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A journal published by the White House Historical Association Washington

White House Squirrels "Both Pets and Pests"


Llebrat;on of Ch,;stmas 2002, fost Lady Laura Bush, wife of President George W. Bush, chose "All Creatures Great and Small" as the deco­ rating theme "to celebrate the joy and comfort pets have brought presidents and their families during their time in the White House." That year the holiday festivities incorporated twenty-five papier-mache sculptures of first family pets. In addition to cats and dogs, the detailed replicas included raccoons, sheep, horses, and even an alligator, all displayed on man­ tels, tabletops, and inside the White House Visitor Center. 1 There was also a humble little squirrel, selected as a tribute to the furry denizens of the White House Grounds that have been, according to Mrs. Bush's office, "both pets and pests" to the man­ sion's inhabitants for more than two hundred years.2 Squirrel Species

Before delving into this little-known, and some­ times cantankerous, history, it is first necessary to get a few basic facts out of the way-namely, which types of squirrels are present in Washington, D.C., and how long they have called the District of Columbia home. There are four different squirrel species currently liv­ ing in Washington: the eastern gray squirrel, red squirrel, Delmarva fox squirrel, and southern flying squirrel. All are native to the area, but of the four the eastern gray is by far the most commonly encountered and the one usually spotted on or around the White House Grounds. Typically gray in color, their coats

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can also be grayish-brown, light silver, or dark black. Albino (completely white) examples are not unusual. Red squirrels are much less common than eastern grays, and on average about half the weight. They have a red-to-yellowish top and white underbelly. The Delmarva fox squirrel is actually a local variant of the eastern fox squirrel and has a ruddy coloration. Because development has greatly reduced its habitat range, the Delmarva variety is considered endangered and hence rarely encountered. The southern flying squirrel does not actually fly but rather glides through the air via a layer of outstretched skin. Weighing only 3 ounces, it is very small, especially compared with the I-pound eastern gray. The thick fur is a glossy olive brown above with a whitish belly below. Unlike the other species, the southern flying squirrel is noc­ turnal and therefore not easily seen. For those inter­ ested in looking, early evening around dusk is the best time to try.)

President Reagan (right) delighted in feeding acorns to squirrels owside of the Oval Oj]tce, a daily routine that the squirrels 1vould eagerly gather nearby to await.

Special Projects. When Feeney finally retired as squirrel feeder in 1974, he urged President Gerald R. Ford to appoint another young person to the post. 33 Even so, the position was apparently never refilled. It evidently remains vacant to this day. Nonetheless, the White House squirrels have continued to fare well even without their designated feeder. In fact, President Ronald Reagan soon picked up where Feeney left off. Whenever he traveled to Camp David, either for work or rest, Reagan inevitably returned to Washington with a big bag of acorns, which he kept in the bottom drawer of his desk. Outside the Oval Office, the squirrels gathered to wait for the presents that they knew would soon be coming their way. Once per day the president retrieved the bag, stepped outside, and fed them. 30 Reagan's daughter, Maureen, later recalled, "He used to say that by Friday the squirrels would practi­ cally nose up to the windows and give him a sad, pleading look, reminding him to bring back some more goodies after the weekend." 35 On at least one occasion, this daily ritual took on a comical note, as no less a personage than Colin Powell lost out to the squirrels when it came to holding President Reagan's

attention. Powell, then a national security adviser and a future four-star general, chair of the joint chiefs of staff, and secretary of state, remembered how he came to the president one day with some­ thing to discuss, only to find that Reagan kept look­ ing out onto the grounds and then suddenly stood up and exclaimed, "Colin! Colin! Look! Look! The squirrels just came and got the nuts I put in the Rose Garden." 36 Perhaps more than any other example, this single anecdote shows how the squirrels have become lasting fixtures on the landscape and beloved pets to the families residing at the White House. As Presidential Pests

The White House squirrels have proved to be presidential pests for almost as long as they have been considered presidential pets. Piggy, the squirrel fondly remembered for sitting in on President Harding's cabinet meetings, also spoiled an entire bed of ten thousand crocuses. After the gardeners planted the bulbs in the fall, she spent the following winter digging up the bulbs and diligently undoing their work. When spring came, a mere one hundred flowers emerged from the soil.37

White House Squirrels: "Both Pets and Pests"



"All Creatures Great and Small: Christmas at the White House 2002." George W. Bush Presidential Ce111er Exhibits and Events. online at


Quoted in Elisabeth Bumiller, ··White House Squirrels:· in Talesji-0111 the Times: Real-Life Stories to Make Yo11 Think, Wonder, and Smile, Fron, the Pages of the New York Times. ed. Lisa Belkin (New York: St. Martin·s Griffin. 2004). 57.


John Kelly. '·Squirrel Weck: A Guide to D.C.'s Squirrel Species:· l¥as'1i11gto11 Post. April 5. 2011. online at William H. Burt and Richard P. Grossenheidcr. Prterson Field G11ides: Mamnwls. 3rd ed. (Boston and New York: Houghton MifOin, 1980). 117-22.



Janet Burkitt. ··Criller City: A Century Ago, Squirrels Were Rare in Washington Post, October 5. 2008. NI.


Etienne Benson. "The Urbanization of the Eastern Gray Squirrel in the United States:· Jo11rnal q{A111erican Histon• 100. no. 3 (2013): 691-710, online at h1tp:// Ned Oliver. "The People's Pets.'' Rich111ond ( Va.) Style Weekly, April 29. 2014, online at


·'Under a Large Oak Tree," Washington Post, June 6. 1886. 2: ·'Animal Life in the Mall." Washington Post, June 26. 7; •·111 Fear of Guiteau.·· Washington Post, September 20. 1911. 3.


··Topics of the Day;· Washington Post. November 4. 1888, 5; '·Mr. Cleveland Shoots Squirrels," Washington Post. November 5, 1893, 7; "Mr. Cleveland's Bag of Squirrels,'' Washington Post, October 27. 1896. 7.


Elisabeth Ellicoll Poe. "White House Boys of Yesterday and Today." Washington Pos1. August 26. 1923. 61.



10. Emma Elizabeth Brown, The Life and P11blic Services of Ja111es A. Garfield (Boston: D. L. Guernsey, Com hill, 1881). 215-18. 227-32, 238-40. 11. Amanda Fiegl. "Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Presidential Food?," Smithsonian Maga:ine, January I, 2009. online at www.smithsoni­ ·'To Leave on Tuesday: Making Preparations for the President's Departure," Washington Post, September 4, I 881. I: "Gelling Ready to Go: The President Ready and the Preparations Complete.'' Washington Post. September 5, 1881, I. 12. F. L. Gillette and Hugo Ziemann. The Original White /-louse Cook Book: 1887 Edition (Media Solution Services. 2003). 30-31, 82. 89. 13. "Very Much Beller: The President's Condition Given in a Bulletin:· Washington Post. September 3. 1881. I. 14. ·'Beller: Another Day of Hope for the Presiden1:· Cincinnati Co1n111ercial Tribuue, September 13. 1881, I. 15. Brown, Life of Gmjield, 259. 16. "Squirrels at the Capitol," Washingto11 Post, September 7, 1901, JO. 17. "Pets at the White House,'' York ( Pa.) Daily, February 4. 1907, 10. 18. Ibid. 19. Ibid.; Burkill, "Criller City;· NI; Theodore Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt·s Le11ers to His Children, ed. .Joseph Bucklin Bishop (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1919), following page 104. 20. Roosevelt, Theodore Roose1•elt's Letters. ed. Bishop, 35; Carl Carmer. Pets at the White /-louse (New York: E. P. Dullon. 1959), 57-65. 21. '·Squirrel Mrs. Wilson's Pct,'' Washington Post. July 8. 1914. I. 22. ''Paddy a Grateful Squirrel," Washington Post, June 17. 1914. 2. 23. "Fritz and Mazie Dead,'' Harrisburg (Pa.) Daill' Independent, August 3. .. 1916, 2; "White House Squirrels Dead, Washington Post. August 3. 1916. 12. 24. "White House Squirrel Now Has Family,'' Ne,,- Castle (Pa.) Ne,,-s. November I. 1922. 19; "All Members of the Cabinet Look Alike to This Pet,'' Wichita Daily Eagle. November 19, 1922, 40: ·'Secretary Denby Isn't Nulty," Bloomington (Ill.) Panragraph. November 25, 1922. 20. 25. "Houses Are Provided White House Squirrels,'' Washington Post, January 19. 1933, 2. .. 26. '·Capital Squirrels To Share in More Abundant Living. Washington Post. December 11, 1937. 9.

27. "First Lady Orders Feeding of Squirrels," San Bemardino ( Calif) County Sun. February 13, I 934, 15. 28. '"Siren Suit· Intrigues Reporters.'' Decatur (Ga.) Daily Revie,,-. January 4. 1942. I. 29. "Another Vacancy,·· El Dorado ( Ark.) Nell's-Times, September 17. 1974, 5. 30. "Washington Squirrels (In Trees) Get Keeper,'' Lung Beach (Calif.") Independent. October 23. 1949. 14. 31. "White House Squirrels Enjoy Own Yule Tree:· Po11s101rn (Pa.) Mercuri'. December 24. I949. 12. 32. ··Another Vacancy:· 33. "White House Squirrel Feeder Leaving Job." Paris (Tex.) Ne1rs. September 8. 1974. 27. 34. Bumiller. "White House Squirrels:· 57: John Whitcomb and Claire Whitcomb. Real Life at the White House: 200 Ymrs of Daily Life at America's k/os1 Famous Residence (New York: Routledge. 2002). 430; "For the Squirrels.'' flldiana (Pa.) Ga:erre, January 4, I 980, I: Mary McGrory. ·'Our President ls Soft on Squirrels," Washington Post, May 22, 1988, 55. 35. Quoted in Whitcomb and Whitcomb. Real Life at the White /-louse, 430. 36. Quoted in Lauren Boyer, "Squirrels: More Interesting Than Colin Powell." U.S. Ne,,-s & World Report. August 5, 2014, online at 37. '·White House Squirrel Digs Up Bulbs for 17. 1923. I.

uts.'' Washington Post. March

38. "Gloomy Days Now Order for Pair of White House Pets.·· Waco (Tex.) Nell's-Tribune, April 12, I 925. 20. 39. "White House Mourns Beagle: •Him' Killed Chasing Squirrels.'' Bennington (Vt.) Daily Banner. .I unc 16. 1966, 3. 40. Bumiller, ·'White House Squirrels,'· 57. 41. Ibid. 42. Ibid. 43. Burkitt. '·Criller City.'· NI. 44. Ibid.; George Clifford. ·'Squirrels, Friends Go uts in Their •Digs· at Lafayelle Square." Washington Pust. June 21, 1984, DC3. 45. Bumiller. ·'White House Squirrels,'' 56, 57.

.. 46. Merriman Smith. '"Operation Squirrel' at White House These Days. Salem (Ore.) Daily Capital Joumal. March 14, 1955, 17. 47. William Seale, The President's House: A History. 2nd ed. 2 vols. (Washington. D.C.: White House Historical Association, 2008), 2:320. 48. Smith, --·operation Squirrel."' 17. 49. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, "Top Secret Label Removed on White House Squirrels," Roseburg (Ore.) Ne11•s-Re1•ie1r, March 26, 1955. 4.

50. The lellers to Eisenhower and responses are on file in the Office of the ational Park Service Liaison to the White House, Washington, D.C. 51. Richard L. Lyons, "Neuberger Out to Save White House Squirrels:· Washington Post and Times Herald, March 23. 1955, 3; "Squirrels Win Clearcut Victory at White House." Greeley (Colo.) Daily Tribune. March 26, 1955. 5; "Newbergers Baille for Squirrels.'' Abilene (Tex.) Reporrer­ Ne11•s. April I. 1956. 40; "Found Fund for Student of Life Among Squirrels." El Paso (Tex.) f-lerald-Posr, May 2. 1955, 5. 52. Burkitt. "Criller City:·


53. Roberta Rampton. "Squirrels Relish White House Kitchen Garden as Shutdown Sidelines Staff,'' Reuters, October 14, 2013, onlinc at; Geoff Earle. "Squirrels Go Nuts for First Lady's Garden in Shutdown:· Ne,,- York Pust. October 14. 2013, onlinc at Dan Amira, "The White House Squirrels Won the Shutdown:· Ne,,- )'ork. October 15, 2013. online at Matthew Hilburn, · 'Squirrels Feast in Unallended White House Garden:· VOA Neirs, October 16. 2013. online at 54. Julie Zauzmer, "Tiny Baby Squirrels Found Near White House," Washington Post, July 28, 2015, online at

White House Squirrels: '·Both Pets and Pests"



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tion of a decades-long effort of education, writing, organizing, and advocacy by American women. It would not have been possible, like other conserva­ tion milestones in the Progressive Era, without them. The conservative 1920s and the hardships of the Great Depression and World War II slowed conser­ vation efforts and weakened environmental organiza­ tions. But despite a lack of visibility or major victo­ ries, the environmental movement persevered. When it reemerged after World War II, it should have been no surprise that its most visible champion was Rachel Carson, a child of the Progressive Era.

Robert K. Musil, Rachel Carson and Her Sisters: Extraordinary Women Who Have Shaped America's Environment (New Brunswick, N.J.. and London: Rutgers University Press, 2014), 120-22; Linda Lear, Rachel Carson: Willless for Nature ( ew York: Mariner Books, 2009), 375-76, 406-7, 414-15, 424; Douglas Brinkley, "Rachel Carson and JFK: An Environmental Tag Team." Audubon, May-June 2012, online at


Musil. Rachel Carson and /-fer Sislers, 2, 12-14.


Anna Botsford Comstock, Handbook of Nature Study, 11th ed. (Ithaca, N.Y.: Comstock Publishing Company, 1921), 11. See also Musil, Rachel Carson and Her Sisters. 13.


Lear, Witness for Nature, 18-19: Musil. Rachel Carson and Her Sisters, 13, 15, 46-50.


Quoted in Musil. Rachel Carson and Her Sisters, 16.


David Jones. "Introduction,"' Rural Hours (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1968), xxxvii.


Susan Fenimore Cooper, St. Nicholas Maga:ine, "The Cherry-Colored Purse. (A True Story).-· (January 1895), 22:245-48.


Ibid., 32-40; Harriet Kofalk, No Woman Tende,foot: Florewe Merriam Bailey, Pioneer Naturalist (College Station: Texas A&M University Press). 9. 11, 14, 28-29, 31, 35-39, 49-50.


Musil, Rachel Carson and Her Sisters. 38-40; Kofalk. No Woman Tende,foot, 81-82; Douglas Brinkley, The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America (New York and London: Harper Perennial, 2010), 813-14.

10. Brinkley, Wilderness Warrior, 492-93. 11. Quoted in Musil, Rachel Carson and Her Sisters, 51-52; Also see Carolyn Merchant. ed., Major Problems in American Environmental History: Documents and Essays (Boston: Houghton Mif'llin, 2005), 342-43.

12. Musil. Rachel Carson and Her Sisters, 52; Carolyn Merchant, "Women of the Progressive Conservation Movement: 1900-1916," En,•ironmenwl Revieiv 8, no. I (Spring 1984): 68-69. This is a special issue titled "Women and Environmental History.'" The Yale School of Forestry was taken 10 summer camp at Biltmore. the North Carolina estate of Clifford Pincho1·s friend George W. Vanderbilt. The association between Yale and Biltmore continues today. 13. Janet Buerger, "First Lady of Potomac Park: Nellie Taft,"' National Park Service blog. April 15. 2012, www.nps.gov1nama/blogs. 14. Clemenl E. Vose. '·Stale Against Nation: The Conservation Case of Missouri v. Holland," in Federalism at the Bar of the Supreme Court, eel. Kermit L. Hall (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 2000). 405-6. 15. National First Ladies Library. "First Lady Biography: Ellen Wilson," online at; '"The Misses Wilson in Bird Masque." New York Times, February 25, 1914.

16. Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, quoted in Martha Harbison, "The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Explained,"' May 22. 2015, 6. Audubon News, online at

Women Bring the Environment Movement to the White House


The Story of the Thanl{sgiving Turl{ey at the White House


11jamin Franklin proposed the turkey as the national symbol, but the eagle won out.The turkey was not forgotten, however, emerging as the symbol of the uniquely American holiday called Thanksgiving. Wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) were once plentiful in the Washington, D.C., area, and early presidents had excel­ lent dinners that featured local turkey as well as venison, can­ vasback, terrapin, and oysters. By 1816, however, David Bailie Warden observed in his Chorographical and Statistical Description of the District of Columbia that most of the native species of "deer, wild turkey, canvas back ... the wild goose, which inhabited the place about fifty years ago have all disappeared." Throughout the eastern United States, the wild turkey population quickly dwindled in the nineteenth 1

Marshmallow ( opposite) is petted by children afier receiving the traditional Thanksgiving presidential pardon fi·om President George W. Bush in 2005, 1l'hile the turkey pardoned by President Bill Clinton in 1998 explores the Rose Garden ( above).



century due to hunt­ ing and the loss of forest habitat as log­ gers cut down oak trees and took away one of the wild turkey's favorite food sources-the acorn.2 By this time domesticated turkeys were a significant food source. They were favored by Maryland and Virginia planters as a remedy for hornworm infesta­ tions in tobacco fields. Turkeys devoured the large and meaty hornworm and feasted on other pesty insects.3 Well into the nineteenth century, Maryland poultry growers drove large flocks of domesticated turkeys to the Washington markets, but by 1917 William A. Gordon lamented, "I doubt a drove of turkeys has come into this District within the past fifty years or more."' Observation of the Thanksgiving holiday at the White House with a roast turkey as the centerpiece of the meal may have begun with President and Mrs. James K.Polk who introduced "the new idea of a Thanksgiving in Washington."' Once the precedent was set, observation of the holiday quickly became an annual custom in the city. Celebrating and giving

The "Turkey King" Horace Vose, was featured in this pictorial spread in the Evening

Statesman of Walla Walla, Washington. He proudly provid­ ed the best turkeys in the land to the White House forforty years.

Horace Vose, Rhode lsJand Turkey King .,

turkeys with his uncle since the mid- l 850s and was a major poultry supplier to the New York City market. He may have been the benefactor for Lincoln's turkey in 1863. 13 Each year Vose looked over the best flocks in Rhode Island and Connecticut, then chose a presidential turkey that never weighed under 30 pounds and sometimes topped the scales at 50 pounds. He slaughtered and dressed the birds and then shipped them express in a box addressed to the the White House. Occasionally Vose had compe­ tition. In 1899 more than a dozen growers sent their birds to the White House, but Rhode Island turkeys, raised on the border of Connecticut, were highly prized as the "most deliciously flavored fowls of this species," and Vose's enormous birds rou­ tinely won out. Often the extra turkeys were given to staff or a local charity. 14 In 1913, former congressman South Trimble of Kentucky, then clerk of the House of Representatives, sent a turkey to President Wilson; Trimble's turkey weighed 30 pounds in contrast to Vose's 37, but Trimble claimed his bird, which had been fed a diet that included red peppers, was much more flavorful. It is not known which bird won the "honor" of gracing the Wilson table that

And His Thanksgiving Gift to Mrs. Taft

Thanksgiving Day. 15 Soon after, in December 1913, Vose died, thus ending an era of regional dominance in White House turkey provision. By 1914, the opportunity to give the president a turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas was open to all comers, and poultry gifts were frequently touched with patriotism, partisanship, and glee. South

The Story of the Thanksgiving Turkey at the White House


In 1922 a turkey named Supreme JI! was delivered to the Harding While House by GMC Truck ( above and right) in a "Non-Stop Run" from Chicago to Washington.

The Story of the Thanksgiving Turkey al the White House


President Dwight D. Eisenhower feeds a cranberry to a turkey during the pardoning ceremony in 1954 (above). Despite being labeled as "good eating," the turkey presented to President John F. Kennedy in 1963 (right) received an official pardon.

The Story of the Thanksgiving Turkey at the White House


Since 2013, Turkey Hill Farm at Morven Park near Leesburg, Virginia, has served as the home to presidentially pardoned turkeys. The turkeys love visitors, especially the children who come on field trips. In 2016, the Morven Park flock (opposite) included pardoned turkeys Honest and Abe, and George and Thomas, as well as Franklin, a Morven Park resident Heritage Bronze turkey. President Barack Obama fist bumps Executive Pastry Chef Susie Morrison ajier sampling pies with First Lady Michelle Obama during an interview about Thanksgiving in the White House Kitchen, 2014.

I3. Smith, Turkey, 117-18; see also "Horace Vose, The Turkey King, Dies at Westerly," Pro1â&#x20AC;˘idence ( R. I.) Evening Nell's, December 20, 1913, I.

23. 'Texan Hitchhikes 2,000 Miles to Give F.D.R. Turkey," Dallas Moming Ne,vs, December 25, 1940, I; Smith, Turkey, 118-19.

14. "The President's Turkey; ll Will Come from Rhode Island and Will Be a Mammoth Bird," Omal,a (Neb.) World, November 30, 1899, 16.

24. G. Wallace Chessman, "Thanksgiving: Another FDR Experiment," Prologue 31 (Fall 1999): 273-83.

15. "President's Two Turkeys; Rhode Island Gobbler This Year Has a Rival from Kentucky," Nell' York Times, November 27, 1913.

25. "Live Chickens Flood Capital," Boston Herald, November 7, 1947. I, 19.

16. "Turkeys Battle for Honor of Gracing President's Table: Kentucky Bird Wins," Lexington (Ky.) Herald, November 23, 1920, I. 17

"President and President-Elect Both lo Get Free Turkey," Baltimore Sun, November 17, I920, I; "Turkey for President Sent by Harding Girls Club of Packing Company," Sea11le Daily Times, November 23, 1921, I; "Turkey Rides to Washington," Cleveland (Ql,io) Plain Dealer, December 3, 1922, 14; "Record Truck Run Made in Delivery of President's Fowl," A lb11q11erq11e ( N. lvl.) JoumaI. December I0, 1922, 5.

18. Quoted in '¡Coolidge Refuses Gift Turkey; Wants to Discourage Custom," Nell' York Ti111es, November 28, 1923, I. 19. The Coolidges received an early Thanksgiving meal thanks to 13-year-old Vermonter Leona Baldwin. With the assistance of nineteen other Girl Scouts, she prepared a luncheon for the president and first lady. "Girl Cooks for White House," Los Angeles Times, November 6, 1925, 2. See also Jennifer Giambrone, "While House Turkeys of the Roaring '20s," White House Historical Association, online at 20

"President Hesitates About Eating Raccoon," Washington Post, November 27, 1926, 4; "President Draws Line at Honey as Well as Raccoon Meat," Baltirnore Sun, December I, 1926, I.

26. "Truman Gets Prize California Turkey," Sacra,nento (Cal.) Bee. December 15, 1947, 19. The Harris and Ewing news agency photograph of the event was published widely. See Washington Evening Star, December 16, 1947, 6. The story of President Harry S. Truman starting the White House pardoning tradition has been debunked. See Cynthia Edwards, "Did Truman Pardon a Turkey?," Truman Trivia, online at Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, 27

Smith, Turkey, 119.

28. "Pat Accepts Turkey for White House," Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate, November 24, 1971, I. 29

Quoted in "Which President Started the Tradition of Pardoning the Thanksgiving Turkey," White House Historical Association Q&A, online at

30. Karen Davis, More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality (New York: Lantern Books), 112-21. See also Smith, Turkey, 119. 31. David Schultz, "Twentieth Amendment," in Encyclopedia of the United States Constitution (New York: Facts on File, 2009), I:746.

21. "Wild Turkey Shot by Mooney Given to the President," Washington Evening Star, November 24, 1929, 52; "President Plans Simple Holiday," Washington Evening Star, November 27, 1929, I. 22

"Roosevelt to Share Gift Turkey with Hospital Patients," Wasl,ington Evening Star, November 20, 1932, 5.

The Story of the Thanksgiving Turkey at the White House


President Andrew Johnson's Grizzly Bear Chair A Gift from Seth Kinman LAUREN A .



engrnving of President Andrew Johnson's White House library that appeared in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Nell lspaper reveals a curious object in one corner-a bear chair.' This, however, was not the first bear in the White House. Thomas Jefferson housed two grizzly bear cubs in a pen out­ side the North Front door, gifts from explorer Zebulon Pike in 1807. 2 President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid hunter during his presidency, kept a polar bear rug in the Blue Room and decorated the State Dining Room with stuffed animal heads. He even inspired the naming of an American children's toy, the Teddy Bear. 3 Less well known but no less interesting is this bear chair, an armchair made from the bones and hides of grizzly bears that was a gift to President Johnson's White House on September 8, 1865, from Seth Kinman, hunter, trapper, and leg­ endary mountain man. Born in 1815, Kinman learned to hunt at an early age while living in the backwoods of Penn­ sylvania. In 1830 he migrated with his parents to One of only about 1,500 gri::.zly bears remaining in the United States today, this bear ivas recently photographed among ivildjlolllers on Mount Washburn in Yello\\lstone National Parle It is similar to the California Grizzly, hunted to extinction in the nineteenth century and used for such decorative purposes as the armchair given to President Andre\\/ Johnson in 1865 (above).

THE •GRIZZLY-BEAR CHAIR. tlTtlf:flltd, &pt. 8, lfl�. to .A11drrw Jnl,t111.n1. lwsidml U. S., by &111 Ki·nman, tl11• <«lijonda 1/m,ter and 1'rur,Jer. Y/ft.>/1in,-vhn.• ! ,10,,,,./,

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to A<I of <'ollfru•, by lltlb l[ln1D&A !Ji the Yd','Jfi6� iD

lllinois where he tried milling and farming for nearly twenty years. Attracted to the prospect of increasing his wealth, he followed the Gold Rush to California but had little success. He then gave up on mining to become a professional hunter in Humboldt County,

is arranged in a very life-like manner beneath the seat in such a way that when the seat is pressed it springs forward in a very startling fashion"-making a very ferocious-looking recliner. 10 The burly Kinman was long renowned for his specially made presidential chairs. His first, presented to President James Buchanan, was described as "quite a remarkable chair," "artistically made from the horns, feet, and skin of an elk," and valued at $7,200 by Kinman himself. 11 Told that a fellow Pennsylvanian had been elected president, Kinman determined to present him with a special chair as the ultimate patriotic gift, a symbolic throne that would be a "weapon of defense of the wild and untram­ meled freedom of the beast."12 After creating the chair from elk, Kinman traveled to Washington, D.C., exhibiting it along the way. At the Willard Hotel he was approached by General James W. Denver, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from California, who arranged for Kinman to personally present the chair to President President Andrew Johnson's Grizzly Bare Chair: A Gift from Seth Kinman


Profile for White House Historical Association

White House History 43 - Nature and Wildlife in the President's Park  

White House History 43 - Nature and Wildlife in the President's Park  

Profile for whhapubl

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