First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy was born on July 28, 1929. If she had survived cancer she would be 86 today. If you visit the White House you can view her portrait and walk through the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden.
On this day, July 26, 1926, Robert Todd Lincoln, the oldest son of President Abraham Lincoln, died. Of his three brothers Robert was the only one to live to adulthood. Throughout his life, Robert Lincoln was dogged by a series of eerie coincidences. A year before his father was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, Robert Lincoln was saved from possible serious injury or even death by Wilkes’ brother Edwin who grabbed Robert by the collar when he stumbled and almost fell off a railroad platform. Robert, as member of President Garfield’s cabinet, was present when President James Garfield was gunned down in the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad station in Washington, DC in 1881. He was also present when President McKinley was assassinated 20 years later These coincidences were very troubling for Robert Lincoln. He was haunted by the fact that, perhaps if he had accepted the invitation of his parents to attend the play at Ford's Theater the night of his father's assassination he might have prevented it. After personally witnessing two other presidential assassinations he refused to attend presidential events with the exception of his attendance at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial.
Robert Lincoln's association with railroads also evoked another coincidence. His father campaigned as "The Rail Splitter" and when Robert was appointed chairman of the Pullman Company, a manufacturer of railroad cars, he was nicknamed "Prince of the Rails". Perhaps the final eerie coincidence occurred after his death. The widowed Jacqueline Kennedy's last residence in Washington, DC was a home directly across the street from the home Robert Lincoln lived in for many years.
On this day in 1890 John Parker died. Recognize the name? Probably not but he played a pivotal role in the tragedy that occurred on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, not so much for what he did but what he didn’t do. John Parker was one of President Abraham Lincoln’s bodyguards and on the night of April 14, 1865 he was on duty as President Lincoln and his party sat in the presidential box at Ford’s Theatre. Only Parker was not at his post outside the presidential box when John Wilkes Booth entered there and shot Lincoln. To this day there continues to be speculation as to exactly where John Parker was. Perhaps he went next door to the saloon, since he had a history of drinking while on duty, or perhaps he was elsewhere in the building but he was not at his post. Was he relieved of duty following Lincoln’s death? Amazingly, he was not and why not? That is a question that still remains unanswered. He was charged with neglect of duty and tried, but no transcript of the case was kept apparently and the charge was subsequently dismissed. Incredulous as it may seem, Parker continued to work security at the White House and was even assigned to guard First Lady Mary Lincoln. She became so enraged she ordered him away from her and told him she would always blame him for her husband’s death. Parker’s bad behavior finally caught up with him and he was fired three years after President Lincoln’s death for sleeping on duty. He did an ignominious death and is buried in an unmarked grave in Washington, DC. No known photograph of John Parker exists.
Today, June 26, is "Take Your Dog to Work Day". At the White House every day is likely to be "Take Your Dog to Work Day" because of the access these canine favorites have to the occupant of the Oval Office. President Obama's dogs Bo and Sunny may be the top dogs now, but they are but two in a long line. President Eisenhower had a Weimeraner named Heidi. President Johnson's beagles were Him and Her. President Ford's had a golden retriever who answered to the name Liberty. President Reagan's dog was a King Charles spaniel named Rex. Some presidential dogs even have their own pet biographies. President Franklin Roosevelt's dog, Fala, was the first followed by First Lady Barbara Bush's book about Millie, the Bush's springer spaniel. The Clinton's cat, Socks, shared top billing with Buddy, President Clinton's chocolate Labrador retriever in Hillary Clinton's pet biography: "Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids' Letters to the First Pets".
Some presidential pets are immortalized in other mediums. Presidential dog Bo has his own baseball card.
Fala is right beside President Franklin Roosevelt at the Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, DC, and First Lady Grace Coolidge posed with her dog Rob Roy for her official White House portrait.
Today is Flag Day and if you would like a American flag that has flown over the U.S. Capitol contact the office of your local congressman or senator. Flags are available for purchase and come with an certificate signed by the Architect of the Capitol.
The White House is part of a national park and encompasses 18 acres with 132 rooms, including 16-family guest rooms, 5 kitchens, and 35 bathrooms with an area of approximately 100,000 square feet over 6 floors. The city’s planner, Pierre L’Enfant, envisioned the house four times larger than what actually stands. President George Washington worked closely with the architect James Hoban to add certain carvings and architectural details but never got to live in the White House. Washington retired from office before the White House was ready for occupancy. President and Mrs. John Adams had the privilege of being the first to live in the mansion.
Self-guided tours of the White House are arranged through one's member of Congress and can be arranged up to six months in advance. If you are a citizen of a foreign country, contact your embassy in Washington for assistance. Twice yearly in the spring and the fall the White House gardens are open for public tours on a first-come, first-serve basis. The annual White House Easter Egg Roll for children ages 13 and under takes place on the White House grounds Easter Monday. An online lottery gives people an opportunity to apply. Don't plan to visit Washington, DC anytime soon? Take an interactive tour of the White House right now.
Harriet Lane, born May 9, 1830, served as First Lady during the administration of her uncle, President James Buchanan (1857-1861). While you may not think her influence has relevance 185 years after her birth, think again. Harriet Lane’s gift of 30 pieces of art formed the core of the collection for the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, and that gift spurred others to bequeath their private collections. Thousands of children benefited from treatment received at the Harriet Lane Home for Invalid Children in Baltimore. Prior to 1912, children’s hospitals did not exist and Harriet Lane turned the tragedy in her own life, with the death of her young sons from rheumatic fever, into a healing force for others with the establishment of the clinic that bears her name. Today the clinic is part of John Hopkins Children Hospital, where doctors discovered the sulfa drugs that prevent cardiac side effects of the rheumatic fever that killed both of Harriet’s sons. Harriet Lane clinics operate throughout the world and the Harriet Lane Handbook is still widely used today by medical professionals. Three U.S. Coast Guard cutters have borne her name and the third is still on active duty. In the nation’s capital Harriet Lane’s bequest resulted in the building of St. Albans School and a scholarship endowment for the National Cathedral Choir at St. Albans. Finally, her wish to honor the memory of President Buchanan, who made a home for her and her brother following the death of her parents, was realized when Congress committed matching funds for the Buchanan memorial which now stands inside Meridian Park, one of the most beautiful parks in Washington, DC.
The tradition whereby each presidential family leaves their mark on their White House tenure via creation of a state china pattern continued this week when the White House unveiled the Obama china service. First Lady Michelle Obama broke with tradition somewhat by ignoring the usual primary colors in favor of what she called "Kailua Blue", a color reminiscent of the color of the waters in Hawaii, President Obama's home state. The new china service does incorporate some historical touches as the overall design features pinwheels and leaf fronds similar to designs on the 1806 President James Madison Empire dinner service. The Obama china includes 320 place settings.
The 2015 White House Garden Tour is happening this weekend, Saturday April 25 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 26 from 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m., EDT. Visitors will tour the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden , the Rose Garden, the South Lawn, and First Lady Michelle Obama's Kitchen garden, which was just planted last week. The garden tour is free, but tickets are required even for young children. Tickets will be distributed by the National Park Service at the Ellipse Visitor Center, at 15th and E Street, NW beginning at 9 a.m. the days of the tour. One ticket per person is allowed on a first-come, first serve basis. Certain objects are not allowed on White House grounds. Check here for the list.
If the weather is uncooperative, the tours may be cancelled. Check the 24-hour information line at (202)456-7041 to receive status updates.
When First Lady Helen Taft accepted cherry trees as a gift from the Mayor of Tokyo all those years ago she never could have imagined how much the trees have become part of Washington, DC’s identity. Millions of visitors flock to the nation’s capital every year with one destination in mind—the cherry trees. All sorts of activities have sprung up to celebrate this rite of spring, including the Cherry Blossom festival and parade, fireworks, Japanese lantern lighting ceremony. It is always a challenge to predict the peak time to view the blossoming. This year, the blossoms have yet to arrive on the scene. No matter—visitors continue to arrive in search of the elusive blooms.
Photo(r): White House portrait of First Lady Helen Taft
In the lives of some U.S. Presidents and First Ladies certain incidents seem prophetic. In the case of John Tyler his mother predicted: "This child is destined to be a president of the United States, his wishes fly so high". One of Theodore Roosevelt's teachers said: "He may become President of the United States". John F. Kennedy was voted "most likely to succeed" by his high school class. Lyndon Johnson fulfilled his own prediction: "Someday I am going to be President of the United States." After visiting the White House as a young woman, Barbara Bush made this comment: "You know I am going to be First Lady sometime." Helen Taft was just as certain. At seventeen she spent a week staying in the White House as a guest and vowed "one day to live there".