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

Overview

Packed with more than 300 photographs from archives and private collections -- many published here for the first time -- entertaining anecdotes, political analysis, the dynamics of family relationships, and behind-the-scenes gossip, America's First Families offers the first up-close look at the families -- from John and Abigail Adams in 1800 to Bill and Hillary Clinton -- who have intrigued and entranced the American public for two centuries.

Carl Sferrazza Anthony opens the ...

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Overview

Packed with more than 300 photographs from archives and private collections -- many published here for the first time -- entertaining anecdotes, political analysis, the dynamics of family relationships, and behind-the-scenes gossip, America's First Families offers the first up-close look at the families -- from John and Abigail Adams in 1800 to Bill and Hillary Clinton -- who have intrigued and entranced the American public for two centuries.

Carl Sferrazza Anthony opens the door to the world's most famous residence to reveal life as it was actually lived there. He takes readers into the heart of loyalties and estrangements, and the emotional pressures that politics brings to bear upon the forty White House families, from their arrivals to their "notices to vacate." Readers will enjoy an unprecedented tour of the previously unseen private rooms as used and decorated by each family. Revealed too are the personal proclivities of the presidents and how their families both sustained them through public crises and were used for political advantage. They'll get a firsthand look at the preparations for White House weddings and other occasions; meet the parents and children of the presidents -- as well as eccentric relatives; and discover the patterns of working, resting, and relaxing that shaped the nuts and bolts of family life.

A magnificent combination of visual delights and insider information, America's First Families is an irresistible invitation to spend some time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

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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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684864426
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 11/2/2000
  • Series: Lisa Drew Bks.
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 648,201
  • Product dimensions: 7.38 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.77 (d)

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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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 3: A Home Within a Symbol

There is but little privacy here, the house belongs to the Government and everyone feels at home and they sometimes stalk into our bedroom and say they are looking at the house.

— Joanna Rucker, niece of First Lady Sarah Polk

I love these beautiful big rooms with their high ceilings, their wide spaces, their polished mahogany furniture, carved deep with memories of Lincoln and the Madisons....I thrill to the thought I am sitting in a chair where they once sat, eating from a plate which graced the place of McKinley or Grant.

— First Lady Florence Harding

The four standing walls of the White House in the year 2000 are the very same that greeted the John Adams family two hundred years before, and though the suite of family rooms on the second floor has been reconfigured, rebuilt, renovated, and redecorated since then, it has consistently remained the home of First Families. The building's interior was burned in 1814, renovated in 1902, and entirely rebuilt between 1948 and 1952. From 1801 until 1902 office workers and strangers were bustling about daily on the other side of a door from the family's rooms. Despite the challenges of living there, it survives as the permanent residence of the president. The White House is among the nation's most potent symbols. But it hasn't been easy making a real life inside a symbol.

It is not certain how some of the earliest families used the rooms of the family quarters on the second floor, although there were so many relatives living with Jefferson, the Madisons, and the Monroes that some of the rooms were presumably finished and being used. One visitor noted that Jefferson used only part of the available space and left "the rest to a state of uncleanly desolation." The first description of the rooms came under Monroe, with the mention of a bed being crowned with satin and lace curtains.

Since John and Abigail Adams used it, however, the presidential suite — a bedroom, sitting room, and later large walk-in closets and two bathrooms — has always been in the southwest corner of the second floor. This room was often a place of peaceful isolation. Margaret "Peggy" Taylor decorated it with cherished family possessions that had been with her through years of traveling from army post to post. "I always found the most pleasant part of my visit to the White House to be passed in Mrs. Taylor's bright pretty room," recalled visitor Varina Davis, "where the invalid, full of interest in the passing show in which she had not the strength to take her part, talked most agreeably and kindly to the many friends admitted to her presence." Rarely venturing outside, or downstairs to any public events, Mrs. Taylor made the room the center of her life, where friends and family gathered for socializing, and where her young daughters often danced informally with each other under her watchful eye. Just three years later, in the same suite, Jane Pierce, in deep mourning for her recently killed eleven-year-old son, closed the doors and remained sequestered for nearly a year.

The first non-family member permitted to see and describe the presidential bedroom was Austine Stead, who wrote a newspaper column under the pen name Miss Grundy. She was guided through by President Hayes himself. For the first time this inner sanctum was depicted for the curious citizenry. The furniture was crafted from imitation bamboo, and the walls were painted a light blue with pink and gray panels. Here Lucretia Garfield nearly died of malaria in April 1881. Three months later her husband was initially put here after being shot, and the nation saw its first image of the room in newspaper illustrations of the president in bed, surrounded by doctors.

Since the 1902 renovation, the southwest suite has remained fixed as the president's bedroom. The Theodore Roosevelts slept in the Lincoln bed; the Tafts put it in storage and used twin mahogany beds. The twin beds were used by Woodrow and Ellen Wilson, who painted the room blue and white; Ellen Wilson died in this room. Wilson's second wife, Edith, brought the Lincoln bed back here for their use. The Hardings banished it and brought in Nellie Taft's twin beds. Here Florence Harding also had a special closet made for her large collection of shoes. The Coolidges returned the Lincoln bed for their use — and the Hoovers put it in another room and didn't use it. The Franklin Roosevelts designated this room as the "First Lady's bedroom," but Mrs. Roosevelt and then Bess Truman used it as a sitting room, the former hanging hundreds of framed pictures, the latter painting the walls lavender and gray. Mamie Eisenhower used it as her bedroom, in multiple shades of pink with an enormous pink bed and pink pin-cushioned headboard. Jackie Kennedy redecorated it in powder blue and white, placing a pastel portrait of her daughter on the wall, with a favorite terra-cotta bust of a child on the mantelpiece. This bust so represented her White House tenure to her that it figures in her White House portrait. She had double beds pushed together as one, draped by a powder blue tapestry. Since the Fords the room has been shared by the spouses. The Reagans covered the walls in hand-painted Chinese paper with a design of small birds; the Clintons chose similarly patterned floral paper.

Connected to this room, in the very corner, is the narrow dressing room. It has served a multitude of purposes — bedroom, small dining room, office, dressing room, tearoom. Nancy Reagan placed a portrait of herself with her baby daughter here, with its perfect view of the south and west from which many a First Lady has watched the lights of the Oval Office burn late.

Directly across the hall from the president's bedroom suite is the northwest suite, today used as a kitchen and dining room. Prior to 1961, the larger of the two rooms was a prime bedroom suite. For some unknown reason, President William Henry Harrison took this room; perhaps his death here led his successors to return to the original plan of using the bedroom across the hall. When the Prince of Wales came to stay with the Buchanan family, he slept in the suite, and it was christened the "Prince of Wales Room." Here in 1861 Mary Lincoln placed an ornately carved rosewood bed and matching marble-topped table from the Philadelphia firm of William Carryl. She had the bed, which would forever after be known as the Lincoln bed, crowned with a gold American shield, from which gilt lace, overlaid by rich purple satin curtains fringed in gold, flowed to the floor, covering the bed's perimeter. The bedspread was also purple and gold. Lizzie Grimsley, the First Lady's cousin, called the room "the best in the family suite." Just months after the room's completion, eleven-year-old Willie Lincoln died in the Lincoln bed. Three years later, the remains of his father would be embalmed in this room. This was the McKinleys' bedroom, decorated rather simply in crisp whites, with double brass-knobbed beds; a painting of their daughter, who had died two decades earlier, hung on the wall. Cleveland had the room painted yellow for them, but Ida McKinley demanded that it be changed to pale pink. Here she spent most of her White House life, and it was photographed for the American people for the first time in 1897.

Dining here with the Nixon family some seventy years after she lived in the White House, Alice Roosevelt Longworth looked around the room and realized this was her old bedroom — where her appendix had been removed. In 1961, Jackie Kennedy had made the room the "President's Dining Room," hung with mid-nineteenth-century wallpaper showing battle scenes. Betty Ford found the paper unappetizing and had the room painted yellow. Rosalynn Carter returned the wallpaper, and it remained in place, although in 1997 it was covered — but not harmed — with a more soothing pale green silk fabric.

The small dressing room connected to the "Prince of Wales room," in the far northwest corner, was used frequently by presidential daughters — just across the hall from their parents. Margaret Truman slept here; she said it was so cold that many mornings she hopped out of bed just long enough to build a fire in the fireplace, then went back to sleep — until her father woke her for school. Jackie Kennedy converted it into a kitchen. Here, Ford sometimes made his own breakfast, and the Clintons, who found its informality relaxing, often cooked and ate their meals here.

Moving northeast from the dining room along the north wall are now two mid-size rooms and one small one. There are no floor plans indicating exact location of rooms before the Pierce years, and walls and spaces changed with some frequency before that. These spaces were used as bedrooms — Johnson Hellen, nephew of Louisa Adams, lived in one. A small half-room area, connected by a door to the present-day dining room, with windows facing Pennsylvania Avenue, was a bathing area under Lincoln but has been a grooming room since the Nixon years. Hillary Clinton even put a humorous poster here, poking fun at her various changing hairstyles, and Barbara Bush's dog Millie gave birth here. Through a south door from this half-room is one of two famous "secret" back stairs, a stairwell that winds down from the top floor to the bottom. (There is another back stairs next to the family kitchen.) Right next to this half-room and the stairwell is the elevator. An elevator had been planned for the use of James Garfield's elderly mother, but his successor Chester Arthur installed the first one. It was replaced with a more efficient model by Theodore Roosevelt (whose son Quentin and his friend Charlie Taft, son of the next president, used to ride — on top of it), and then another was installed by Truman.

Farther east along the north wall, there had been a formal guest or "state bedroom," created by Monroe and decorated in yellow by Jackson. By the Pierce years, this room was divided into two bedrooms, the large area now split down the center by a newly created narrow corridor with its window directly over the front door. The two bedrooms still flank this thin space of a room, mostly used for storage. Here, Lincoln often came to give speeches from the window, and a small schoolroom was later established for Scott and Fanny Hayes. The bedroom on the west side of the hall room was used once by a president — Andrew Johnson — and the bedroom on the east side was used once by another, Chester Arthur, who ordered a regally carved headboard, canopied in blue and complete with double mattresses for himself. In the west bedroom, Mary Lincoln lay in shock following her husband's assassination, refusing to enter their own suite. Later it became the Reagans' gym.

During the White House's first century, a large staircase was located in the west hall of the family quarters, right outside the presidential bedroom. It was an odd space: Fanny Hayes played with her dollhouse here; with Garfield's illness, it resembled a hospital waiting room; the McKinleys made it a dining area. The Benjamin Harrisons tried to create a homey feeling beneath the dramatic semicircular window at the end of the hall, incorporating items like a chair made of elk antlers here. Any sense of its being a private area, however, was broken by the protruding stairwell. The Roosevelt children took trays from the kitchen and slid down the stairs here.

By 1902 the stairs were gone and the hall became a gathering place for families at day's end. Nellie Taft worked with her secretary here during the day and played her piano in the evening. Her dark green burlap wallpaper was replaced with beige grass cloth by Ellen Wilson. Lou Hoover installed palm trees, ferns, wicker furniture, straw matting on the floor, and caged birds, giving it the feel of her California home. This is where she placed her desk, working in the center of this airy, dramatic space. Under FDR, it was the center of frenetic activity. Beneath the window, on solid old furniture including red leather chairs and sofas from the presidential yacht, Eleanor Roosevelt held court, talking to political leaders and social reformers, along with visiting relatives or friends, scrambling eggs in her chafing dish on Sunday nights, or making café au lait while carrying on with debates and conversations. The Eisenhowers put overstuffed chintz-covered chairs here, bowls of pink carnations scattered about. Silver-framed pictures of the Bouviers, Mrs. Kennedy's father's desk, a small bar and hi-fi set, and shelves bulging with family photo albums marked the Kennedy look. The Nixons had yellow walls with pieces of cobalt-colored furniture; the Reagans had peach walls with predominantly red furniture. All the entrances that open into the hall can be closed, giving it the feel of a squarish room.

Across the Center Hall from the two north bedrooms is what became the Yellow Oval Room, decorated in green as a ladies' parlor by Andrew Jackson's niece, Emily Donelson. William Henry Harrison's family clustered here as he lay dying and officials predominated in his bedroom. It remained, however, largely a gathering place for women guests until Sarah Polk outfitted a downstairs room for the same purposes, thus making the family rooms finally off-limits to mere guests. It was the Fillmores who gave purpose to the room when, in 1850, Congress made a special appropriation of $4,000 to purchase the first multiple volumes of books. This became the first permanent White House library, and here their daughter, Mary Abigail, played her harp for guests. After a long day of telegraphing messages on Union troop movements during the Civil War, Lincoln would join his wife here. Presidents from Hayes to Theodore Roosevelt used it for private meetings. Chester Arthur put his lounge chair here, but Frances Cleveland formalized it with Louis XIII furniture. Nellie Taft dramatically altered the room's look with tapestries and other items she had purchased in Asia.

Despite Prohibition, Harding served alcoholic drinks to his cronies as they played poker in the Oval Room. Draped in "Harding blue," it housed clipping books, a pink doll that shook and winked, and the First Lady's collection of miniature elephants on shelves. The Hoovers created an oddly glamorous look with Chippendale couches upholstered in gold-and-black brocade and green curtains. Under FDR the oval study took on a nautical look, displaying the president's collection of naval prints and ship models. Truman met nightly with his wife in closed-door sessions here, during which they reviewed his speeches and political agenda. Eisenhower's military decorations and awards were displayed in cases here, and it was called the "Trophy Room." Jackie Kennedy created a sitting room, reminiscent of the Jefferson-Madison era, with bright yellow furniture. Since 1961, it has been the most formal room on the family floor, where world leaders are brought before a state dinner, for the exchange of official gifts.

To the west along the south wall is the square room sandwiched between the Yellow Oval Room and the master suite in the southwest corner (the bedroom traditionally used by presidential couples). This had always been the "extra room" of the southwest suite, and some couples used it as a separate bedroom. The Hayeses designated it the "State Bedroom"; Garfield's doctors conferred and rested here, and after its initial use as two of her sons' bedroom, Edith Roosevelt took it over for her office and sitting room. Ellen Wilson, a supporter of Appalachian crafts, brought some of them here, calling it the "Blue Mountain Room." Under Harding it was dubbed the "West Parlor," and he slept here when his wife was ill. Because of Franklin Roosevelt's confinement to a wheelchair, and the difficulties he had in dressing, he took this room as his own, sleeping in a narrow white metal frame bed. Thus, beginning with FDR this room was designated the President's Bedroom. It was blue-green under Truman, green under Eisenhower, blue-white under Kennedy. Presidents from Roosevelt to Nixon maintained a bed for themselves here.

After exchanging LBJ's canopied four-poster bed for the simpler one used by Truman and Eisenhower, Nixon cracked that "politics had literally bred strange bedfellows." Pat Nixon decided to maintain the tradition of a separate room because, as she told the chief usher, "Nobody could sleep with Dick. He wakes up during the night, switches on the lights, speaks into his tape recorder or takes notes — it's impossible." In fact, Nixon's taping of his thoughts — a daily habit also practiced by Lady Bird Johnson — involved a single recorder, considerably simpler than the tangle of wires LBJ had kept under his bed for various electronic gadgets including two clacking wire service printers, a three-television-set console, and a telephone taping system. When the Fords' furniture from their suburban Virginia home was delivered by movers, a press photograph showed their large bed headboard being moved in, and a reporter asked Betty Ford how often they would sleep together. "As often as possible," she quipped. Both the President and Mrs. Ford used the southwest bedroom to sleep in, and the square room formerly known as "The President's Bedroom" became the true family living room. The Reagans often ate dinner from TV trays here, watching television as they sat in matching red-and-white chintz chairs. Here Mrs. Bush placed a large needlepoint rug that she had made. Removing the many television sets around the private quarters, the Clintons placed their one set here.

Before the 1902 renovation, the executive offices were located at the east end of the second floor. With the creation of the West Wing, they were moved out and the entire floor became the private preserve of the family. Still, the five rooms in the east end have a semipublic history.

The bedroom suite now called the Queen's Suite, because several European queens stayed here, was called the Rose Suite after the 1902 renovation, and was often used by visiting relatives: Edith Roosevelt's sister Emily Carow; William Howard Taft's sister and brother-in-law, Frances and William Edwards; Coolidge's cousin's daughter Marion Pollard; Anna Roosevelt, FDR's daughter; and most "First Mothers," from Martha Truman to Virginia Clinton Kelley. While the Kennedys' bedroom was being decorated their first weeks in the house, they lived here. Jackie Kennedy's redecoration of the connecting sitting room in blue and white has remained intact for nearly forty years. Lady Bird Johnson sometimes repaired here to work in complete privacy. It was also used for a Catholic mass on the first birthday of Luci Johnson Nugent's son Lyn, and served as a holding room for groom Chuck Robb before his White House wedding to Lynda Bird Johnson.

During the months when First Lady Nellie Taft was recuperating from a stroke, her visiting sisters Eleanor Moore, Jennie Anderson, and Maria Herron lived in the "Blue Suite" across the hall from the Rose Suite. Intermittently during the Wilson tenure, this was the home of Margaret Wilson, the daughter who remained unmarried. When Herbert Hoover decided to move his private office here, the "Blue Suite" became the "Lincoln Study." It was again a bedroom under FDR — where adviser Harry Hopkins and his wartime bride Louise lived — but the Lincoln bed was not yet in place. Finally, in 1945, under Harry Truman's direction the Lincoln bed and accompanying furniture were moved in, and the "Lincoln Study" became the Lincoln Bedroom. The connecting sitting room was Florence Harding's busy office. Jackie Kennedy decorated it as the "Lincoln Sitting Room," in Victoriana to match the bedroom, and it became Nixon's favorite spot in the house. He so liked to work beside its roaring fireplace that in the summer he had the air-conditioning turned on to mitigate the heat from the fire. He listened to his favorite music, the score of Victory at Sea, as he worked in his favorite brown easy chair, and also handed his letter of resignation to his secretary of state here. In 1993, Hillary Clinton redecorated it in vibrant patterns appropriate to the era.

The President's Study, used continuously by Presidents Andrew Johnson through William McKinley, took on a personal look following the 1902 renovation. Theodore Roosevelt and W. H. Taft both displayed personal memorabilia going back to their college days. Today it is called the Treaty Room, because the treaty ending the Spanish-American War had been signed here by McKinley. During World War I, after dinner, Woodrow and Edith Wilson repaired to his desk here, retrieved from it classified dispatches transmitted earlier, and decoded them. Under Coolidge, floor-to-ceiling bookcases were built along the walls. Hoover tore them out. His wife gathered original and copied Monroe furniture in this room and called it the Monroe Room. Eleanor Roosevelt replaced some of it with sturdier pieces from the furniture factory she helped found, and briefly held her press conferences for women reporters here. Jackie Kennedy restored it to a Victorian Treaty Room with a Grant-era East Room chandelier, and used it as her work space. The Bushes made it into a blue presidential study. Hillary Clinton restored the Victoriana, with dark wood and burgundy walls, for use by her husband as his home office.

Across the hall from this room is the Grand Staircase, which goes only between the second floor and the State Floor. Two other smaller staircases at the west end of the second floor, however, go to the next upper floor. Formerly the attic, the third floor is now a fully working suite of rooms used by the families. The attic had long been used for storage along with about eight small sloped-ceiling bedrooms for servants. The 1902 renovation expanded the space for some ironing rooms, linen closets, clothing storage, and guest rooms. One room was dubbed the "Bachelor's Suite" for young men who courted the Wilson daughters, and in another well-lit area painter Ellen Wilson worked on her canvases. When the roof was raised in 1927, the floor became more livable. Lou Hoover's secretaries worked here. FDR's personal secretary and companion, Missy LeHand, lived here, and later so did little Diana Hopkins, daughter of FDR's live-in adviser Harry Hopkins. After enduring the intolerable food supervised by a housekeeper who ignored his wishes, FDR had a small kitchen created on the third floor, and there his meals were made. Dwight Eisenhower cooked his own soups and stews here.

There are various-sized suites and rooms on the third floor. Jackie Kennedy first decorated them with antiques, her most famous being the "Empire Guest Room," with a bed used by John Adams. The Carter family had one of the rooms sentimentally lined with wood panels from an old family barn in Georgia. Julie Nixon and her husband, David Eisenhower, the visiting Reagan and Bush children and grandchildren, and relatives of the Clintons all stayed here, and while in residence the Ford and Carter sons lived in rooms on this floor. Hillary Clinton created her own Eleanor Roosevelt room where she kept memorabilia of her predecessor that had been sent to her as gifts. For her husband's birthday one year, she also had the room at the far east end made into a soundproof music room, where he practiced his saxophone — it had been Jack Ford's old bedroom. Under the Reagans, and then again the Clintons, the bedroom suites were beautifully decorated with items from the White House collection. The Clintons installed an exercise room here. There is also a billiards room.

The most famous and popular room on this floor was created by Grace Coolidge, directly above the Yellow Oval Room. She called it her sky parlor because it offered an open view looking out to the sky from walls of glass. The Trumans installed a linoleum floor and artificial bamboo furniture, and the space was Mamie Eisenhower's bridge party room, Caroline Kennedy's kindergarten, the teenage Johnson daughters' hangout — complete with soda machine. It was the one quiet retreat where Nixon son-in-law Ed Cox could come to study for his law bar exams, and Rosalynn Carter could focus on Spanish lessons with her in-residence daughters-in-law Caron and Annette. Ronald Reagan recuperated in the bright room in the weeks following the assassination attempt. There is a small wet bar here. It was the favorite room of the Clintons, whether for meetings or board games or family dinners. Here they displayed collections of humorous stacking Russian dolls depicting them and other political figures. Just outside the Solarium and around the roof's perimeter is a promenade, hidden from public view, where Mrs. Clinton raised cherry tomato plants. This is where Eisenhower turned his steaks and burgers on a fifties barbecue grill, and Susan Ford brought her cat Shan out to play. In the evenings, the Carter sons used a telescope to identify stars, while during the day, the family suntanned here. A century earlier Jesse Grant had used a smaller roof nook for his telescope. When Theodore Roosevelt prohibited his daughter Alice from smoking her cigarettes "under this roof," this is where she climbed to obey him — to smoke on the roof.

No First Family has ever had to function without servants. They have all had staff to cook, serve, clean, sew, wash, manage their pets, place their telephone calls, wind their clocks, fix the plumbing and electricity, and repair anything for them. A succession of stewards, housekeepers, and chief ushers have managed the household staff, answering directly to the First Couple. While no First Lady was reported pushing her vacuum cleaner every week, several found housekeeping to provide some normalcy in the house: on maids' days off, Bess Truman was known to clean and cook, Jackie Kennedy often lugged and moved furniture herself as she rearranged rooms, Hillary Clinton enjoyed cooking for her family.

In the nineteenth century, many servants, particularly those who had come with the family, were housed in the basement. When, amid the growing sectional tensions over abolition, Zachary Taylor brought slaves to serve his family in the White House, they were hidden from public view, living in the cramped attic space. Nellie Taft's housekeeper, Elizabeth Jaffray — who continued to serve under Wilson, Harding, and Coolidge — was actually given a room in the family quarters. Before Taft, families paid many of their servants' wages. Thus, it was often not long before some servants found themselves on the federal payroll, with some creative title changes.

Whether paid by the family or the government, notable personalities among some of the servants mark history: Madison's household manager Jean Sioussant, who was with Dolley in the harrowing minutes before she fled the mansion as the British army advanced to burn it; the long-suffering Guistas, who worked for Quincy Adams but quit under the mercurial Jackson; Mary Lincoln's empathetic seamstress, Elizabeth Keckley; Grant's coachman Albert, who ate and talked with the horses; the Hayes's cook Winnie Monroe, who so loved Washington that she returned there later, leaving the family; Arthur's snobbish valet, Alec Powell, who sniped at reporters in defense of his boss; the Theodore Roosevelt family cook, Annie O'Rourke, whose sugar wafers were renowned in Washington; Florence Harding's suspicious maid, Katherine Wynn, who indulged in her lady's penchant for intrigue; the Kennedy valets Providencia Parades and George Thomas, whose families celebrated holidays with the First Family; the Nixons' loyal house managers, husband and wife team Manuelo and Fina Sanchez; Amy Carter's nanny Mary Fitzpatrick, employed on work release from a Georgia prison. When Nancy Reagan's maid Anita Costello made headlines for being wrongly accused of dealing in arms, it was the first time a servant was thrust into public controversy since John Watt, the gardener under Lincoln, was investigated by Congress for passing on to a reporter an advance copy of the president's State of the Union address.

Mansion maintenance necessitates a full professional staff. In the early days the rooms were simply heated by coal or wood fires. The Madisons installed a heating system in the State Dining Room, the heat rising through grates from coal stoves in the basement. Van Buren extended this to other rooms. Under Pierce came a furnace and duct heating system, and Fillmore had its reach extended into smaller service rooms. Before another decade passed, central heating was improved to a rudimentary steam-heat system. Radiators began appearing in rooms with the 1902 renovation, and electric heat came after 1952. Limited air-conditioning came in 1933, central air-conditioning with the Truman renovation in 1952. In the family rooms, candles and oil lamps were used for lighting until gaslight wall brackets were installed under Taylor. In 1889, electricity was installed for the Harrisons, who feared electrocution: servants shut the lights off.

Jefferson had a "water closet," essentially a chamber pot that could be washed with water pumped up through a wooden pipe from outside. It was located in the space occupied by the present-day powder room for First Ladies, off a small entry hall to the southwest corner sitting room. There is a record of Monroe's using a tin bathtub, and certainly his predecessors had used the same, with water being carried up by jug. Under Jackson in 1834, running water was piped in from a spring and pumped up into the east terrace in metal tubes. These ran through the walls and protruded into the rooms, controlled by spigots. Initially, the water was for washing items, but soon the first bathing rooms were created, in the ground-level east colonnade. Van Buren had shower baths installed here, and under Pierce, running hot baths and showers came to the family floor, as well as another rest room, likely with a wood-stalled commode and porcelain sink. Located in the president's suite, it had faux wood wallpapering and faux tile cloth flooring. By Lincoln's time, running water for washing came in from the Potomac River. With the 1902 renovation, modern bathrooms with silver faucets and handles and white porcelain were created in the four corner suites and tucked in elsewhere. The largest bathtub was installed for 300-plus-pound Taft after he got stuck in a regular-size one; four average-size men could fit in it. LBJ had a powerful shower installed with hard-streaming jets and shower heads from every direction. Nixon said it "nearly flung me out of the stall," and replaced it. Andrew Johnson installed the first barber chair, and Truman put in a drinking fountain and even a dental office.

White House life is isolating, but communications have never been a problem. Since the early days families used servants as hand messengers. Andrew Johnson had a telegraph office installed down the hall, in the executive offices, and Hayes acquired the first telephone after watching a demonstration of the wonder by Alexander Graham Bell himself.

Prior to 1902, there were extensive stables, housing horses and coaches, located on the grounds of the present-day Oval Office, Cabinet Room, and Rose Garden. Servants included drivers and coachmen, but going about stylishly was costly; thus many families accepted princely coaches from various public groups. One of the most regal of these was presented to Abigail Fillmore by wealthy New York supporters of her husband, complete with horses and silver harnesses. Fillmore later came under attack for selling it all and pocketing the profit. Arthur had a monogrammed landau, painted green with red detailing, green silk monogrammed lap robes, lace curtains, and silver mountings. "The entire 'turn-out,' " said one observer, "is a model of quiet magnificence and good taste." Grant's children daily went to school in a yellow wicker pony cart, while Grant himself was arrested for speeding — though he praised the officer for "doing his duty."

Taft was the first to travel officially by automobile, and a full fleet of cars was provided for his and his family's use — the first time congressional funds were appropriated for presidential travel. Some members of First Families continued driving themselves. Lou Hoover and Eleanor Roosevelt managed to do so, but Bess Truman found she attracted too much attention, making for potential traffic accidents, and gave it up reluctantly. Only once did President Kennedy drive in his white Cadillac convertible with red leather interior, carrying his wife and friends from his docked yacht back to his family's Hyannis Port compound, a very short distance. LBJ more frequently insisted on the freedom of driving his convertible in Texas. When a policeman pulled him over for speeding, recognized him, and gasped, "Oh, my God," LBJ quipped, "And don't you forget it." With security ever tighter, presidential couples can rarely drive. President Clinton was permitted to drive his classic Thunderbird convertible, for example, only a few hundred feet at an exhibition of old cars. Hillary Clinton had to keep hers in storage for years. Even when Patti [Reagan] Davis drove her car at home in California, she was trailed by the Secret Service.

Presidential train and sea travel gave way to air travel. Although various well-appointed railroad parlor, sleeping, and dining cars were loaned or appropriated by the government for lengthy presidential travel, there was never any official presidential train. Van Buren was the first incumbent president to travel by rail, and it was a regular form of travel for presidents until Eisenhower, overlapping with the jet age. In 1902 Theodore Roosevelt commissioned the first official presidential yacht, The Mayflower, ushering in regular voyages by First Families. Before Roosevelt, private or naval vessels were used. Jimmy Carter had the presidential vessel Sequoia decommissioned as a relic of the imperial presidency, and there were no more yachts.

Air travel for incumbent presidents commenced in January 1943, when FDR used a PanAm plane, contracted by the navy, to go from Florida to Casablanca. By the fall of that year, in the midst of war, a C-54 cargo plane was converted into The Sacred Cow for Roosevelt, the first official Air Force One. Truman and Eisenhower both loved flying, and the former had a plane commissioned with an eagle painted onto its nose. Although both men's wives disliked flying, they made short trips by air, thus beginning the private use of the government planes by family members (Eleanor Roosevelt flew commercial). Eisenhower even had a small twin-engine fly him between Washington and his Gettysburg farm, and was the first to use a helicopter directly from the lawn to Andrews Air Force Base, where the planes are kept. When an aide once pointed out to LBJ "his" helicopter, the president quipped, "Son, they're all my helicopters."

Various improved aircraft have served as Air Force One since the Kennedy presidency (the name applies to any craft carrying the president, not the plane itself). Beige china chosen by Jackie Kennedy is still used, and besides a kitchen, there are an office, a conference room, a press section, and bedrooms onboard. If family members use presidential craft for personal use, they must pay an exorbitant fee. When Jackie Kennedy flew to Italy to vacation with her sister, she had to pay her fare. When the duo went to India and Pakistan, however, it was a semiofficial trip with speeches and appearances deemed to be of political value to the administration — and her tab was paid by the government.

Sometimes the first floor augmented the family rooms. The Tylers, for example, liked to gather in the Green Room; they hung their family portraits and placed busts of their daughters here. The extensive Benjamin Harrison clan tried to close off the smaller parlors and use them as family sitting rooms. The Lincoln family sometimes gathered after dinner in the Red Room to read newspapers and talk. Private dinner parties, weddings, funerals, and other large family events are usually held in the state rooms. Established by the Madisons, the first floor's smaller dining room, the "Family Dining Room" in the northwest corner, was strictly for family meals, and here they were eaten until 1961, when Jackie Kennedy created a dining room upstairs. Some families eschewed the "Family Dining Room," however — the Jackson clan ate on small tables in their rooms as if in a hotel, and the Eisenhowers dined on TV trays in the west hall, simultaneously watching two "porthole" television sets. A dumbwaiter pulley has long brought food up from the big kitchens on the ground floor.

The South Lawn was essentially open to the public, a notion encouraged by the Tylers in their initiating of public Saturday band concerts. By the Pierce administration so much professional care had gone into the gardens (John Quincy Adams appointed the first gardener, John Ousley, in 1825) that they were popular for promenading and — with the gates open from eight in the morning until sunset — gawking at First Families. Julia Grant had the grounds closed partway into her tenure, when some tourists followed her and her children on a walk. By the 1890s there was an abruptly permanent closing following a disturbing incident: from the family rooms, Frances Cleveland watched in horror as tourists overcame her baby daughters' nursemaid and began picking up the two toddlers for their own amusement.

From Buchanan to Theodore Roosevelt, First Families relished the private world of perfumed flowers and exotic plants in large greenhouses, on the site of the present-day West Wing. "We have the most beautiful flowers and grounds imaginable," Mary Lincoln wrote a friend. It was an especial preserve for those Victorian wives who worshipped flowers: orchid expert Caroline Harrison raised special varieties here, while Frances Cleveland plucked one of her favorite pansies to be painted. Ida McKinley was calmest in her velvet chair amid the cloying fragrance of roses. Little Esther Cleveland's only White House recollection was of the scent of roses, like those at the shore, which wafted up to the family rooms from the greenhouses.

With the south grounds no longer an open public park, First Families made additions to it for personal enjoyment. Edith Roosevelt created a "Colonial garden" of multicolored varieties, Ellen Wilson a formal rose garden with statuary. The grounds were briefly reopened as a public park when Florence Harding fulfilled her campaign pledge to keep the black gates open to the public. They had been closed by lock and chain during the war years and Wilson's illness. Jackie Kennedy made part of the lawn a playground for her children, placing a trampoline, sandbox, treehouse, and swing set there — all obscured from public view by bushes because, she said, she was "tired of starring in everyone's home movies!" Yet it was her husband who asked her to oversee the creation of the modern-day Rose Garden as a setting for public ceremonies.

The South Lawn, which is larger than the North Lawn, is mostly exposed to the public, with a clear view of the house. Still, families created refuges there. Tennis courts have been in place since the Theodore Roosevelt years, and here everyone from the Wilson daughters, Coolidge sons, Ford, and Bush has played. Florence Harding hosted the first women's tennis exhibition, and Nancy Reagan held a fund-raiser tournament here. Lady Bird Johnson created a sanctuary in a heavily wooded part of the lawn, with goldfish pond and slate walkway, christened the "Children's Garden." She had her grandchildren's footprints marked in cement, a custom followed by later presidential grandchildren. First Truman, then Bush installed horseshoe pits. Ford built an outdoor pool, and his son Jack immediately took scuba diving lessons in it. Amy Carter practiced her diving technique here. Barbara Bush was one of the pool's most frequent users — despite once having discovered a rat sharing the water. Amy Carter also played in her hidden treehouse on the lawn, sometimes with her young nephew Jason.

Despite its symbolism of open democracy, the mansion was always first a home, and it as well as its occupants soon enough had protection. Jefferson had a stone wall put in on the south border of the property. Under Monroe came a stone wall and iron fencing on the north side, a night watchman, and armed — though not uniformed — guards. By Van Buren's time, the guards were at the outside gates and door on reception days. Tyler successfully petitioned Congress for the first permanent security corps — deceptively called doormen. Pierce had the first federally salaried bodyguard. Lincoln used the back stairs, enabling him to move through, and out of, the house without public notice, and was guarded by some members of the Washington Metropolitan Police detailed to the White House. Still, protection was haphazard. When James Garfield walked into the local train station and was shot, he had no security detail. Following the third assassination of a president, McKinley in 1901, every president has been protected by the Secret Service. The Taft children were the first offspring, and Florence Harding the first spouse, to be given official security protection. In their quarters, or when visiting a secured private home, there are no guards — but they are just outside the doors. Family members not in residence and over the age of sixteen can request no agents: as a singer, Margaret Truman had none during her national concert tour; Chelsea Clinton, a Stanford University student, kept her detail, however, even when those children living outside the White House request no bodyguard their movements are always tracked by the Secret Service.

With succeeding generations of harmful threats against the families, public access to the mansion became limited. By World War II, it was illegal for someone to come onto the property without security clearance. All four streets around the complex are now closed. All of this barricades "the people's house," but it affords First Families necessary safety. Inevitably, it also becomes part of the larger political debate about how the president and his family live. Apart from public judgments on how they conduct their private lives, the taxpayers' burden for the families' comforts becomes a legitimate concern. What they know to be decisions affecting their personal lives are nevertheless always potential political controversies, stirred by other issues of the day: Jackie Kennedy's European vacation was protested at a time of balance of payment problems in America; criticism of Nancy Reagan's acceptance of money from oil tycoons to decorate the family rooms occurred during an economic recession; Hillary Clinton's replacement of an usher came just as a controversial restructuring of the travel office staff was being enfolded into an independent counsel investigation. Of course, the press at the time did not know of the exorbitant costs of the Nixons' reconfiguration of a new Air Force One after the chief of staff imperiously botched an earlier design, or of LBJ's demands to keep replacing shower heads until one powerful enough for him was created. Instead, when tales of LBJ's shutting off electric lights proliferated in the press, he was seen as saving taxpayer money — however nominal the real amount.

This was less a problem in the nineteenth century and early twentieth, when the press had little idea of what a First Family's life was really like, yet the paranoia about monarchical First Families always posed a political threat. When John Adams used government funds to purchase coaches and horses with silver mountings, he was roundly criticized by anti-Federalists. Adams made sure to write his successor that this was all government property — and now his to use. The savvy Jefferson permitted Congress to sell the wares that smacked of regalness. The 1814 destruction of the White House by the British was humiliating enough, but that the president and his wife were portrayed as abandoning it was made into hay by the opposition press. Editorials suggested that the cost of the Madisons' cowardice was the loss of an important American symbol and chided that perhaps now their costly entertaining would cease. The Madisons made no demands for a new or speedily rebuilt presidential mansion. Largely for his sons' "exercise and amusement," John Quincy Adams personally bought a secondhand billiards table and its accoutrements. As his father's secretary, John unthinkingly included the billiards room contents in an inventory of items purchased with the $14,000 congressional appropriation for refurbishing. The president wrote Congress that this was "entirely erroneous; and that no part of the public appropriation had been, or should be applied to any such purpose." It was too late. The anti-Adams United Telegram vilified him not only for buying these immoral items "out of the public purse" but for setting a bad example for young men, who would surely fall into the billiards room habits of smoking and drinking, and offer as an excuse, "Why, the President plays billiards!" The pro-Adams National Gazette worsened the situation by saying a billiards table was "a common appendage in the houses of the rich and great of Europe." The paranoia of royal posturing set in. Cast against Andrew Jackson — whose supporters built his image as the idealized common man of the West — Adams was defeated for reelection in 1828.

In the most famous case of a president's political fortune being ruined by his lifestyle, Van Buren, who served during a depression, was crucified in a congressional speech by William Ogle of Pennsylvania for a perceived White House of regal state bedrooms, luxurious gardens, gold spoons, and French food. In fact, Van Buren's son and daughter-in-law Abraham and Angelica had taken on some royal airs after a honeymoon that included presentation at the British and French royal courts, and they were alluded to in Ogle's speech. The attack on Van Buren was so exaggerated, however, that he felt no need to defend himself against it. In 1840, he was defeated by William Henry Harrison, who was billed as a log cabin frontiersman when in fact he was born and raised on a regal Virginia plantation. A further irony was that Adams's successor and Van Buren's predecessor, Andrew Jackson, had lived more lavishly and conducted more extensive redecorating than either of them. Since 1826, after Monroe's furniture purchases included some items once owned by French nobility, Congress built an anti-royal caveat into its appropriation: purchases had to be "of American manufacture."

By 1844 royal fever meant political death. Surely John Tyler would not have permitted his wife, Julia, to ride in a carriage with six matching white Arabian steeds, and receive guests seated in a thronelike chair on a raised platform, surrounded by young ladies-in-waiting, if he had been running for reelection that year. If the opposition press had already exploited a president's family, the manipulation of family life by the president himself had begun. Although James and Sarah Polk were wealthy landowners, he won the 1844 election as "Young Hickory," in the tradition of his populist mentor, Jackson. Sarah Polk consciously set a moral tone — no hard liquor, no dancing — and consequently won praise from the conservative religious press, escaping censure for her regal Parisian gowns. There was a successful formula in the Polks: New Hampshirite Franklin Pierce was billed in the 1852 election as "Young Hickory of the Granite State," suggesting he was a populist — despite the fact that he was not — and Rutherford and Lucy Hayes also banned hard liquor, morally counteracting the taint of his allegedly stolen election in 1876.

By the Civil War, First Families were acutely sensitive to the repercussions of public criticism of their lifestyles. When Mary Lincoln overspent in her decorating, Abraham hit the ceiling: "It would stink in the nostrils of the American people to have it said that the President approved a bill over-running an appropriation of $20,000 for flub dubs for this damned old house, when the soldiers cannot have blankets." Although there was an attempt to make a campaign issue out of Mrs. Lincoln's purchase of a personal set of purple china, luckily for the Lincolns the press never discovered the overspending — or the use of other household accounts to compensate for it.

Soon, the idea not only of living royally but of profitably exploiting their positions threatened public rebuke of First Families. The Clevelands made a great profit by selling the private home they had used during his White House tenure, and Edith Roosevelt managed to take a favorite White House sofa home with her when she left: both incidents ignited the press. In contrast, if the profit somehow seemed to offset taxpayer expenses, personal benefit might be permissible: unchallenged in the press was Nellie Taft's 1909 contracting with the White Company to get a government discount on a fleet of cars in exchange for their shameless advertisement of the fact. When that gift was offered by an influential citizen, however, favoritism was often the charge. Not long after the Benjamin Harrisons accepted the outright gift of a Cape May summer house in 1889 from wealthy businessmen, the family was criticized and ridiculed, and Harrison felt pressured enough to pay for the house. Andrew Johnson, in announcing that no government workers were ever to accept gifts from those who might have business dealings with the federal government, decided to set a very public example in refusing an 1865 offer of a beautiful coach and team of horses from a group of New York businessmen.

Conversely, when hardship is mirrored by the First Family, they are praised for setting an example. Thus, though the Wilsons lived a life remote from wartime Washington, their saving gas by using the horse and old victoria, or not serving meat or wheat on certain days, connected them to the daily realities of most Americans. Often criticized for keeping a shabby house — even in the midst of the Great Depression — Eleanor Roosevelt was praised during World War II when she kept the White House to a rigorous food rationing system under government guidelines, making sacrifices for the First Family as all American families themselves were doing.

Finally, although the rooms of the family quarters are intended solely for the private use of the First Families, it is still technically "public housing," as Ronald Reagan called it. As such, the American people feel a certain proprietorship about even these decidedly unpublic rooms. Of all those in the family quarters, the Lincoln Suite is the most symbolically potent. There is a reverence for it akin to a shrine. This explains the angry editorials and press attacks on Nancy Reagan when it was mistakenly reported that she intended to tear down a wall there, or on President Clinton when it was learned that friends — some of whom naturally would be contributors to his 1996 reelection campaign — were overnight guests in the famous bed. That other First Ladies had walls altered, or that all presidents invite friends to sleep in the Lincoln bed, seemed moot. That anyone even appeared to desecrate the sacrosanct room is political ammunition — even though Lincoln never slept in the bed, or even in the room.

Following the Lincoln Bed

1860s

Purchased by Mary Todd Lincoln and placed in the northwest bedroom suite, or "Prince of Wales" bedroom; no evidence or even suggestion President Lincoln ever slept in it

1869

Moved by Julia Grant to the small bedroom west, in the shadow of the North Portico

1877

Rutherford and Lucy Hayes moved the Lincoln bed into the newly designated "State Bedroom" in the room currently known as the President's Study, next to the President's Bedroom

1901

Moved one room east, to the southwest bedroom suite, and used by Theodore and Edith Roosevelt

1909

Moved to storage by Nellie Taft

1915

Moved back into the southwest bedroom suite, "the President's Bedroom," and used by Woodrow Wilson and his second wife, Edith

1921

Moved to the northwest suite by Florence Harding, with some Lincoln memorabilia or era items

1923

Moved a third time into the southwest suite, the President's Bedroom, and used by Calvin and Grace Coolidge

1929

Moved by the Herbert Hoovers back into the northwest suite, officially called the Lincoln Bedroom

1933

Moved briefly into the small bedroom west under Franklin Roosevelt for use by his aide Louis Howe and his wife, Grace, but soon returned to the northwest suite, where it was later used by Anna Roosevelt Boettiger, her husband, John, and son Johnny.

1945

Placed by the Trumans in the southeast suite or "Blue Suite," renamed the Lincoln Suite, where it has remained since then

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. Tearoom private receiving room to Mary Arthur McElroy. Private dining room to Woodrow and Edith Wilson. Clothes storage room for Florence Harding. Dressing sitting 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

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Plain and Fancy 13
Part I Entrances
1. The First White House Family 19
2. The Family's First Day 27
3. A Home Within a Symbol 37
Part II Relationships
4. The Spouse 73
5. The Children 87
6. The Grandchildren 101
7. The Parents 121
8. Extended Family 141
Part III Life in the White House
9. Celebration and Ceremony 167
10. Well-Being 197
11. Faith 217
12. The Home Office 231
13. Pets and Pastimes 241
14. Recreation 265
15. Hospitality 287
16. Young Life 307
17. Looking the Part 329
18. Farewells and Reunions 347
Appendix Members of All the White House Families 367
Bibliography 385
Acknowledgments 397
Index 399
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First Chapter

Chapter 3: A Home Within a Symbol


There is but little privacy here, the house belongs to the Government and everyone feels at home and they sometimes stalk into our bedroom and say they are looking at the house.

— Joanna Rucker, niece of First Lady Sarah Polk


I love these beautiful big rooms with their high ceilings, their wide spaces, their polished mahogany furniture, carved deep with memories of Lincoln and the Madisons....I thrill to the thought I am sitting in a chair where they once sat, eating from a plate which graced the place of McKinley or Grant.

— First Lady Florence Harding


The four standing walls of the White House in the year 2000 are the very same that greeted the John Adams family two hundred years before, and though the suite of family rooms on the second floor has been reconfigured, rebuilt, renovated, and redecorated since then, it has consistently remained the home of First Families. The building's interior was burned in 1814, renovated in 1902, and entirely rebuilt between 1948 and 1952. From 1801 until 1902 office workers and strangers were bustling about daily on the other side of a door from the family's rooms. Despite the challenges of living there, it survives as the permanent residence of the president. The White House is among the nation's most potent symbols. But it hasn't been easy making a real life inside a symbol.

It is not certain how some of the earliest families used the rooms of the family quarters on the second floor, although there were so many relatives living with Jefferson, the Madisons, and the Monroes that some of the rooms were presumably finished and being used. One visitor noted that Jefferson used only part of the available space and left "the rest to a state of uncleanly desolation." The first description of the rooms came under Monroe, with the mention of a bed being crowned with satin and lace curtains.

Since John and Abigail Adams used it, however, the presidential suite — a bedroom, sitting room, and later large walk-in closets and two bathrooms — has always been in the southwest corner of the second floor. This room was often a place of peaceful isolation. Margaret "Peggy" Taylor decorated it with cherished family possessions that had been with her through years of traveling from army post to post. "I always found the most pleasant part of my visit to the White House to be passed in Mrs. Taylor's bright pretty room," recalled visitor Varina Davis, "where the invalid, full of interest in the passing show in which she had not the strength to take her part, talked most agreeably and kindly to the many friends admitted to her presence." Rarely venturing outside, or downstairs to any public events, Mrs. Taylor made the room the center of her life, where friends and family gathered for socializing, and where her young daughters often danced informally with each other under her watchful eye. Just three years later, in the same suite, Jane Pierce, in deep mourning for her recently killed eleven-year-old son, closed the doors and remained sequestered for nearly a year.

The first non-family member permitted to see and describe the presidential bedroom was Austine Stead, who wrote a newspaper column under the pen name Miss Grundy. She was guided through by President Hayes himself. For the first time this inner sanctum was depicted for the curious citizenry. The furniture was crafted from imitation bamboo, and the walls were painted a light blue with pink and gray panels. Here Lucretia Garfield nearly died of malaria in April 1881. Three months later her husband was initially put here after being shot, and the nation saw its first image of the room in newspaper illustrations of the president in bed, surrounded by doctors.

Since the 1902 renovation, the southwest suite has remained fixed as the president's bedroom. The Theodore Roosevelts slept in the Lincoln bed; the Tafts put it in storage and used twin mahogany beds. The twin beds were used by Woodrow and Ellen Wilson, who painted the room blue and white; Ellen Wilson died in this room. Wilson's second wife, Edith, brought the Lincoln bed back here for their use. The Hardings banished it and brought in Nellie Taft's twin beds. Here Florence Harding also had a special closet made for her large collection of shoes. The Coolidges returned the Lincoln bed for their use — and the Hoovers put it in another room and didn't use it. The Franklin Roosevelts designated this room as the "First Lady's bedroom," but Mrs. Roosevelt and then Bess Truman used it as a sitting room, the former hanging hundreds of framed pictures, the latter painting the walls lavender and gray. Mamie Eisenhower used it as her bedroom, in multiple shades of pink with an enormous pink bed and pink pin-cushioned headboard. Jackie Kennedy redecorated it in powder blue and white, placing a pastel portrait of her daughter on the wall, with a favorite terra-cotta bust of a child on the mantelpiece. This bust so represented her White House tenure to her that it figures in her White House portrait. She had double beds pushed together as one, draped by a powder blue tapestry. Since the Fords the room has been shared by the spouses. The Reagans covered the walls in hand-painted Chinese paper with a design of small birds; the Clintons chose similarly patterned floral paper.

Connected to this room, in the very corner, is the narrow dressing room. It has served a multitude of purposes — bedroom, small dining room, office, dressing room, tearoom. Nancy Reagan placed a portrait of herself with her baby daughter here, with its perfect view of the south and west from which many a First Lady has watched the lights of the Oval Office burn late.

Directly across the hall from the president's bedroom suite is the northwest suite, today used as a kitchen and dining room. Prior to 1961, the larger of the two rooms was a prime bedroom suite. For some unknown reason, President William Henry Harrison took this room; perhaps his death here led his successors to return to the original plan of using the bedroom across the hall. When the Prince of Wales came to stay with the Buchanan family, he slept in the suite, and it was christened the "Prince of Wales Room." Here in 1861 Mary Lincoln placed an ornately carved rosewood bed and matching marble-topped table from the Philadelphia firm of William Carryl. She had the bed, which would forever after be known as the Lincoln bed, crowned with a gold American shield, from which gilt lace, overlaid by rich purple satin curtains fringed in gold, flowed to the floor, covering the bed's perimeter. The bedspread was also purple and gold. Lizzie Grimsley, the First Lady's cousin, called the room "the best in the family suite." Just months after the room's completion, eleven-year-old Willie Lincoln died in the Lincoln bed. Three years later, the remains of his father would be embalmed in this room. This was the McKinleys' bedroom, decorated rather simply in crisp whites, with double brass-knobbed beds; a painting of their daughter, who had died two decades earlier, hung on the wall. Cleveland had the room painted yellow for them, but Ida McKinley demanded that it be changed to pale pink. Here she spent most of her White House life, and it was photographed for the American people for the first time in 1897.

Dining here with the Nixon family some seventy years after she lived in the White House, Alice Roosevelt Longworth looked around the room and realized this was her old bedroom — where her appendix had been removed. In 1961, Jackie Kennedy had made the room the "President's Dining Room," hung with mid-nineteenth-century wallpaper showing battle scenes. Betty Ford found the paper unappetizing and had the room painted yellow. Rosalynn Carter returned the wallpaper, and it remained in place, although in 1997 it was covered — but not harmed — with a more soothing pale green silk fabric.

The small dressing room connected to the "Prince of Wales room," in the far northwest corner, was used frequently by presidential daughters — just across the hall from their parents. Margaret Truman slept here; she said it was so cold that many mornings she hopped out of bed just long enough to build a fire in the fireplace, then went back to sleep — until her father woke her for school. Jackie Kennedy converted it into a kitchen. Here, Ford sometimes made his own breakfast, and the Clintons, who found its informality relaxing, often cooked and ate their meals here.

Moving northeast from the dining room along the north wall are now two mid-size rooms and one small one. There are no floor plans indicating exact location of rooms before the Pierce years, and walls and spaces changed with some frequency before that. These spaces were used as bedrooms — Johnson Hellen, nephew of Louisa Adams, lived in one. A small half-room area, connected by a door to the present-day dining room, with windows facing Pennsylvania Avenue, was a bathing area under Lincoln but has been a grooming room since the Nixon years. Hillary Clinton even put a humorous poster here, poking fun at her various changing hairstyles, and Barbara Bush's dog Millie gave birth here. Through a south door from this half-room is one of two famous "secret" back stairs, a stairwell that winds down from the top floor to the bottom. (There is another back stairs next to the family kitchen.) Right next to this half-room and the stairwell is the elevator. An elevator had been planned for the use of James Garfield's elderly mother, but his successor Chester Arthur installed the first one. It was replaced with a more efficient model by Theodore Roosevelt (whose son Quentin and his friend Charlie Taft, son of the next president, used to ride — on top of it), and then another was installed by Truman.

Farther east along the north wall, there had been a formal guest or "state bedroom," created by Monroe and decorated in yellow by Jackson. By the Pierce years, this room was divided into two bedrooms, the large area now split down the center by a newly created narrow corridor with its window directly over the front door. The two bedrooms still flank this thin space of a room, mostly used for storage. Here, Lincoln often came to give speeches from the window, and a small schoolroom was later established for Scott and Fanny Hayes. The bedroom on the west side of the hall room was used once by a president — Andrew Johnson — and the bedroom on the east side was used once by another, Chester Arthur, who ordered a regally carved headboard, canopied in blue and complete with double mattresses for himself. In the west bedroom, Mary Lincoln lay in shock following her husband's assassination, refusing to enter their own suite. Later it became the Reagans' gym.

During the White House's first century, a large staircase was located in the west hall of the family quarters, right outside the presidential bedroom. It was an odd space: Fanny Hayes played with her dollhouse here; with Garfield's illness, it resembled a hospital waiting room; the McKinleys made it a dining area. The Benjamin Harrisons tried to create a homey feeling beneath the dramatic semicircular window at the end of the hall, incorporating items like a chair made of elk antlers here. Any sense of its being a private area, however, was broken by the protruding stairwell. The Roosevelt children took trays from the kitchen and slid down the stairs here.

By 1902 the stairs were gone and the hall became a gathering place for families at day's end. Nellie Taft worked with her secretary here during the day and played her piano in the evening. Her dark green burlap wallpaper was replaced with beige grass cloth by Ellen Wilson. Lou Hoover installed palm trees, ferns, wicker furniture, straw matting on the floor, and caged birds, giving it the feel of her California home. This is where she placed her desk, working in the center of this airy, dramatic space. Under FDR, it was the center of frenetic activity. Beneath the window, on solid old furniture including red leather chairs and sofas from the presidential yacht, Eleanor Roosevelt held court, talking to political leaders and social reformers, along with visiting relatives or friends, scrambling eggs in her chafing dish on Sunday nights, or making café au lait while carrying on with debates and conversations. The Eisenhowers put overstuffed chintz-covered chairs here, bowls of pink carnations scattered about. Silver-framed pictures of the Bouviers, Mrs. Kennedy's father's desk, a small bar and hi-fi set, and shelves bulging with family photo albums marked the Kennedy look. The Nixons had yellow walls with pieces of cobalt-colored furniture; the Reagans had peach walls with predominantly red furniture. All the entrances that open into the hall can be closed, giving it the feel of a squarish room.

Across the Center Hall from the two north bedrooms is what became the Yellow Oval Room, decorated in green as a ladies' parlor by Andrew Jackson's niece, Emily Donelson. William Henry Harrison's family clustered here as he lay dying and officials predominated in his bedroom. It remained, however, largely a gathering place for women guests until Sarah Polk outfitted a downstairs room for the same purposes, thus making the family rooms finally off-limits to mere guests. It was the Fillmores who gave purpose to the room when, in 1850, Congress made a special appropriation of $4,000 to purchase the first multiple volumes of books. This became the first permanent White House library, and here their daughter, Mary Abigail, played her harp for guests. After a long day of telegraphing messages on Union troop movements during the Civil War, Lincoln would join his wife here. Presidents from Hayes to Theodore Roosevelt used it for private meetings. Chester Arthur put his lounge chair here, but Frances Cleveland formalized it with Louis XIII furniture. Nellie Taft dramatically altered the room's look with tapestries and other items she had purchased in Asia.

Despite Prohibition, Harding served alcoholic drinks to his cronies as they played poker in the Oval Room. Draped in "Harding blue," it housed clipping books, a pink doll that shook and winked, and the First Lady's collection of miniature elephants on shelves. The Hoovers created an oddly glamorous look with Chippendale couches upholstered in gold-and-black brocade and green curtains. Under FDR the oval study took on a nautical look, displaying the president's collection of naval prints and ship models. Truman met nightly with his wife in closed-door sessions here, during which they reviewed his speeches and political agenda. Eisenhower's military decorations and awards were displayed in cases here, and it was called the "Trophy Room." Jackie Kennedy created a sitting room, reminiscent of the Jefferson-Madison era, with bright yellow furniture. Since 1961, it has been the most formal room on the family floor, where world leaders are brought before a state dinner, for the exchange of official gifts.

To the west along the south wall is the square room sandwiched between the Yellow Oval Room and the master suite in the southwest corner (the bedroom traditionally used by presidential couples). This had always been the "extra room" of the southwest suite, and some couples used it as a separate bedroom. The Hayeses designated it the "State Bedroom"; Garfield's doctors conferred and rested here, and after its initial use as two of her sons' bedroom, Edith Roosevelt took it over for her office and sitting room. Ellen Wilson, a supporter of Appalachian crafts, brought some of them here, calling it the "Blue Mountain Room." Under Harding it was dubbed the "West Parlor," and he slept here when his wife was ill. Because of Franklin Roosevelt's confinement to a wheelchair, and the difficulties he had in dressing, he took this room as his own, sleeping in a narrow white metal frame bed. Thus, beginning with FDR this room was designated the President's Bedroom. It was blue-green under Truman, green under Eisenhower, blue-white under Kennedy. Presidents from Roosevelt to Nixon maintained a bed for themselves here.

After exchanging LBJ's canopied four-poster bed for the simpler one used by Truman and Eisenhower, Nixon cracked that "politics had literally bred strange bedfellows." Pat Nixon decided to maintain the tradition of a separate room because, as she told the chief usher, "Nobody could sleep with Dick. He wakes up during the night, switches on the lights, speaks into his tape recorder or takes notes — it's impossible." In fact, Nixon's taping of his thoughts — a daily habit also practiced by Lady Bird Johnson — involved a single recorder, considerably simpler than the tangle of wires LBJ had kept under his bed for various electronic gadgets including two clacking wire service printers, a three-television-set console, and a telephone taping system. When the Fords' furniture from their suburban Virginia home was delivered by movers, a press photograph showed their large bed headboard being moved in, and a reporter asked Betty Ford how often they would sleep together. "As often as possible," she quipped. Both the President and Mrs. Ford used the southwest bedroom to sleep in, and the square room formerly known as "The President's Bedroom" became the true family living room. The Reagans often ate dinner from TV trays here, watching television as they sat in matching red-and-white chintz chairs. Here Mrs. Bush placed a large needlepoint rug that she had made. Removing the many television sets around the private quarters, the Clintons placed their one set here.

Before the 1902 renovation, the executive offices were located at the east end of the second floor. With the creation of the West Wing, they were moved out and the entire floor became the private preserve of the family. Still, the five rooms in the east end have a semipublic history.

The bedroom suite now called the Queen's Suite, because several European queens stayed here, was called the Rose Suite after the 1902 renovation, and was often used by visiting relatives: Edith Roosevelt's sister Emily Carow; William Howard Taft's sister and brother-in-law, Frances and William Edwards; Coolidge's cousin's daughter Marion Pollard; Anna Roosevelt, FDR's daughter; and most "First Mothers," from Martha Truman to Virginia Clinton Kelley. While the Kennedys' bedroom was being decorated their first weeks in the house, they lived here. Jackie Kennedy's redecoration of the connecting sitting room in blue and white has remained intact for nearly forty years. Lady Bird Johnson sometimes repaired here to work in complete privacy. It was also used for a Catholic mass on the first birthday of Luci Johnson Nugent's son Lyn, and served as a holding room for groom Chuck Robb before his White House wedding to Lynda Bird Johnson.

During the months when First Lady Nellie Taft was recuperating from a stroke, her visiting sisters Eleanor Moore, Jennie Anderson, and Maria Herron lived in the "Blue Suite" across the hall from the Rose Suite. Intermittently during the Wilson tenure, this was the home of Margaret Wilson, the daughter who remained unmarried. When Herbert Hoover decided to move his private office here, the "Blue Suite" became the "Lincoln Study." It was again a bedroom under FDR — where adviser Harry Hopkins and his wartime bride Louise lived — but the Lincoln bed was not yet in place. Finally, in 1945, under Harry Truman's direction the Lincoln bed and accompanying furniture were moved in, and the "Lincoln Study" became the Lincoln Bedroom. The connecting sitting room was Florence Harding's busy office. Jackie Kennedy decorated it as the "Lincoln Sitting Room," in Victoriana to match the bedroom, and it became Nixon's favorite spot in the house. He so liked to work beside its roaring fireplace that in the summer he had the air-conditioning turned on to mitigate the heat from the fire. He listened to his favorite music, the score of Victory at Sea, as he worked in his favorite brown easy chair, and also handed his letter of resignation to his secretary of state here. In 1993, Hillary Clinton redecorated it in vibrant patterns appropriate to the era.

The President's Study, used continuously by Presidents Andrew Johnson through William McKinley, took on a personal look following the 1902 renovation. Theodore Roosevelt and W. H. Taft both displayed personal memorabilia going back to their college days. Today it is called the Treaty Room, because the treaty ending the Spanish-American War had been signed here by McKinley. During World War I, after dinner, Woodrow and Edith Wilson repaired to his desk here, retrieved from it classified dispatches transmitted earlier, and decoded them. Under Coolidge, floor-to-ceiling bookcases were built along the walls. Hoover tore them out. His wife gathered original and copied Monroe furniture in this room and called it the Monroe Room. Eleanor Roosevelt replaced some of it with sturdier pieces from the furniture factory she helped found, and briefly held her press conferences for women reporters here. Jackie Kennedy restored it to a Victorian Treaty Room with a Grant-era East Room chandelier, and used it as her work space. The Bushes made it into a blue presidential study. Hillary Clinton restored the Victoriana, with dark wood and burgundy walls, for use by her husband as his home office.

Across the hall from this room is the Grand Staircase, which goes only between the second floor and the State Floor. Two other smaller staircases at the west end of the second floor, however, go to the next upper floor. Formerly the attic, the third floor is now a fully working suite of rooms used by the families. The attic had long been used for storage along with about eight small sloped-ceiling bedrooms for servants. The 1902 renovation expanded the space for some ironing rooms, linen closets, clothing storage, and guest rooms. One room was dubbed the "Bachelor's Suite" for young men who courted the Wilson daughters, and in another well-lit area painter Ellen Wilson worked on her canvases. When the roof was raised in 1927, the floor became more livable. Lou Hoover's secretaries worked here. FDR's personal secretary and companion, Missy LeHand, lived here, and later so did little Diana Hopkins, daughter of FDR's live-in adviser Harry Hopkins. After enduring the intolerable food supervised by a housekeeper who ignored his wishes, FDR had a small kitchen created on the third floor, and there his meals were made. Dwight Eisenhower cooked his own soups and stews here.

There are various-sized suites and rooms on the third floor. Jackie Kennedy first decorated them with antiques, her most famous being the "Empire Guest Room," with a bed used by John Adams. The Carter family had one of the rooms sentimentally lined with wood panels from an old family barn in Georgia. Julie Nixon and her husband, David Eisenhower, the visiting Reagan and Bush children and grandchildren, and relatives of the Clintons all stayed here, and while in residence the Ford and Carter sons lived in rooms on this floor. Hillary Clinton created her own Eleanor Roosevelt room where she kept memorabilia of her predecessor that had been sent to her as gifts. For her husband's birthday one year, she also had the room at the far east end made into a soundproof music room, where he practiced his saxophone — it had been Jack Ford's old bedroom. Under the Reagans, and then again the Clintons, the bedroom suites were beautifully decorated with items from the White House collection. The Clintons installed an exercise room here. There is also a billiards room.

The most famous and popular room on this floor was created by Grace Coolidge, directly above the Yellow Oval Room. She called it her sky parlor because it offered an open view looking out to the sky from walls of glass. The Trumans installed a linoleum floor and artificial bamboo furniture, and the space was Mamie Eisenhower's bridge party room, Caroline Kennedy's kindergarten, the teenage Johnson daughters' hangout — complete with soda machine. It was the one quiet retreat where Nixon son-in-law Ed Cox could come to study for his law bar exams, and Rosalynn Carter could focus on Spanish lessons with her in-residence daughters-in-law Caron and Annette. Ronald Reagan recuperated in the bright room in the weeks following the assassination attempt. There is a small wet bar here. It was the favorite room of the Clintons, whether for meetings or board games or family dinners. Here they displayed collections of humorous stacking Russian dolls depicting them and other political figures. Just outside the Solarium and around the roof's perimeter is a promenade, hidden from public view, where Mrs. Clinton raised cherry tomato plants. This is where Eisenhower turned his steaks and burgers on a fifties barbecue grill, and Susan Ford brought her cat Shan out to play. In the evenings, the Carter sons used a telescope to identify stars, while during the day, the family suntanned here. A century earlier Jesse Grant had used a smaller roof nook for his telescope. When Theodore Roosevelt prohibited his daughter Alice from smoking her cigarettes "under this roof," this is where she climbed to obey him — to smoke on the roof.


No First Family has ever had to function without servants. They have all had staff to cook, serve, clean, sew, wash, manage their pets, place their telephone calls, wind their clocks, fix the plumbing and electricity, and repair anything for them. A succession of stewards, housekeepers, and chief ushers have managed the household staff, answering directly to the First Couple. While no First Lady was reported pushing her vacuum cleaner every week, several found housekeeping to provide some normalcy in the house: on maids' days off, Bess Truman was known to clean and cook, Jackie Kennedy often lugged and moved furniture herself as she rearranged rooms, Hillary Clinton enjoyed cooking for her family.

In the nineteenth century, many servants, particularly those who had come with the family, were housed in the basement. When, amid the growing sectional tensions over abolition, Zachary Taylor brought slaves to serve his family in the White House, they were hidden from public view, living in the cramped attic space. Nellie Taft's housekeeper, Elizabeth Jaffray — who continued to serve under Wilson, Harding, and Coolidge — was actually given a room in the family quarters. Before Taft, families paid many of their servants' wages. Thus, it was often not long before some servants found themselves on the federal payroll, with some creative title changes.

Whether paid by the family or the government, notable personalities among some of the servants mark history: Madison's household manager Jean Sioussant, who was with Dolley in the harrowing minutes before she fled the mansion as the British army advanced to burn it; the long-suffering Guistas, who worked for Quincy Adams but quit under the mercurial Jackson; Mary Lincoln's empathetic seamstress, Elizabeth Keckley; Grant's coachman Albert, who ate and talked with the horses; the Hayes's cook Winnie Monroe, who so loved Washington that she returned there later, leaving the family; Arthur's snobbish valet, Alec Powell, who sniped at reporters in defense of his boss; the Theodore Roosevelt family cook, Annie O'Rourke, whose sugar wafers were renowned in Washington; Florence Harding's suspicious maid, Katherine Wynn, who indulged in her lady's penchant for intrigue; the Kennedy valets Providencia Parades and George Thomas, whose families celebrated holidays with the First Family; the Nixons' loyal house managers, husband and wife team Manuelo and Fina Sanchez; Amy Carter's nanny Mary Fitzpatrick, employed on work release from a Georgia prison. When Nancy Reagan's maid Anita Costello made headlines for being wrongly accused of dealing in arms, it was the first time a servant was thrust into public controversy since John Watt, the gardener under Lincoln, was investigated by Congress for passing on to a reporter an advance copy of the president's State of the Union address.

Mansion maintenance necessitates a full professional staff. In the early days the rooms were simply heated by coal or wood fires. The Madisons installed a heating system in the State Dining Room, the heat rising through grates from coal stoves in the basement. Van Buren extended this to other rooms. Under Pierce came a furnace and duct heating system, and Fillmore had its reach extended into smaller service rooms. Before another decade passed, central heating was improved to a rudimentary steam-heat system. Radiators began appearing in rooms with the 1902 renovation, and electric heat came after 1952. Limited air-conditioning came in 1933, central air-conditioning with the Truman renovation in 1952. In the family rooms, candles and oil lamps were used for lighting until gaslight wall brackets were installed under Taylor. In 1889, electricity was installed for the Harrisons, who feared electrocution: servants shut the lights off.

Jefferson had a "water closet," essentially a chamber pot that could be washed with water pumped up through a wooden pipe from outside. It was located in the space occupied by the present-day powder room for First Ladies, off a small entry hall to the southwest corner sitting room. There is a record of Monroe's using a tin bathtub, and certainly his predecessors had used the same, with water being carried up by jug. Under Jackson in 1834, running water was piped in from a spring and pumped up into the east terrace in metal tubes. These ran through the walls and protruded into the rooms, controlled by spigots. Initially, the water was for washing items, but soon the first bathing rooms were created, in the ground-level east colonnade. Van Buren had shower baths installed here, and under Pierce, running hot baths and showers came to the family floor, as well as another rest room, likely with a wood-stalled commode and porcelain sink. Located in the president's suite, it had faux wood wallpapering and faux tile cloth flooring. By Lincoln's time, running water for washing came in from the Potomac River. With the 1902 renovation, modern bathrooms with silver faucets and handles and white porcelain were created in the four corner suites and tucked in elsewhere. The largest bathtub was installed for 300-plus-pound Taft after he got stuck in a regular-size one; four average-size men could fit in it. LBJ had a powerful shower installed with hard-streaming jets and shower heads from every direction. Nixon said it "nearly flung me out of the stall," and replaced it. Andrew Johnson installed the first barber chair, and Truman put in a drinking fountain and even a dental office.


White House life is isolating, but communications have never been a problem. Since the early days families used servants as hand messengers. Andrew Johnson had a telegraph office installed down the hall, in the executive offices, and Hayes acquired the first telephone after watching a demonstration of the wonder by Alexander Graham Bell himself.

Prior to 1902, there were extensive stables, housing horses and coaches, located on the grounds of the present-day Oval Office, Cabinet Room, and Rose Garden. Servants included drivers and coachmen, but going about stylishly was costly; thus many families accepted princely coaches from various public groups. One of the most regal of these was presented to Abigail Fillmore by wealthy New York supporters of her husband, complete with horses and silver harnesses. Fillmore later came under attack for selling it all and pocketing the profit. Arthur had a monogrammed landau, painted green with red detailing, green silk monogrammed lap robes, lace curtains, and silver mountings. "The entire Œturn-out,' " said one observer, "is a model of quiet magnificence and good taste." Grant's children daily went to school in a yellow wicker pony cart, while Grant himself was arrested for speeding — though he praised the officer for "doing his duty."

Taft was the first to travel officially by automobile, and a full fleet of cars was provided for his and his family's use — the first time congressional funds were appropriated for presidential travel. Some members of First Families continued driving themselves. Lou Hoover and Eleanor Roosevelt managed to do so, but Bess Truman found she attracted too much attention, making for potential traffic accidents, and gave it up reluctantly. Only once did President Kennedy drive in his white Cadillac convertible with red leather interior, carrying his wife and friends from his docked yacht back to his family's Hyannis Port compound, a very short distance. LBJ more frequently insisted on the freedom of driving his convertible in Texas. When a policeman pulled him over for speeding, recognized him, and gasped, "Oh, my God," LBJ quipped, "And don't you forget it." With security ever tighter, presidential couples can rarely drive. President Clinton was permitted to drive his classic Thunderbird convertible, for example, only a few hundred feet at an exhibition of old cars. Hillary Clinton had to keep hers in storage for years. Even when Patti [Reagan] Davis drove her car at home in California, she was trailed by the Secret Service.

Presidential train and sea travel gave way to air travel. Although various well-appointed railroad parlor, sleeping, and dining cars were loaned or appropriated by the government for lengthy presidential travel, there was never any official presidential train. Van Buren was the first incumbent president to travel by rail, and it was a regular form of travel for presidents until Eisenhower, overlapping with the jet age. In 1902 Theodore Roosevelt commissioned the first official presidential yacht, The Mayflower, ushering in regular voyages by First Families. Before Roosevelt, private or naval vessels were used. Jimmy Carter had the presidential vessel Sequoia decommissioned as a relic of the imperial presidency, and there were no more yachts.

Air travel for incumbent presidents commenced in January 1943, when FDR used a PanAm plane, contracted by the navy, to go from Florida to Casablanca. By the fall of that year, in the midst of war, a C-54 cargo plane was converted into The Sacred Cow for Roosevelt, the first official Air Force One. Truman and Eisenhower both loved flying, and the former had a plane commissioned with an eagle painted onto its nose. Although both men's wives disliked flying, they made short trips by air, thus beginning the private use of the government planes by family members (Eleanor Roosevelt flew commercial). Eisenhower even had a small twin-engine fly him between Washington and his Gettysburg farm, and was the first to use a helicopter directly from the lawn to Andrews Air Force Base, where the planes are kept. When an aide once pointed out to LBJ "his" helicopter, the president quipped, "Son, they're all my helicopters."

Various improved aircraft have served as Air Force One since the Kennedy presidency (the name applies to any craft carrying the president, not the plane itself). Beige china chosen by Jackie Kennedy is still used, and besides a kitchen, there are an office, a conference room, a press section, and bedrooms onboard. If family members use presidential craft for personal use, they must pay an exorbitant fee. When Jackie Kennedy flew to Italy to vacation with her sister, she had to pay her fare. When the duo went to India and Pakistan, however, it was a semiofficial trip with speeches and appearances deemed to be of political value to the administration — and her tab was paid by the government.


Sometimes the first floor augmented the family rooms. The Tylers, for example, liked to gather in the Green Room; they hung their family portraits and placed busts of their daughters here. The extensive Benjamin Harrison clan tried to close off the smaller parlors and use them as family sitting rooms. The Lincoln family sometimes gathered after dinner in the Red Room to read newspapers and talk. Private dinner parties, weddings, funerals, and other large family events are usually held in the state rooms. Established by the Madisons, the first floor's smaller dining room, the "Family Dining Room" in the northwest corner, was strictly for family meals, and here they were eaten until 1961, when Jackie Kennedy created a dining room upstairs. Some families eschewed the "Family Dining Room," however — the Jackson clan ate on small tables in their rooms as if in a hotel, and the Eisenhowers dined on TV trays in the west hall, simultaneously watching two "porthole" television sets. A dumbwaiter pulley has long brought food up from the big kitchens on the ground floor.

The South Lawn was essentially open to the public, a notion encouraged by the Tylers in their initiating of public Saturday band concerts. By the Pierce administration so much professional care had gone into the gardens (John Quincy Adams appointed the first gardener, John Ousley, in 1825) that they were popular for promenading and — with the gates open from eight in the morning until sunset — gawking at First Families. Julia Grant had the grounds closed partway into her tenure, when some tourists followed her and her children on a walk. By the 1890s there was an abruptly permanent closing following a disturbing incident: from the family rooms, Frances Cleveland watched in horror as tourists overcame her baby daughters' nursemaid and began picking up the two toddlers for their own amusement.

From Buchanan to Theodore Roosevelt, First Families relished the private world of perfumed flowers and exotic plants in large greenhouses, on the site of the present-day West Wing. "We have the most beautiful flowers and grounds imaginable," Mary Lincoln wrote a friend. It was an especial preserve for those Victorian wives who worshipped flowers: orchid expert Caroline Harrison raised special varieties here, while Frances Cleveland plucked one of her favorite pansies to be painted. Ida McKinley was calmest in her velvet chair amid the cloying fragrance of roses. Little Esther Cleveland's only White House recollection was of the scent of roses, like those at the shore, which wafted up to the family rooms from the greenhouses.

With the south grounds no longer an open public park, First Families made additions to it for personal enjoyment. Edith Roosevelt created a "Colonial garden" of multicolored varieties, Ellen Wilson a formal rose garden with statuary. The grounds were briefly reopened as a public park when Florence Harding fulfilled her campaign pledge to keep the black gates open to the public. They had been closed by lock and chain during the war years and Wilson's illness. Jackie Kennedy made part of the lawn a playground for her children, placing a trampoline, sandbox, treehouse, and swing set there — all obscured from public view by bushes because, she said, she was "tired of starring in everyone's home movies!" Yet it was her husband who asked her to oversee the creation of the modern-day Rose Garden as a setting for public ceremonies.

The South Lawn, which is larger than the North Lawn, is mostly exposed to the public, with a clear view of the house. Still, families created refuges there. Tennis courts have been in place since the Theodore Roosevelt years, and here everyone from the Wilson daughters, Coolidge sons, Ford, and Bush has played. Florence Harding hosted the first women's tennis exhibition, and Nancy Reagan held a fund-raiser tournament here. Lady Bird Johnson created a sanctuary in a heavily wooded part of the lawn, with goldfish pond and slate walkway, christened the "Children's Garden." She had her grandchildren's footprints marked in cement, a custom followed by later presidential grandchildren. First Truman, then Bush installed horseshoe pits. Ford built an outdoor pool, and his son Jack immediately took scuba diving lessons in it. Amy Carter practiced her diving technique here. Barbara Bush was one of the pool's most frequent users — despite once having discovered a rat sharing the water. Amy Carter also played in her hidden treehouse on the lawn, sometimes with her young nephew Jason.

Despite its symbolism of open democracy, the mansion was always first a home, and it as well as its occupants soon enough had protection. Jefferson had a stone wall put in on the south border of the property. Under Monroe came a stone wall and iron fencing on the north side, a night watchman, and armed — though not uniformed — guards. By Van Buren's time, the guards were at the outside gates and door on reception days. Tyler successfully petitioned Congress for the first permanent security corps — deceptively called doormen. Pierce had the first federally salaried bodyguard. Lincoln used the back stairs, enabling him to move through, and out of, the house without public notice, and was guarded by some members of the Washington Metropolitan Police detailed to the White House. Still, protection was haphazard. When James Garfield walked into the local train station and was shot, he had no security detail. Following the third assassination of a president, McKinley in 1901, every president has been protected by the Secret Service. The Taft children were the first offspring, and Florence Harding the first spouse, to be given official security protection. In their quarters, or when visiting a secured private home, there are no guards — but they are just outside the doors. Family members not in residence and over the age of sixteen can request no agents: as a singer, Margaret Truman had none during her national concert tour; Chelsea Clinton, a Stanford University student, kept her detail, however, even when those children living outside the White House request no bodyguard their movements are always tracked by the Secret Service.

With succeeding generations of harmful threats against the families, public access to the mansion became limited. By World War II, it was illegal for someone to come onto the property without security clearance. All four streets around the complex are now closed. All of this barricades "the people's house," but it affords First Families necessary safety. Inevitably, it also becomes part of the larger political debate about how the president and his family live. Apart from public judgments on how they conduct their private lives, the taxpayers' burden for the families' comforts becomes a legitimate concern. What they know to be decisions affecting their personal lives are nevertheless always potential political controversies, stirred by other issues of the day: Jackie Kennedy's European vacation was protested at a time of balance of payment problems in America; criticism of Nancy Reagan's acceptance of money from oil tycoons to decorate the family rooms occurred during an economic recession; Hillary Clinton's replacement of an usher came just as a controversial restructuring of the travel office staff was being enfolded into an independent counsel investigation. Of course, the press at the time did not know of the exorbitant costs of the Nixons' reconfiguration of a new Air Force One after the chief of staff imperiously botched an earlier design, or of LBJ's demands to keep replacing shower heads until one powerful enough for him was created. Instead, when tales of LBJ's shutting off electric lights proliferated in the press, he was seen as saving taxpayer money — however nominal the real amount.

This was less a problem in the nineteenth century and early twentieth, when the press had little idea of what a First Family's life was really like, yet the paranoia about monarchical First Families always posed a political threat. When John Adams used government funds to purchase coaches and horses with silver mountings, he was roundly criticized by anti-Federalists. Adams made sure to write his successor that this was all government property — and now his to use. The savvy Jefferson permitted Congress to sell the wares that smacked of regalness. The 1814 destruction of the White House by the British was humiliating enough, but that the president and his wife were portrayed as abandoning it was made into hay by the opposition press. Editorials suggested that the cost of the Madisons' cowardice was the loss of an important American symbol and chided that perhaps now their costly entertaining would cease. The Madisons made no demands for a new or speedily rebuilt presidential mansion. Largely for his sons' "exercise and amusement," John Quincy Adams personally bought a secondhand billiards table and its accoutrements. As his father's secretary, John unthinkingly included the billiards room contents in an inventory of items purchased with the $14,000 congressional appropriation for refurbishing. The president wrote Congress that this was "entirely erroneous; and that no part of the public appropriation had been, or should be applied to any such purpose." It was too late. The anti-Adams United Telegram vilified him not only for buying these immoral items "out of the public purse" but for setting a bad example for young men, who would surely fall into the billiards room habits of smoking and drinking, and offer as an excuse, "Why, the President plays billiards!" The pro-Adams National Gazette worsened the situation by saying a billiards table was "a common appendage in the houses of the rich and great of Europe." The paranoia of royal posturing set in. Cast against Andrew Jackson — whose supporters built his image as the idealized common man of the West — Adams was defeated for reelection in 1828.

In the most famous case of a president's political fortune being ruined by his lifestyle, Van Buren, who served during a depression, was crucified in a congressional speech by William Ogle of Pennsylvania for a perceived White House of regal state bedrooms, luxurious gardens, gold spoons, and French food. In fact, Van Buren's son and daughter-in-law Abraham and Angelica had taken on some royal airs after a honeymoon that included presentation at the British and French royal courts, and they were alluded to in Ogle's speech. The attack on Van Buren was so exaggerated, however, that he felt no need to defend himself against it. In 1840, he was defeated by William Henry Harrison, who was billed as a log cabin frontiersman when in fact he was born and raised on a regal Virginia plantation. A further irony was that Adams's successor and Van Buren's predecessor, Andrew Jackson, had lived more lavishly and conducted more extensive redecorating than either of them. Since 1826, after Monroe's furniture purchases included some items once owned by French nobility, Congress built an anti-royal caveat into its appropriation: purchases had to be "of American manufacture."

By 1844 royal fever meant political death. Surely John Tyler would not have permitted his wife, Julia, to ride in a carriage with six matching white Arabian steeds, and receive guests seated in a thronelike chair on a raised platform, surrounded by young ladies-in-waiting, if he had been running for reelection that year. If the opposition press had already exploited a president's family, the manipulation of family life by the president himself had begun. Although James and Sarah Polk were wealthy landowners, he won the 1844 election as "Young Hickory," in the tradition of his populist mentor, Jackson. Sarah Polk consciously set a moral tone — no hard liquor, no dancing — and consequently won praise from the conservative religious press, escaping censure for her regal Parisian gowns. There was a successful formula in the Polks: New Hampshirite Franklin Pierce was billed in the 1852 election as "Young Hickory of the Granite State," suggesting he was a populist — despite the fact that he was not — and Rutherford and Lucy Hayes also banned hard liquor, morally counteracting the taint of his allegedly stolen election in 1876.

By the Civil War, First Families were acutely sensitive to the repercussions of public criticism of their lifestyles. When Mary Lincoln overspent in her decorating, Abraham hit the ceiling: "It would stink in the nostrils of the American people to have it said that the President approved a bill over-running an appropriation of $20,000 for flub dubs for this damned old house, when the soldiers cannot have blankets." Although there was an attempt to make a campaign issue out of Mrs. Lincoln's purchase of a personal set of purple china, luckily for the Lincolns the press never discovered the overspending — or the use of other household accounts to compensate for it.

Soon, the idea not only of living royally but of profitably exploiting their positions threatened public rebuke of First Families. The Clevelands made a great profit by selling the private home they had used during his White House tenure, and Edith Roosevelt managed to take a favorite White House sofa home with her when she left: both incidents ignited the press. In contrast, if the profit somehow seemed to offset taxpayer expenses, personal benefit might be permissible: unchallenged in the press was Nellie Taft's 1909 contracting with the White Company to get a government discount on a fleet of cars in exchange for their shameless advertisement of the fact. When that gift was offered by an influential citizen, however, favoritism was often the charge. Not long after the Benjamin Harrisons accepted the outright gift of a Cape May summer house in 1889 from wealthy businessmen, the family was criticized and ridiculed, and Harrison felt pressured enough to pay for the house. Andrew Johnson, in announcing that no government workers were ever to accept gifts from those who might have business dealings with the federal government, decided to set a very public example in refusing an 1865 offer of a beautiful coach and team of horses from a group of New York businessmen.

Conversely, when hardship is mirrored by the First Family, they are praised for setting an example. Thus, though the Wilsons lived a life remote from wartime Washington, their saving gas by using the horse and old victoria, or not serving meat or wheat on certain days, connected them to the daily realities of most Americans. Often criticized for keeping a shabby house — even in the midst of the Great Depression — Eleanor Roosevelt was praised during World War II when she kept the White House to a rigorous food rationing system under government guidelines, making sacrifices for the First Family as all American families themselves were doing.

Finally, although the rooms of the family quarters are intended solely for the private use of the First Families, it is still technically "public housing," as Ronald Reagan called it. As such, the American people feel a certain proprietorship about even these decidedly unpublic rooms. Of all those in the family quarters, the Lincoln Suite is the most symbolically potent. There is a reverence for it akin to a shrine. This explains the angry editorials and press attacks on Nancy Reagan when it was mistakenly reported that she intended to tear down a wall there, or on President Clinton when it was learned that friends — some of whom naturally would be contributors to his 1996 reelection campaign — were overnight guests in the famous bed. That other First Ladies had walls altered, or that all presidents invite friends to sleep in the Lincoln bed, seemed moot. That anyone even appeared to desecrate the sacrosanct room is political ammunition — even though Lincoln never slept in the bed, or even in the room.


Following the Lincoln Bed

1860s
Purchased by Mary Todd Lincoln and placed in the northwest bedroom suite, or "Prince of Wales" bedroom; no evidence or even suggestion President Lincoln ever slept in it

1869
Moved by Julia Grant to the small bedroom west, in the shadow of the North Portico

1877
Rutherford and Lucy Hayes moved the Lincoln bed into the newly designated "State Bedroom" in the room currently known as the President's Study, next to the President's Bedroom

1901
Moved one room east, to the southwest bedroom suite, and used by Theodore and Edith Roosevelt

1909
Moved to storage by Nellie Taft

1915
Moved back into the southwest bedroom suite, "the President's Bedroom," and used by Woodrow Wilson and his second wife, Edith

1921
Moved to the northwest suite by Florence Harding, with some Lincoln memorabilia or era items

1923
Moved a third time into the southwest suite, the President's Bedroom, and used by Calvin and Grace Coolidge

1929
Moved by the Herbert Hoovers back into the northwest suite, officially called the Lincoln Bedroom

1933
Moved briefly into the small bedroom west under Franklin Roosevelt for use by his aide Louis Howe and his wife, Grace, but soon returned to the northwest suite, where it was later used by Anna Roosevelt Boettiger, her husband, John, and son Johnny.

1945
Placed by the Trumans in the southeast suite or "Blue Suite," renamed the Lincoln Suite, where it has remained since then


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

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  • Posted February 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Historical reminder

    Well written and researched. Lots of information I knew and much that I didn't know. Could also be used by a middle school or high school student. I really enjoyed it. Became interested after watching the PBS special on the White House.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2002

    I loved this book!

    I loved this books because I love history! I also like to learn about the President's and thier families!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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