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.

26 thoughts on “National Geographic 1961

  1. Glad to know your Jan.’61 Geographic arrived. Those ground floor rooms with paneling milled from old White House timbers are pretty cool aren’t they? Sort of the ultimate 1950’s knotty pine look! And it’s fun to “find the treasures” – Grant’s cabinet table, Monroe’s empire tripod table, etc. No wonder Jackie had such a good time “tramping” around the ground floor, when she first moved in!

    The Eisenhower White House didn’t have the sophistication or scholarly grounding of the Kennedy White House, but still, Mamie’s W.H. had a sense of comfort and ease that I am appreciating more and more as time goes on.

    I have read in the book “White House China” (White House Historical Association) that Mrs. Eisenhower, together with Margaret B. Klapthor, deserves real credit for doing a great deal of groundbreaking work in cataloging the China collection – and that Mamie sought out and added many pieces of Presidential China to the collection.

  2. How about that wall safe in the Ushers’ Room? That pic a zoom in on the high res version of a photo of the Entrance Hall. What other gems could we find if only we had the high res versions of all those photos?

  3. I have a question from several comments back. In the second floor east sitting room, we know that the door on the north side of the barrel ramp is the stairway to the 3rd floor. But what about the door on the south side? I thought it was a restroom, but I see it labled as book storage.

    (Have you noticed from all of the photos how many books are all over the White House? I wonder if there is a library system for them.)

  4. Yeah, both that closet and the North Hall closet are labeled as book storage in the Truman plan. Voracious readers, those Trumans. Of course, what with the 3 shelves of bibles in 75 languages taking up space in the ground floor Library, they had to have a place for things they actually read.

  5. Derek, do you have a copy of Life magazine's October 1992 one hundred three page pictorial issue commemorating the White House Bicentennial? If not, I will be glad to send it to you, along with a June 1992 copy of Town & Country magazine featuring an article on the various White House redecorations through the years.

    The Town & Country article also has an article within the article by Carl Sferrazza Anthony detailing Jackie Kennedy's White House memos regarding her WH restoration project. I got a chuckle out of some Jackie's quips such as wanting no more "Mamie Pink" in the WH, finding Victoriana "hideous" and feeling "like a sailor taking in the sail" when she pulled down the window shades in the White House.

  6. My favorite quote from the 1961 National Geographic article is –
    “Painters and decorators will redo the residential second and third floors to suit the new family’s wishes. Mrs. Kennedy…and look over the handsome, historic china collections that go with being the Nation’s leading hostess. Wherever she likes, she will make changes to fit her own brand of homemaking. That is, except in one part of the house.

    By law, the formal first floor–with its famous gold-draped East Room, Green, Blue, Red, and State Dining Rooms — is permanently furnished with 18th and early 19th century styles. It…and not even the President can change it without approval of the Presidentially appointed Fine Arts Commission of Washington.”

    One see JBK laughing as she read those words when her copy of the National Geographic arrived.

  7. I’ll definitely post a couple more of the Nat’l Geo photos, but some of the others were already here (sent to me by others) or are already well-represented (the East Room, for example).

    And, Eric, I’d love to have those issues. WHM national headquarters is at:
    364 Pine Crest Dr
    Bremen, IN 46506

  8. I know there is no way you can compare the Kennedy White House to the Eisenhower White house, but in Mamie’s defense, you have to remember Congress cut the redecoration budget severly. According to J.B. West, the Korean War had driven building costs up and the Truman renovations cost more. And, Mamie did not get the usual appropration in 1953 to redecorate the family quarters (good thing or then the WH might be known as the Pink House).

  9. In addition to the family rooms, the Eisenhowers renovated the Cabinet Room and, I believe, civilized Camp David enough to satisfy JBK.

  10. If I were in the WH, the very first thing I did would be to get rid of that god-awful pinky mauve in the bookcases. I think it looked best right after the Kennedy restoration which featured it as an 18th century painted room. I believe that I would have kept that one particular room as the pine, since it is a library. Since books are my passion, I can only imagine the supreme joy of being in that library with a crackling fire and poring over the treasures in that room. Also, I’ve read or heard, that Laura Bush reorganized the entire WH library and book collections according to the Dewey decimal system, being a former librarian.

  11. I know that JBK wanted no persons in White House photographs, but having them in the Nat’l Geographic photos helps give room proportions. When you see people standing in front of the windows you realize how high they are.

    Also, do you think that is Mabel Walker with her back to us in the Eisenhower Vermeil Room?

  12. I agree on the Library. It’s a very 1950s idea to panel a basement in pine, tho. 😉 A library should be paneled in hardwood. The China and Vermeil Rooms should remain painted, but they need a new color. I think goldware needs a dark color to set it off, but that room doesn’t get much light as it is, so dark walls would make it cave-like.

  13. Halcyondays – I also have a bad case of Bibliomania – books, books everwhere at my house! Too many? Nahhhhhhhh… I can still move through the rooms!

    I totally agree – that “pinky-mauve” they painted inside the Library bookcases is indeed god-awful. The room looks like a 2nd-rate furniture store display installation trying to look “upscale”. The curtains look really 1980s. And the white paint is too shiny. Other than that…

    The funny thing is that I have seen pictures of Laura Bush’es Dining Room/ Library at their ranch in Texas and it is awesome. Floor-to ceiling bookcases with rolling ladders on a track.

    Also agree that the Library looked best after JBK and Mr. Dupont got finished with it. It had a real sense of understatement and restraint that was very pleasing and really set off the important Duncan Phyfe furniture in there.

  14. Oh lord! I think I’m turning into one of those fossils who clucked in disapproval when they started to paint Mt. Vernon and Williamsburg rooms in wild (but ever-so-correct) historical colors. Now I’m used to them and like them, but this new W.H. Library just seems :off” somehow. It just seems “decorated”. But I should keep an open mind and learn what they based this latest re-do on. After all they certainly did a fantastic job with the new Lincoln Bedroom…

    Uh-oh! One tropical storm in the Gulf and one in the Atlantic headed this way! Might be a nice time to head up to Cincinnati!

  15. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t like books? Nah! I don’t think so. I keep buying books, but the shelves won’t stretch–what gives? John, I agree with you about the new looks of the library. I honestly have to say, most of the bush’s decorations have left me kind of flat. I apologize for this, but I long for the days of Khaki Hockersmith and her bold colors. I think the Treaty Room never looked better than the Clinton days. Somehow the bland walls and olive drapes of the present–well just leaves me flat. As well as the cafe rods–I don’t like ’em and they are all over the present WH. Okay, that’s my 2 cents worth.

    On a more postive note, I was in a teacher supply store with my wife yesterday and found a White House bulletin board set. I thought this was pretty interesting. It had a cut-a-way WH with WHHA pictures to put on the bulletin board. The pics were current (all except the Lincoln Bedroom). I just thought it was great that someone created such a thing, I’ve always just used the postcards that the WHHA sells and made my own (which I put up yearly in my classroom). Of course I was so excited when I found this I picked up the wrong set of alphabet letters for her (I got the Spanish Alphabet instead of English).

  16. The Bushes have a library/dining room combo? If the White House had that, nobody could have complained about Amy Carter reading at the table.

  17. Naw – we Southerners ain’t real refined! I mean, just think of what an accomplishment it was that Amy could read at all! Actually, I was more scandalized at Miz Lillian appearing at the breakfast table in house-shoes. Shocking!

  18. I think that The White House Library should be moved to the second floor- to the room where the Treaty Room once stood.
    The room’s dimensions and natural light would be perfect for a library… paneled in medium-toned mahogany. And what a view from the windows!!

    A library should be a comfortable place for men as well as women. The current library furnishings are too “delicate” to accomplish this goal. Accordingly, I think a library decorated in the Chippendale style would be appropriate. The scale of the furniture is larger and more comfortable. The primary colours in such a room should be reds, blues- shades that would work well with the medium-toned paneling (antique?)in such a room.
    There should be at least one wing chair by the fireplace and perhaps a transitional-modern sofa on the west wall opposite the fireplace. The room should be a place to be very comfortable while reading. The north, east and west walls should have built-in bookcases. The south wall should be left as it is- a perfect place for a period desk for writing.
    Perhaps some of the furnishings of the current Map Room could be used in the seoond floor library.

  19. I agree with an earlier comment about the Treaty Room during the Clinton years looking better than the present Bush Treaty Room. However, I like the curtain rods!

    I do give Laura Bush a lot of credit for the Yellow Oval Room. I notice that she has returned the JBK-era chandelier to the room. I think that she has worked to restore some other Kennedy-esque touches to the house in other rooms, such as the library, with straight-falling panels ala Boudin and JBK.

    On another personal note, I love the natural wood of the library as featured in the January 1961 Nat’l Geographic. I know that the painted wood is more “correct” but I love natural wood. I love the pictures of the State Dining Room prior to the 1948 renovation where the wood was dark and the sconces were silver as was the chandelier. I have read that JBK wanted to return the wood to it’s natural color however the primer that was to allow for this that was put on the walls when the room was redone during the Truman Renovation had been eaten away; so there was no way to remove that awful air-conditioner green paint without hurting the wood.

  20. About the State Dining Room paneling – I’d also love to see the paint removed and the natural wood restored, but I’ve read that there was so much damage done to it upon its removal in 1948, that the original McKim woodwork was badly splintered and pretty much had to be painted in 1952 to hide the scars. Also the paneling above the mantle was almost totally reworked and (because it’s been painted all these years) the patina of the wood wouldn’t match the 1902 paneling at all. The 1902 paneling had been exposed to air and the elements for almost 50 years and had darkened and oxidized (sp?). It would be totally depraved, but you *could* faux-grain the State Dining Room, like George Washington did to his stair hall and study at Mt Vernon!

    Mmmmmmm! A big, plump sofa and a couple of club chairs in front of a crackling fire in the W.H. Library! You certainly *could* remove the paint from the walls in there – I’d love to see that done. But I’d have to keep the elegant Duncan Phyfe furniture in there in honor of Jackie…

  21. I respectfully disagree. I like the current SDR walls and believe that the dark paneling of before made the room too dark for its size as a banquet/dining room. I also want to know why everyone keeps slamming the ’50s Green. No one on this site actually saw it. I don’t think it looks bad in photos and I prefer it to the dark wood,too. So there!

  22. Dennis I also liked the Williamsburg green SDR! It was pure 1930s – 1950s Colonial Revival/Westchester/Grosse Pointe/Philadelphia Main Line green! What I didn't like was the weird green marble mantel (see, I finally learned how to spell "mantel"…). I think with the gold curtains and Jackie's Jansen carpet and her Teddy Roosevelt mantel (I still want to write "mantle"…), the green State Dining Room would have been beautiful! Gilded chandelier & sconces or leave them silver? A toss up. And yes, I think the room looks fine today. But the architectural historian in me would love to have seen the original oak-paneled room!

  23. OK, this has been banging around in my head, like a song you can’t get rid of, since earlier today when I posted the comment above. According to several on-line dictionaries I consulted, it can be *both* – or either – “mantle” or “mantel”. Who knew?

    Ahhhhhhhh… Peace at last!

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