Old and older

Just got the 1979 and 1991 WHHA Guides delivered via Ebay. I find it a little irritating the way that the exact same photo is sometimes used for more than a decade just because the decor doesn’t change much (the 1991 Private Dining Room photo is identical to the one from 1975). It wouldn’t be so bad if they at least dated the pictures…. Anyway, my thanks to John in NOLA, who sent along a 1962 1963 WHHA Guide to help complete my collection. Very cool.

I’ve added a few photos from these and also a couple I got from Monkman’s Furnishings….

For the record, the White House Museum Library* now includes An Historic Guide from:

  • 1963, 4th edition
  • 1964, 5th edition
  • 1968, 8th edition
  • 1973, “4th” edition
  • 1975, 12th edition
  • 1979, 14th edition
  • 1982. 15th edition
  • 1991, 17th edition (hardbound)
  • 1994? (hasn’t arrived yet)
  • 2003, 22nd edition

* Photo does not show the White House Museum Library Video Annex

UPDATE: The other books in the collection are (left to right, back to front):

  • Monkman’s WH… Furnishings
  • Seale’s WH… Idea
  • The 1952 Report of the Commission on the Renovation of the Executive Mansion
  • WH History collection 1 and 2
  • WH History #14 & 17 (very thin)
  • Designing Camelot
  • Architectural Digest, Dec 1981
  • National Geographic, Nov 1966
  • [An Historic Guide collection]
  • Seale’s The President’s House (2 vol.)
  • Upstairs at the WH
  • Inside History of the WH (1908)
  • 42 Years in the WH (1934)
  • Anthony’s America’s First Families
  • Anthony’s The Kennedy WH
  • The WH is Our House and The Last Day (Nixon) CD-ROMs [top]

The wayback machine

Finished the Ike Hoover memoir–great fun despite its jumble of information. I was fairly shocked to find lists of who was generous and who not, and who was a ladies man and who not. Harding, as it turns out, “was a sporting ladies man.” Who knew?

Now I’m deep into Inside History of the White House, a gem from the good people at the Christian Herald in 1908. As you might imagine from such a source, the book spends a fair amount of ink on how each president worshipped, but mostly spends its time explaining how absolutely marvelous every president was.

One interesting point—given that I just learned that Ike Hoover wired the White House for electricity—is that the wiring of the White House was done badly. Holes were drilled thru timbers and wires run thru without porcelain or iron piping. In the 1902 renovation, many of the holes were found to be scorched from short circuits from frayed wiring.

Hoover versus Hoover

I’m about 2/3 of the way thru Ike Hoover’s memoir. It’s a toboggan run of a read—just like JB West’s was. But Hoover is decidedly more candid in his appraisals of his employers, sometimes to the point of laugh-out-loud frankness. And what I took at times to be political partisanship I soon found was merely personal affection—or disaffection. His praise of both the Clevelands and Roosevelts is boundless. His admiration for both McKinley and Wilson is striking. He goes on for pages and pages about trivial events (Colonel House falling out of favor with Wilson) but says almost nothing at all about the entire Harding administration. And his distaste for the peculiarity of Coolidge and bald antipathy for the Hoovers is almost comical.

After sections in the Coolidge chapters with titles like “Coolidge Eccentricities” and “Coolidge Talks for Once,” a short section at the beginning of the Hoover chapters is called “Never a Kind Word” and starts:

When Coolidge reigned, we thought he was an odd person, but with the coming of Hoover, we changed our minds by comparison. Coolidge was quiet and did queer little things, but Hoover was even more peculiar. He would go about, never speaking to any of the help. Never a kind word or even a nod of the head. …

To hammer the point home, this section is followed by a section titled “Hard People to Work For”! On the other hand, he does grant that the very wealthy Hoovers were never stingy.

Also–disappointingly, Hoover describes the White House rooms only occasionally and rarely mentions where specific events took place. And he makes the strange error of suggesting that Lincoln may have signed the Emancipation Proclamation on the Resolute desk.

Update: Dennis notes that the book was edited together from Hoover’s notes after his heart attack while still on the job in 1933, which explains the holes and general disjointedness, especially of the second half. Time magazine carried the story on the day, with the ironic conclusion:

Once he was offered $50.000 to write his memoirs. He refused, saying: “When I pass out, everything I know goes with me.”

Not if you’ve written it all down it doesn’t.

Ike Hoover’s first day

Returned home to find 42 Years in the White House waiting for me. A quick look at the photo plates showed only one that seems worth adding to the site (the early Wilson bedroom). But as I started to read, I found on page five that this is going to be interesting, as Ike describes that day in 1891 he first came to the White House to install electrical lighting and looked around the basement (today’s ground floor):

The floor was covered with damp and slimy brick; dust webs were everywhere. An old wooden heating trough hung the entire length of the ceiling of the long corridor. Everything was black and dirty. Rooms that are now parlors were then used for storage of wood and coal. In the kitchen of the original house, now an engine-room [now the north hall and offices], could be seen the old open fireplaces once used for broiling the chickens and baking the hoecakes for the early Father of our country, the old cranes and spits still in place. Out the door to the rear there yet remained the old wine-vault, the meathouse, and the smokehouse.

I’ve already added this and some other quotes to some of the pages.

2000 Symposium pics

Nick Valenziano (Nix) kindly sent some photos from his visit to the White House Symposium in 2000, which include a couple of rare shots of restrooms as well as a nice one of the China display cases and a really, really nice one of the Family Theater. Thanks, Nick!

Simultaneously, I have begun (on the Ground Floor) adding little maps to each room page—snippets of the floor plan—to help orient the reader about where the doors and windows and fireplaces are in that room.

Open post: What this country needs….

After an e-mail exchange on the subject of Tade Styka’s equestrian portrait of TR in the Roosevelt Room, it occurred to me that what this country needs is a dollar coin with TR’s portrait. Was there ever a face better suited to the obverse of hard specie? I ask you, what face has this nation chosen to chisel in stone 60 feet high and yet not mounted on a minted round? And don’t tell me he’s already on the reverse of the South Dakota quarter. Theodore Roosevelt should not have to appear in the company of a ring-necked pheasant!

I know that he’ll get his moment in a few years, but he’ll be lumped in with McKinley, Taft, and Wilson, for pity’s sake. Maybe TR’s could be a two dollar coin. The man needs his own denomination! And for the reverse? A bull moose whacking a Spaniard with a big stick.

Turn of the (previous) century

I’ve posted several photos from the 1908 White House book I got on Ebay. It has some interesting insights, altho I haven’t been able to read much of it yet. The photos are c1903 Master Bedroom, Yellow Oval Room, President’s Office (Lincoln Bedroom), Cabinet Room (Treaty Room), Cross Hall, and West Wing. There are a number more of the state floor rooms, but I already have good ones of them. Too bad there is no pic of the West Sitting Hall. There is an interesting one of the stables, but I’m pretty sure that the stables had been moved out of President’s Park well before 1903. (Anyone know which Starbucks now occupies the location?)

UPDATE: John in NOLA pointed out that the Yellow Oval Room pic had to be pre-1902 and sent a terrific c1910 photo of the room showing the fresh walls and new mantelpiece. Also, Robert M sent a juicy stereograph of the Cleveland’s West Sitting Hall (first or second term, I can’t tell–there’s no slim, girlish Frances or chubby, matronly Frances).

A house divided…

After adding the new pics to the Oval Office page, I noticed that it now has 40 photos. Other important rooms have only about 30. I’m concerned that, with all the photos, the pages won’t load fast enough for casual viewers. I’m wondering about dividing the OO page out into:

  • Today
  • Earlier

or by era:

  • Today
  • Reagan to Clinton
  • Johnson to Carter
  • FDR to Kennedy
  • pre-FDR

The “today and earlier” idea would work pretty well for other rooms as they get longer, altho there are surprisingly few good photos of many rooms as they are today.

UPDATE: For the time being, I’ve broken the page out into Oval Office and Oval Office History. You can compare it to the previous version.

Other oval rooms

I added a couple more images sent by Mimlog to the Oval Office page. One of them is Nixon’s OO just after moving in and the other is Nixon talking to the Apollo astronauts. In both, we see Johnson’s decor, but I noticed that the curtains changed: there is blue edging in the 1969 pic. In the 1964 guide, Johnson’s OO has Boudin’s original curtains with red edging, but I’m not sure who made the change.

Also, while I was looking at the ’64 guide, I decided to add a couple of images to the Yellow Oval Room page: the room in ’64, and a bridal pic of Lynda in ’67 that I had been too lazy to place and date. (I also reprocessed a Kennedy pic.)

Truman photos

Found a photo of the East Bedroom in 1952 showing the mantelpiece clearly. I think this could be the room where Ike got his mysterious picture taken. And check out the wheelchair. Madge Wallace’s? It doesn’t look like FDR’s.

Also got an extra one of the Yellow Oval Room as Harry’s study and Margaret’s fireplace, which I only had in its unfinished state.

Also: For those with an interest in architecture beyond our favorite example, I spent the weekend Pittsburgh and went on a photo walkabout.

Kennedy bedrooms

The Ike’s Lair discussion prompted John in NOLA to pass along two photos from the Kennedy archives that show Junior’s mantel and Jackie’s mantel (see What’s New) but don’t help solve the mystery. (But they’re nice, John; really they are.) Conspiracy theorists now suggest that Ike had a room in his library made to look a lot like the White House a family residence room but not exactly like one.

Tyler chairs and Boudin’s ground floor

Visitor John M asks three questions I can’t answer….

When Mrs. Kennedy gave her famous tour in 1962 she spent considerable time in the newly restored Red Room. She mentioned two chairs by the desk between the windows as grateful acquisitions perhaps from the Tyler administration. What ever happened to those chairs?

Also, Boudin had approved changes from Mrs. Kennedy for the Vermeil and China rooms in 1963. Were any of these changes implemented during the Johnson administration? If so were the rooms photographed?

Finally, why did they choose to place William McKinley’s portrait in the East Room? As for the other portraits I understand Washington and his wife as he laid the cornerstone and they were the original first couple. I understand TR because he was responsible for the interior architecture via McKim, Mead, and White. In my opinion they should balance out the male/female portraits and remove McKinley and replace it with Shikler’s portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy who helped create the White House Historical Society and establish the permanent collection of historic antiques.

I don’t think the WH comments on why certain portraits are placed where they are. I’m sure –for all administrations–it’s a combination of curatorial historical expertise and vicious partisanship. 😉

General Eisenhower, in the West Bedroom, with the Candlestick

I think we have a winner in the “Where’s Ike?” contest. Visitor Kevin G provides this fine bit of detective work demonstrating that the photo of Ike must have been taken in the small West Bedroom upstairs.

Here is the photo about Eisenhower. These are just my conclusions, but I looked at the wainscoting panels and the only ones I find of the same length are in the West Bedroom

See what you think. I was wondering if the mantels could have been changed in the Kennedy restoration. Also note the electrical plug in the West Bedroom photo. I believe outlets would have been added.

Update: Well… perhaps not. Unless Ike temporarily changed the mantel himself, the fireplace is wrong. The original, uncaptioned photo comes from a page on Ike’s post-White-House years, so it’s possible that the photo was not taken in the WH and yet… he had the motive, the opportunity, and the desire….

Dispatch from Fort Necessity

Lousy connectivity from the Doubletree in Pittsburgh this week is making it difficult to do any kind of online activity. Nevertheless, I managed to just acquire this fine miniature of the White House from the Danbury Mint via Ebay.

I already have the 5-inch version, which is considerably less detailed and accurate. This one is the 9-inch version and much better all around. I also recently acquired a 1950s-era plastic model that is quite accurate, altho it seems to have the 1917 roof.

Open post: Designing Camelot

Visitor Scott W suggested an open post on the topic of James Abbott and Elaine Rice’s book Designing Camelot. I know I got a lot out of that book, not only on the subject of the Kennedy renovation, but also from the floor plans at the back. If only we had such a work on the other major renovations….

Update: Adding a page for resources, where I’ll list this book and other books, periodicals, and videos recommended for anyone interested in the heritage of the White House.

More visitory goodness

Added several more photos from visitors to the White House, including a museum shot of the old 1903 piano in the Smithsonian and the Kennedy swimming pool mural, which was removed from the room and put in what is apparently a Kennedy Library conference room. With a little help from the straightener, the color-corrector, and the brightener, these photos are all great. See What’s New.