The Story of the White House

I just received Esther Singleton’s 1907 tour de force two-volume The Story of the White House. I got the two volumes from different sellers, and they are obviously different editions. V1 is inscribed with an elegant hand with a Christmas greeting and dated 1907, so it’s a first edition. The other is likely 1960 vintage.

V1 includes a couple of very interesting circa 1800 engravings that seem to be a bit fanciful. V2 has numerous interior photo plates that are just stunning in their sharpness and detail. I’ll capture them this weekend and add them after I finish with the NYPL stereographs.

Thanks again to Christina, who pointed me to the copies available (cheap!) on Alibris.

State Dining Room

Added some photos to the State Dining Room page showing the same kind of changes—chandeliers, Johnson’s geometric walls being repainted—thru the 1870s and 1880s that are apparent in other rooms.

It’s too bad that Johnson didn’t have the whole mansion properly photographed before his daughter made it over, so that we’d have a better historical record of the house in Lincoln’s time. After all, they knew they were living in an extraordinary time and that Lincoln was destined to be a major historical figure.

UPDATE: Holy crap, I rushed my birthday. When I wrote this post late last night, I post-dated it and skipped a day. Hurray! I’m still only 39! In your face, Jack Benny!

Family rooms

Now available: old photos of the Family Dining Room, Master Bedroom, and Living Room in the 19th century. These were tricky to date, and I might not have them right yet.

UPDATE: I went back in and found a few pictures that offered zoom functionality. This allowed me to get more detailed captures of parts of the image, which was helpful in the case of the stereographs. Still working on the Red and Green, State Dining, Yellow Oval, and north and south face pictures.

East Room

Added several images to the East Room page showing the fascinating changes from the 1860s thru the 1890s and even one of JBK’s “portable” theater.

UPDATE: I’ve made several changes based on an improved understanding of the changes made by Grant/Patterson in 1873 and Arthur/Tiffany in 1882. I think I need to expand my renovations pages.

Junk and stuff

Added some more pictures from the LOC, NYPL, John in NOLA, and other acronyms.

I’ve been sequencing the NYPL pics of the East, Green, and Red rooms, scanning for all the little details that indicate the date (since almost none of them are dated) and I’m getting a little dizzy. I think it’s all the 3D effects from looking at the stereographs.

UPDATE: Link to WHHA PDF where I got the 1918 China Room pic, also containing the pic of Gugler’s Oval Office design with different 1934 window treatment.

Third on Reagan’s right

Third on Reagan’s right in this photo is Otis R Bowen (Wikipedia), secretary of Health & Human Services and former governor of Indiana. 89-year-old Doc Bowen attended the 2nd Annual Bremen Old-Timers Softball game yesterday to throw out the first pitch, and your intrepid reporter is there. Doc pitched men’s softball in Bremen in the 1940s. While governor and secretary, he was known to write out prescriptions for cold and flu remedies for colleagues and reporters.

Old West Wing

Went back thru my LOC collection and added some pictures of the Taft-Hoover Oval Office, old Cabinet Room, and old laundry.

UPDATE: I noted the presence of future presidents Coolidge and Hoover in the Harding Cabinet pic and Hoover in the Coolidge Cabinet.

Early etchings

Added some mid-1800s etchings to various rooms in the Residence, most of these from Seale’s …Idea. It’s funny how etchings are pretty common in this pre-photography period but not earlier, in the 1800-1840 era.

Something… amazing

Christopher S sent a link to the New York Public Lib’ary site where there is something… amazing. This will require some time to digest. If you’re peeking at this post early; do not follow that link.

UPDATE: Great collection of mostly-stereograph, mostly-late 1800s photos. Unfortunately, the New York public lib’arians aren’t providing very high-res scans (at least considering what is left when you crop the frame and one ‘graph from a stereograph).

The ghost of White House past

Christina R sent a link to Google’s scan of Esther Singleton’s The Story of the White House, a 1907 two-volume examination of the history of the executive mansion (the link goes to volume 2). The image scans aren’t good enough to make use of here, but most are well-known LOC images. Still, it would be nice to get hold of a copy by honest means.

She also mentioned how nice it would be to get color photos of Mamie Eisenhower’s bedroom. And it occured to me that, as proud a woman as she was, photos probably do exists. With the release of the new photos on the Eisenhower Library site, maybe we’ll eventually see ones of the bedrooms too. Then it occured to me that it would really be something if the WHHA worked with the Ike Library to create a “retro” An Historic Guide, seeing as how the Eisenhowers just missed having one. There are apparently enough good color photos after all. They might even be able to do Truman and FDR eras.

UPDATE: Found a cheap copy on Alibris.

Oval Office history

Posted a few old photos of the original and modern Oval Office at various times, consisting of Taft, Wilson, and Eisenhower. I find it interesting to look over the original Oval Office. It’s obvious now, for example, that FDR’s eagle valances were practically taken right from Hoover’s windows before the office was moved, altho Seale says Gugler designed new ones. They go right back to Taft so were presumably green all along, as Seale says, altho they’ve always looked blue in pictures I’ve seen, at least until I saw one from the FDR library.

Also, yesterday, I added a few other historical pics.

White House replicas

Think you love the White House? Did you build your house to look like it? These people (and the Chinese and Lego governments) did….

Atlanta house

West of DC house

West of DC house from opposite angle

Chinese replica museum

Lego White House

And, of course, the Zweifel White House in Miniature

Thanks to Pete for the links…. Stay tuned for Pete’s release of his 3D replica built in Google Sketchup. I’ve seen tantalizing tidbits, and I’m on pins and needles.

New additions of old editions

Just got the June 1992 Town & Country and October 2000 Life from Eric B, and they look fantastic! Thanks, Eric! Also, another edition of An Historic Guide arrived from Ebay, this one the 19th edition, from 1995.

Also, I added four diagrams: 1911 East Wing, 1911 West Wing, 1911 Residence, and the 1992 front door.

White House wedding?

CNN is reporting that Jenna Bush plans to marry Henry Hagar Hager, heir to the Hagar Slacks fortune.* Chances are that the wedding will take place at the family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine or maybe the Crawford ranch (especially if Wonkette is right), but there is the outside chance that we could see another wedding in the White House.

* I may have that wrong. Actually, he was Karl Rove’s aide.

The "lavish" Mr. Van Buren

I added a quote from Rep. Charles Ogle (W-PA) to the Blue Room from his “Gold Spoon” speech decrying President Van Buren’s living habits. It’s a notoriously unfair tirade (which I tried to make clear) but points out some interesting things and is nicely indicative of the haranguing that many presidents take over ordinary expenditures. Seale has an article on it in PDF format.

His speech also covered the East Room and State Dining Room and mentions the Green and (at the time) Yellow Parlors. The dining room bit is especially nasty, in that Ogle implies that Van Buren–and not Ogle’s fellow Whig, Monroe–bought the great gold “plateau.”

National Geographic 1961

Got my hands on a January 1961 National Geographic with the tour of the Eisenhower White House. It has a number of beautiful photographs (candy-coated Kodachrome), so I added some of the Kitchen and Library, a pair of wonderful pics of the Vermeil Room that were badly needed to document the era, and one great one of the Treaty Room as Monroe Room. But—alas!—no look inside Mamie’s pink bedroom….

Also added a couple more strays from the Truman library.

Update: Thanks to John in NOLA for tipping me off to the Nat’l Geo issue. I think we should do a list of all the magazines issues with big WH pictorials. I think there’s a ’93 Arc Dig I need to add to my collection.

Creme de la CREM

Delved back into the Report of the Commission on the Renovation of the Executive Mansion from 1952 and added floor plans from there. I’m not sure why I hadn’t done this before, because I photographed some of the plans months ago so I could draw the modern second and third floor plans.

As a part of this, I saw a diagram I hadn’t noticed before. It shows a cross-section of the East Sitting Hall looking west, and shows clearly how the hidden staircase to the third floor is structured.

U of U collection

I posted a few new photos: one of the Palm Room entrance from Time‘s WH blog and a couple from the University of Utah’s Marriott Library collection of Truman photos. These are the same Abbie Rowe photos but larger. However, I can’t figure out how to get the full-size source pic; the link to the TIFs are all broken.

Both Truman photos are a little shaky. I’m pretty sure I’ve put them in the right rooms (today’s Beauty Salon and Visitors Foyer), but I’m not certain.


Added some miscellaneous stuff the other day from Truman and Bush 1.

Also, I got a nice note from a retired USSS man (Ike and Johnson eras) and chatted with him by phone about the history of the USSS in the WH. He says the USSS has added an archivist who is gathering history to assemble a better picture of the service over the years.

He described the decision to convert a storage room under the Oval Office into a USSS shift leader office around 1965 (the press was lobbying for that space, but his security detail convinced LBJ that having journalists a few feet directly under his office was a bad idea). That’s the only security office I have labeled. I’ve been very hands-off when it comes to WH security measures, but if the officials in the service see fit to release a comprehensive book, I’ll borrow from that to add to the site.

Open post: Abe Lincoln, mystery writer

Stumbled across this story by Abe Lincoln called “The Trailor Murder Mystery,” which appeared in The Illinois Whig (the magazine of Whigs, by Whigs, and for Whigs) in 1846. As a murder mystery, it’s no “Telltale Heart,” but as a case-study of the actual Trailor case, for which Lincoln acted as defending attorney, it’s pretty interesting.

Reading between the lines, I find a coerced confession (“They still plied him in every conceivable way…”) and some sloppy police work (the search for the dead man did not include the man’s own home). But I find it very interesting that in the old days town postmasters played an important role in law enforcement.