Schwaber, eds., Of Poetry and Power, (New York, Basic Books, 1964), 111. The premiere of Stravinsky’s piece took place in Los Angeles at a concert conducted by Robert Craft on April 6, 1964. 29. Quoted in Kirk, Music at the White House, 283.

13. The program on April 30, 1963, was presented for Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg by Basil Rathbone and the Consort Players. 14. Oral history interview with August Heckscher by Wolf von Eckhardt, New York, December 10, 1965, Kennedy Papers. 15. Bernstein interview, 8–9. 16. New York Times, August 10, 1962.

A New Look atHouse the John F. Kennedys and Arts 51 This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White Historical Association. Allthe rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

A Small Slice of Kennedy Decor: The Queens’ Sitting Room WILLI A M

A

lthough the legacy of Jacqueline Kennedy’s interior decoration at the White House is fixed in Americans’ minds, there seems to be a general impression that the rooms, both public and private, have not been changed during the 40 years since her time here. Certainly much of the private quarters have been adjusted to suit the individual tastes of eight succeeding first families. Even the public rooms, with a formal museum character, fostered in accordance with Mrs. Kennedy’s initiative, have been altered as the collection of fine and decorative arts has grown and revised historical insights have influenced decisions on color and design. There is, however, one “time capsule” room that retains most of its Kennedy decor. That is the Queens’ Sitting Room, something of an amalgam of the public and private, located on the northeast corner of the second floor in the private quarters but part of one of two formal guest suites, the other the Lincoln Bedroom. This relatively small northeast corner room, seemingly little used in the early years of the White House, was from at least the late 1840s until 1902 part of the presidential office suite at the east end of the second floor, a room usually occupied by clerks or secretaries. When the offices were moved to the newly constructed West Wing in 1902, this room became a bedroom, reduced in size by the addition of a bathroom at the south end. After the Truman

A recent photograph of the Queens’ Sitting Room. A Chinese tea box lined with White House wallpaper used by President Madison rests on the tea table that Mrs. Kennedy left for the room.

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A L L M A n

renovation of the White House, 1948–52, the room was refurnished as a sitting and dressing room for the adjoining large guest room then known as the Rose Bedroom, now the Queens’ Bedroom. When Mrs. Kennedy arrived in 1961, only nine years had passed since the Truman rebuilding and redecorating of the interior of the house. This room, with walls painted pale blue-green, retained its floral chintz draperies, the same fabric having been used to cover two easy chairs, a dressing table in the northeast corner, and a frameless single bed serving as a daybed along the west wall. Flanking the bed was a pair of mahogany bowfront chests of drawers, part of a large purchase of household furniture adapted from antique styles. One older object joining this Truman renovation furniture was an oval mahogany cheval glass, part of a suite acquired in 1909 from the Boston manufacturer A. H. Davenport to furnish the bedroom of President and Mrs. William Howard Taft. Like the other small corner rooms, the layout of furniture was seriously influenced by the doorway, fireplace, and two large windows that occupy so much of the wall space. In redecorating what was called variously the Queens’ Dressing or Queens’ Sitting Room in 1962–63, Mrs. Kennedy retained much of the layout and some of the furnishings, but she gave the room a bold look, focused on a strong blue-and-white Empire-style fabric and black-andgold furniture. The influential Paris design firm, Maison Jansen, whose president, Sté phane Boudin, was Mrs. Kennedy’s principal adviser for the White House refurbishing, supplied the brilliant blue, almost cameo-like, cotton fabric printed with white neoclassical motifs—alternating rows of swan-centered circular medallions and flower garland devices. After considering it for the draperies and

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This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

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upholsteries, Mrs. Kennedy selected it to cover the walls as well.1 Its jewel-like design has remained brilliant. Still in place within the two window reveals are the Jansendesigned draperies and lambrequin-edge valance boards, trimmed in a narrow white fringe made by the American firm, Scalamandré Silks, of new York. The two Truman chairs and a 19th-century daybed supplied by Jansen also retain their 1962 upholstery in this amazingly durable fabric.2 The low-post daybed, painted black with polychrome floral decoration, was flanked by two small blackfinished Victorian tables acquired for the White House in the late 19th century, one inlaid with a mother-of-pearl checkerboard. Acquired in 1962 was a pair of mid-19th century “fancy chairs,” black with caned backs and seats, placed at the north end of the room, and a black papiermâ ché pedestal table that was placed between the easy chairs before the east window. An ebonized Eastlake-style

side chair, donated by a White House doorman, was added in 1963. A European tripod tea table, decorated in imitation of Chinese lacquerware, belonged to Mrs. Kennedy but was left for the White House on her departure in 1963. To augment these additions, two pieces of mahogany furniture found in the room were lacquered in black with gilt trim. One of the pair of bedside chests, only 10 years old, was refinished and placed on the south wall, but even the much older Taft cheval glass was not immune to such serious decorative change when it was finished to match and left in place in the northwest corner. Architectural changes were made only in the southeast corner where, during the Truman renovation, the fireplace had been set on the diagonal. A simple rectangular built-in overmantel mirror, flanking sconces set amid columns of plaster stars, the surmounting ornamental plaster medallion, and the mantel itself were removed. The rather undistinguished gray marble mantel was replaced

54 ebook WHITE HOUSE HISTORY (number 14)History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. This was originally published as White House No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

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Opposite: The Rose Bedroom as it appeared in June 1960, having been completed in 1952 for President Harry Truman. The large guest room, now known as the Queens’ Room, adjoins the Queens’ Sitting Room. Above: The Queens’ Sitting Room, July 1963, north view showing Mrs. Kennedy’s changes. She gave the room a bold look, focused on a strong blueand-white Empire-style fabric and black-and-gold furniture.

by a more stylish Truman renovation acquisition—a neoclassical white marble mantel with stop-fluted engaged columns and a wreath-carved frieze—that had been removed from the northwest corner room at the opposite end of the building when it was converted into a private quarters kitchen in 1961. The new mantel was surmounted by a tall gilded looking glass, made c. 1800–20 and donated in 1962, that features extensive use of é glomisé or reverse-painted glass, with a gold-on-white garland frieze, but also blue-onblack panels of vines on the base rail and vertical stiles. Comple-menting the new fabric, a pair of late 19th-century porcelain vases, bright blue with white decoration of classical dancers, was selected from among older White House furnishings for placement on the turreted corners of the mantel shelf.

Small Slice ofthe Kennedy Decor: The Queens’ Sitting Room 55 This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. CA Copyright 2004 by White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

tom leonard, House and Garden, copyright 1966 conde nast publications, inc.

The October 1966 cover of House and garden. The magazine featured an article titled “Upstairs at the White House,” which noted that Lady Bird Johnson used the Queens’ Sitting Room as her study.

56 ebook WHITE HOUSE HISTORY (number 14)History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. C Copyright 2004 by the White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. This was originally published as White House No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

White house collection

The draperies designed by Maison Jansen and made by Scalamandré Silks for Mrs. Kennedy remain in place today in the Queens’ Sitting Room. This sketch shows the shaped valance boards and the narrow white fringe trim.

The Truman dressing table, moved before the north window, was dressed with a skirt fashioned from “white Swiss tambour curtains” trimmed with blue-and-white silk galloon and overlaid with tasseled cord swags, all provided by Jansen.3 A modern chinoiserie lacquered easel mirror, acquired in 1952 seemingly to complement the Truman chintz, remained on the table. Jansen also supplied a white wool rug with a sculpted grid pattern. In February 1963, Chief Usher J. B. West requested from Jansen a blue rug, possibly to match the walls, because “it would be more practical,” but the white rug was not replaced.4 Most of these Kennedy decorative elements remain today, with only a few additions from the 1970s. To complement the black furniture, two pieces of black-and-gold Chinese furniture were added—a small mirrored dressing stand, c. 1820–40, in place of mirror, and a pedestal table with a porcelain plaque top, c. 1810, where the papiermâ ché table had been between the tub chairs. Consistent with the French fabric is a mid-19th-century oval French Aubusson rug, decorated with scallop fans and garlands in blue, pink, and cream, which replaced the white Kennedy rug in 1971. The additional object in the room today that links the French and Chinese influences is an octagonal Chinese lacquered tea box. It is lined with a pink French wallpaper left over from papering rooms in the White House. Dolley Madison gave the scraps of paper (the rest of which later burned in the 1814 fire) to her friend, Mary Latrobe, wife of the architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Mrs. Kennedy would doubtless be pleased to find this piece of White House history, acquired for the permanent collection in 1971, on the center table that she donated for use in the room. nOTES 1. Jacqueline Kennedy to William Vose Elder III, curator, private collection, cited in James A. Abbott and Elaine M. Rice, Designing Camelot: The Kennedy White House Restoration (new York: Van nostrand Reinhold, 1997) 180 n. 7. 2. no order or voucher for this fabric is known. It is mentioned as “154 yards of blue and white cotton print” on a list of “Materials needed From Jansen,” november 29, 1963, Paul Manno Papers, Office of the Curator, The White House. 3. Jansen order of December 28, 1962, confirmation of March 8, 1963, Manno Papers. 4. Jansen voucher, January 31, 1963, Chief Usher Papers, The White House; J. B. West to Paul Manno, Jansen, new York, February 26, 1963, Manno Papers.

Small Slice ofthe Kennedy Decor: The Queens’ Sitting Room 57 This ebook was originally published as White House History #14, 2004. ISSN: 0748-8114. CA Copyright 2004 by White House Historical Association. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the White House Historical Association. The views presented by the authors are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the White House Historical Association.

About the Authors WILLIAM g. ALLMAn is curator of the White House. He lectures and writes on the White House and its collections. He contributed to the revised edition of Official White House China, and compiled the catalog of objects for The White House: Its Historic Furnishings and First Families.

ELAInE RICE BACHMAnn is the co-author, with James A. Abbott, of Designing Camelot: The Kennedy White House Restoration (John Wiley and Sons, 1997). A graduate of the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture, she has authored numerous articles on antiques and interiors. She is currently the curator of the Maryland Commission on Artistic Property at the State Archives in Annapolis.

ELISE K. KIRK, PHD, is an award-winning author, lecturer and musicologist, whose books include Music at the White House: A History of the American Spirit, Musical Highlights from the White House, and American Opera. Dr. Kirk is a member of the board of directors of the White House Historical Association.


White House History #14