Real Life at the White House: 200 Years of Daily Life at America's Most Famous Residence


First published in 2000. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.

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First published in 2000. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Filled with anecdotes, quotations, and photographs, this well-written book is the third collaboration of the father/ daughter team of historian John Whitcomb and journalist Claire Whitcomb (House & Garden, Victoria, House Beautiful). Their account of real life in the "President's House" includes the entertaining habits, decorating tastes, and daily routines of the presidents, starting with Washington, who never lived in the White House, and ending with Clinton. Each president's unique contributions to politics and his personal history while residing in the White House are detailed in brief individual chapters. As the authors show, the White House was once far less comfortable and much more accessible to the public; Congress could withhold funds for refurbishment if it disliked the politics of the president, and visitors literally took pieces of the carpeting or items on display for souvenirs. This work should be read not only to discern the personal impact of each administration on a famous residence but also to observe the evolving nature of the presidency itself and its relation to the citizenry. Recommended for public and academic libraries.--Kathleen M. Conley, Illinois State Univ. Milner Lib., Normal Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
This well written and substantial book offers an unusual approach to the history of the American presidency by concentrating on the office's place of residence. Beginning with the building of the White House and continuing, president by president, John Whitcomb (he teaches American history, we're not told where) and his daughter Claire (a staff writer for among other magazines) give us the details of the daily life of America's first families, continuing each chapter beyond Washington to tell how each president finished his days. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From The Critics
200 years of daily life at the White House are revealed in an involving pictorial history of the home lives of each presidency. Real Life at the White House is more than just a probe of presidential families; it provides in-depth White House history and examines the role of the First Lady as it's changed over the decades. An intriguing presentation.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415923200
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 8/28/2000
  • Pages: 532
  • Sales rank: 1,508,249
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Father/daughter author team John and Claire Whitcomb have previously collaborated on Oh Say Can You See: Unexpected Anecdotes about American History (1987) and Great American Anecdotes (1994). John Whitcomb has taught American history for 32 years. Claire Whitcomb has written extensively about houses and history while on the staffs of magazines such as House & Garden, House Beautiful and Victoria.

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Table of Contents



1. GEORGE WASHINGTON 1789-1797: the Foundation is Laid 1

Creating Washington, D.C.,1790-1800 6

2. JOHN ADAMS, 1797-1801: The Great Castle 8

3. THOMAS JEFFERSON, 1801-1809: the Leveling Principles of Democracy 15


JAMES MADISON, 1809-1817: Conflagration 25

The Rebuilding of the White House, 1814-1817 35

JAMES MONROE, 1817-1825: Good Feelings and Gold Spoons 37

6. John Quincy Adams, 1825-1829: A Dull and Stately Prison 47

7. ANDREW JACKSON, 1829-1837: The People's Choice


8. MARTIN VAN BUREN, 1837-1841: Felled by a Gold Spoon 72

9. WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON, March 4-April 4,1841: Mourning 79

10. JOHN TYLER, 1841-1845: Courtship 84

11.JAMES KNOX POLK, 1845-1849: Attention to Detail 94

12. ZACHARY TAYLOR, 1849-JULY 9, 1850: Tragedy

101 Souvenir Hunters 10713. MILLARD FILLMORE, July 1859-March 4, 1853: The Last Whig 109

14. FRANKLIN PIERCE, 1853-8157: Twice Forgotten 114

15. JAMES BUCHANAN, 1857-1861: The Eve of Rebellion 122

16. ABRAHAM LINCOLN, 1861-April 14, 1865: A "Whited Sepulcure"

129Civil War Washington 141

14. ANDREW JOHNSON, 1865-1869: Traitor to Patriot 143

18.ULYSSES S. GRANT, 1869-1877: A Bright and Beautiful Dream 153

19.RUTHERFORD bIRCHARD HAYES, 1877-1881: Lemonade 162

20. JAMES GARFIELD, March 4-September 19, 1881: Death

Watch 173

21. CHESTER A. ARTHUR, 1881-1885: Tiffany Tastes 181

22/22. GROVER CLEVLAND, 1885-1889, 1893-1897: Love, Marriage, and a Baby Carriage 181

Ponies, Snales, Raccoons, and Other White House Pets 20625. WILLIAM McKINLEY, 1897-1901: Better Than a Bishopric


THEODORE ROOSEVELT, 1901-1909: The Reign of Enthusiam 219

The 1902 Renovation 233 27. WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT, 1909-1913: Not Where He Wanted to Be 236

28. WOODWARD WILSON, 1913-1921: Love and War 249

29. WARREN G. HARDING, 1921-1929: Playing the Part 263


calvin coolidge, 1923-1929: For the Roaring Twenties, a Man of Quiet 273

The 1927 Rooftop Renovation 287

31. HERBERT HOOVER, 1929-1933:And Then the Crash 289

32. FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, 1933-1945: Full House 299

33. HARRY S. TRUMAN, 1945-1953: What a Life!


34. DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, 1953-1961: TV Dinners 334

35. JOHN F. KENNEDY, 1961-1963: Style 348

White House China 36636. LYNDON B. JOHNSON, 1963-1969: Power 368

37. RICAHRD M. NIXON, 1969-1974: Caught 383

The Nixon Refurbishment: A Curator's View


38. Gerald R. Ford, 1974-1977: The Unelected President 491

39. JIMMY CARTER, 1977-1981: Down Home 413

40. RONALD REAGAN, 1981-1989: Perfectly Cast 423

41. GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, 1989-1993: Stepping Up to the Plate 440

A House and Eighty-Two Acres

450 42. WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, 1993-2001: Peephole on the Presidency 453




(Library Journal )

as well as their lows. This is a fascinating, concise history of the day-to-day living within America's premier residence (James A. Abbott, Curator of Decorative Arts, The Baltimore Museum of Art)

E. Conger White House Curator, 1970-1986)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2002

    In Depth

    This book presented a comprehensive selection of the social life inside the White House over the past 200 years. It was packed with interesting facts and oddities about the presidency. It's a must read for lover's of America's most famous home.

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