The president’s box

Got a note asking about the box with the medallion on top that appears in some of the photos for the President’s Dining Room. It’s quite prominent in the one I added recently. A similar box appears in photos of the Cabinet Room. I believe these are buttons the president can use to summon a White House steward into the room for more water or to clean up a spill or something. Anyone with more info? Are they radio controls or wired? I think that presidents have had similar call buttons since the house was wired for electricity (and bell pulls before that), but this president seems to like to keep his on display.

14 thoughts on “The president’s box

  1. I just know that it’s his call box. He opens it and it’s an intercom system or some way to ask for snacks, lunch and such. I think it’s more about food/beverages than anything else.

  2. I’m not sure it’s a full intercom system – I think he usually uses the phone intercom when it’s appropriate and the box is used when it’s better to be able to whisper into an aide’s ear (Cabinet meetings, etc.). They’re remote – no wires. I think they’re also used ceremonally to show where he should sit when there are no placecards.

    Here’s a link to a recent photo of the box:

  3. I’m not sure what you mean by “full intercom” Robert but it is a two-way system for him to communicate with his help.

  4. I have a comment related to the Green Room. In several of the older pictures of the Green Room (pre-1900), I have noticed that only one door exists leading from the Green Room into the East Room. After 1900 (or so), two doors exist (one on either side of the fireplace).

    My question is this, although all renovations to the White House have stayed true to the original Hoban design, how many other rooms have had doors installed where doors were not originally designed for the room?

  5. You’d think there would be butlers, aides, etc. around and all he’d have to do is raise his eyebrows to summon someone, but maybe he doesn’t want them hovering around him and they aren’t that nearby.
    The box surely isn’t obtrusive. I hadn’t even noticed it, but now I’m looking for it in every picture.

  6. There don’t seem to be any speakers of any sort. I would expect that it’s just a call button to summon a butler. Have you ever noticed how conversation stops whenever the server comes near your table at a restaurant? Even if the conversation is just about the weather? I imagine it’s rather difficult to carry on important (and perhaps classified) conversations with a butler hovering in a corner. The Hoovers, of course, got around this by speaking Mandarin Chinese, but that option isn’t available for everyone.

  7. Having worked there for two years I can tell you it is not an intercom system. It is indeed to summon a member of his staff, not necessarily wait staff, but office staff. There is a button on the Cabinet Table, the Roosevelt Room table, the HMSR desk, on the side table to the President’s left in front of the fire place, in his dining room…to name a few. The box has the President’s seal and a red button, nothing more. There are no servants who hover about the President.

  8. Very interesting!!!

    I am wondering if when you say “a member of his office staff,” you mean one particular person to whose desk/office the red button is connected and who is always on call to the President.

  9. Very interesting!!!

    I am wondering if when you say “a member of his office staff,” you mean one particular person to whose desk/office the red button is connected and who is always on call to the President.

    Or perhaps the button summons a staff person whose job it is to be “in the middle” and responding to the President’s request to send for a particular office or wait person.

  10. The button rings in the President’s staff office, outside the OO. While there is nobody there “manning the switch” per se, there is also not a time when the President is in the OO and SOMEBODY is out there. This would either be his aide, seceretary, etc. Usual items he would “ping” for would be pens, (he likes the Pilot G2) or folder or needs a Senior Advisor to step in. I only can say what I saw with y own eyes. I saw these boxes in the upstairs of the WW (RR, OO, CR, Private Dining Room, Private Office), never in the EEOB, SITROOM, PEOC nor in any of the lower or first floor rooms. I was told they are in the residence, but cannot confirm. Hope this helps.

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