America's First Families: An Inside View of 200 Years of Private Life in the White House

America's First Families: An Inside View of 200 Years of Private Life in the White House

4.6 3
by Carl Sferrazza Anthony
Entertaining, revealing, with over 300 never-before-seen photos, America's First Families is the first book to take a close look at the real lives of America's own "royal families" in the White House, from John and Abigail Adams in 1800 to Bill and Hillary Clinton in the twenty-first century. Vivid anecdotes and revealing facts are drawn from diaries, letters,


Entertaining, revealing, with over 300 never-before-seen photos, America's First Families is the first book to take a close look at the real lives of America's own "royal families" in the White House, from John and Abigail Adams in 1800 to Bill and Hillary Clinton in the twenty-first century. Vivid anecdotes and revealing facts are drawn from diaries, letters, newspaper and magazine stories, and the author's own vast archive of research and interviews.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Anthony, a veteran historian of presidential wives (Florence Harding, etc.), has penned this delightful volume of the lives of those first families who have occupied the White House to coincide with the residence's 200th anniversary. Since John Adams, his wife, Abigail, and their extended family arrived at their new home in November 1800, 40 other presidential families have endeavored, with varying success, to maintain some degree of privacy while they lived in the White House fishbowl. Drawing on extensive research, the author provides a wealth of entertaining anecdotes and trivia that illuminates the ups and downs of their lives, both public and private. Anthony covers topics such as family members , religion, recreation, hospitality, holidays and working at home. While many stories--for example, Richard Nixon's penchant for lighting a fire while the air conditioning was on--have been cited elsewhere, Anthony recounts many lesser-known ones. He relates, for instance, that John and Jackie Kennedy often locked themselves in a bedroom together for an intimate hour after lunch (his many affairs notwithstanding). We learn, too, that Harry Truman's mother-in-law was an unrepentant anti-Semite who wouldn't allow his Jewish friends to enter her home, and that visits from Lyndon Johnson's grandson provided emotional therapy for the president during the embattled end of his term. Illustrated with more than 300 photos and packed with loads of tidbits about first families, this intimate miscellany is great for browsing; those who like their history light and easy will want this for their coffee table. Author tour to presidential libraries and museums across the country. (Nov. 2) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
With this commemorative history of the Executive Mansion's first 200 years (1800-2000), Anthony--a former speechwriter for Nancy Reagan and the author of four books about First Ladies, including First Ladies, a two-volume history--shows that he knows his way around the White House. Generously illustrating the text with portraits and candid photos from presidential libraries, archives, and Library of Congress collections, Anthony presents the human side of both familiar and obscure presidents and their families. The narratives are arranged according to events and relationships such as the first day, holidays, children, extended families, etc., and provide touching descriptions of family celebrations, crises, and tragedies. This close-up look at the lives of White House residents offers an intimate and objective perspective on the fish-bowl life most First Families have experienced. Highly recommended for public libraries.--Jill Ortner, SUNY at Buffalo Libs. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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Read an Excerpt

Some Uses of the Family Rooms

1. Yellow Oval Room

Ladies' toilette room under Jackson, probably also under Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler. Library under Fillmore. President's private study and family room from Lincoln to Truman. Study/family room under Lincoln, Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover. Formal, private entertaining room since Eisenhower.

2. "Living Room"

"Extra" bedroom for presidential couples from Madison to Pierce. Bedroom for Abraham Lincoln, Mary Johnson Stover and her three children, May and Jessie McElroy (Arthur nieces), Russell and Mamie Harrison and their children, Quentin and Archie Roosevelt, Woodrow and Edith Wilson, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon. Living room and study since the Fords.

3. "Master Bedroom"

Bedroom to the John Adamses, Jefferson, the Madisons, the Monroes (assumed), J. Quincy Adams, Jackson, Van Buren (assumed), the John Tylers (assumed), the Polks (assumed), the Taylors, the Fillmores (assumed), the Pierces, Buchanan, Mary Lincoln, the David Patterson [Johnson] family, the Grants, the Hayeses, the Garfields, Mary McElroy, the Cleveland daughters, the B. Harrisons, the T. Roosevelts, the Tafts, the Wilsons, the Hardings, the Coolidges, the Hoovers, Mamie Eisenhower, Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, the Fords, the Carters, the Reagans, the Bushes, the Clintons; sitting room for Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman.

4. "Sitting Room"

Bedroom to Suzannah Adams and Louisa Smith, Tad Lincoln, Robert Johnson, nursemaid to children of Grover Cleveland, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman. Private study to Rutherford Hayes, Lou Hoover. Dressing room to Julia Grant, William Howard Taft, Grace Coolidge. Tearoom­private receiving room to Mary Arthur McElroy. Private dining room to Woodrow and Edith Wilson. Clothes storage room for Florence Harding. Dressing­sitting room­office to: Mamie Eisenhower, Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton.

5. "The Kitchen"

Bedroom to Eliza Johnson, Frances Cleveland, Lorena Hickok (friend of Eleanor Roosevelt), Margaret Truman. Sitting room to Minnie Doud. Nursery-bedroom to Benjamin Harrison grandchildren. Family kitchen since the Kennedys.

6. "The Dining Room"

Bedroom of William Henry Harrison; Willie Lincoln; Grover Cleveland, then shared with Frances Cleveland, then Cleveland alone; Robert and Mary Harrison McKee; McKinleys; Alice Roosevelt, then Ethel Roosevelt; Helen Taft; Eleanor Wilson; Calvin Coolidge Jr.; Louis Howe (FDR advisor) and his wife, Grace; Minnie Doud. Likely bedroom of Nellie Grant, Fanny Hayes, Molly Garfield, Nell Arthur. As a bedroom suite (together with present-day kitchen room), bedroom to Louisa Adams and niece Mary Hellen; Jack and Emily Donelson and their four children; Robert and Priscilla Tyler and their daughter Mary. Living room for Andrew Johnson family. Dining room since the Kennedys.

7. "Cosmetology Room"

Offices of Eleanor Roosevelt and Bess Truman. Painting room of Dwight Eisenhower. Nursery room for John F. Kennedy Jr. Study of Luci Johnson. Makeup, hairdressing, and barber room since the Nixons.

8. Bedroom A (west)

Bedroom for Willie Lincoln, Andrew Johnson and son Andrew Jr., Robert and Charlie Taft, Joseph Lash (friend of Eleanor Roosevelt), Reathel Odum (secretary to Bess Truman), John F. Kennedy Jr., Chuck and Lynda Johnson Robb and their daughter. Playroom for Amy Carter. Gymnasium for Reagans.

9. Hall Room

Room where Lincoln made public speeches from window. Schoolroom for Scott and Fanny Hayes. Bedroom for two Theodore Roosevelt family maids, then Maude Shaw, nurse to Kennedy children. Storage room for dresses of Lady Bird Johnson, Nancy Reagan.

10. Bedroom B (east)

Bedroom for Frederick Dent (father of Julia Grant); Chester Arthur; Mary Dimmick (niece of Caroline Harrison) and John Scott (father of Caroline Harrison); Kermit Roosevelt; Madge Wallace (mother of Bess Truman); Caroline Kennedy; Pat Nugent and Luci Johnson Nugent and their son; Tricia Nixon; Susan Ford; Amy Carter; Chelsea Clinton. Office of Nancy Reagan. Either bedroom A or B was used by Scott, Birch, the sons of Hayes, Garfield, and Taft.

11. The Queen's Bedroom

Formerly called the Rose, or Pink, Bedroom, this is a guest room, once the bedroom of Anna Roosevelt, for example. Before the 1902 renovation it was the usual bedroom for presidential private secretaries, which meant many male relatives, including sons of presidents.

12. The Queen's Sitting Room

An office for the secretary prior to 1902; Ruddy Hayes used it for his botany experiments, and Jim and Harry Garfield studied here.

13. Lincoln Sitting Room

Was used as a small bedroom and office space; it was Florence Harding's social office, for example.

14. Lincoln Bedroom

Once Lincoln's Cabinet Room, it was then the "Blue Suite" bedroom where, for example, Margaret Wilson lived. It became "the Lincoln Bedroom" under Truman.

15. Treaty Room

Was Cabinet Room in the Victorian age, became a study after the 1902 renovation, and was made into the "Monroe Room" by Lou Hoover, then "Treaty Room" under Kennedy. President's private study under Bush and Clinton.

Copyright © 2000 by Carl Sferrazza Anthony

Meet the Author

Carl Sferrazza Anthony is the author of First Ladies, a two-volume history, Florence Harding, and As We Remember Her: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the Words of Her Family and Friends. A speechwriter for Nancy Reagan who has also written extensively on Hillary Rodham Clinton, Anthony is the acknowledged authority on the political power and social influence of First Ladies. He has written for The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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