White House Closet Christmas Tree

Having an official Christmas tree in the Presidential White House has not been a long-time tradition. Under President Grover Cleveland there was a tree with gifts on it in the house but not an official one. President Harrison in 1889 followed with a more decorated tree with tinsel and candles in small lanterns. In 1893 with Cleveland back as President, a decorated tree was in the White House for several years, including the use of electric lights on the tree.

However in 1899 with President William McKinley, he was receiving letters urging the president to forgo participation in the “Christmas tree habit” calling it a forestry fad, that it was an annual harvest threatening the national forests, and un-American because it was a historically German tradition.

With Theodore Roosevelt becoming president after the assassination of McKinley, he wanted to steer away from having a White House tree in 1901 and 1902. However, his son, eight-year-old Archie Roosevelt, one of six young children in the White House had other ideas in December 1902. Young Archie had White House carpenters, an electrician and steward get a small two-foot fir Christmas tree that was set up in empty clothes closet. When it was all completed and decorated Archie gathered his parents and siblings for the unveiling of the tree. On the tree were also gifts for his family members. President Roosevelt on seeing the tree was astonished.

Archie continued with his own Christmas tree each year and one he also did for his parents. No opposition from his father. By Christmas 1908, Archie’s mother saw that a Christmas tree was decorated in the White House as did future First Ladies.

It makes you wonder, if Christmas trees were not common at the White House, the same could be true for your ancestors.

Photos: Archie as a boy at the White House; the surprise of the closet Christmas Tree in 1902 and Theodore Roosevelt with his two youngest sons- Left was Archie and Right was youngest son-Quentin.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Christmas Tree Lights

New Year’s Day Open House

White House – Wedding Anniversaries

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