This week , 216 years after retiring from office, the first president of the United States finally got his wish to have a building on his property to house his papers thanks to the generosity of private donors.
The presidential library opened its doors this week on the grounds of President Washington's estate Mount Vernon. Washington accumulated over 1,200 publications (see chart) during his lifetime and library visitors can peruse his collection as well as other documents of historical significance.
When President Lyndon Johnson lived in the White House, according to his daughter Lucy, he would roam the residence at night turning off the lights. Lucy recalls that she carried a flashlight in her pocket because the upstairs living quarters were pitch black at night. In fact, there is a scene in the movie "The Butler", currently in theaters, that is illustrative of President Johnson's fixation with switching off the lights.
When Benjamin Harrison was president the White House was first wired for electricity. It was such an electrifying event that some guests were treated to a demonstration of the new technology. An article appearing in the Washington Post on September 25, 1881 described the event thus: "The East Room...was darkened, and the electric lights were turned on. The brilliant effect was greatly admired." Both the President and Mrs. Harrison, however, were so leary of the electric switches that they would not go near them and left the lights burning all night.
As the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy approaches, a documentary will be released in selected theaters throughout the country this week in which eighteen Hollywood actors read messages of condolences First Lady Jackie Kennedy received following the assassination of her husband. The film is based on Ellen Fitzgerald's book "Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation." The documentary will also air on the television channel TLC during the month of November.
Eighty five years ago this week an article about First Lady Grace Coolidge appeared in TIME magazine which also featured her picture on the cover, suggesting that what has not changed is the nation's interest in the activities of its First Lady, but a look inside that issue, however, reveals that the world has changed on many fronts. For instance business news that week reported that Goodyear Zepplin, a subsidiary of Goodyear Tire, would be awarded contracts for two airships. Just as the airships disappeared so did the League of Nations which in 1928 was holding its ninth assembly. The nine-year old Association Against the Prohibition Amendment was also in the news. On the medical front, ringworm was the current scourge. The Time article estimated that half the adult population of the United States suffered from ringworm at some point including almost everyone in the South. Surprisingly, Afghanistan was in the news. His Majesty King Amanullah who was hoisting a new flag over his kingdom.
September is National Honey Month, established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promote beekeeping and honey as a natural, beneficial sweetener. The White House has its own beehive, a first in its history, which came into being when First Lady Michelle Obama created her Kitchen Garden in 2009. In a newspaper article in the Washington Examiner White House beekeeper Charlie Brandts called the White House grounds a "Shangri La for bees" because of its "country-like setting with its trees, flowers and ponds". Last year the hive produced 175 pounds of honey. Some of the honey is used in the production of homebrewed beers, another first for the White House. Some of the honey is also dispensed as gifts.
The lid of the jar features an illustration of the White House with an inscription that reads: "White House honey from the South Lawn.
The Obamas have often declared that the White House is the "people's house". Some visitors to the White House have taken that quite literally. While there are no official figures available about what goes missing, pilfering items from the White House in the name of souvenirs is not a new problem. During President Lincoln's administrations people stripped fragments of velvet wall coverings and took curtain tassels, leaving Lincoln pondering "How can they do that?" When visitors were free to roam the White House gardens people actually dug up the plants. During Franklin Roosevelt's administration six dozen spoons disappeared. Because so many engraved silver pieces were unaccounted for, the White House began to substitute less expensive flatware. In an effort to stave off the impulse to bring home some tangible remembrance from the White House other than one's memory of a visit, the White House has taken to distributing on occasion items that feature the White House symbol such as the small boxes of M&Ms pictured here.
President George Washington apparently was a creature of habit, at least when it came to his daily breakfast, according to his step-granddaughter Nelly Custis-Lewis. The folks at George Washington's home Mount Vernon have produced an account of his breakfast preferences along with a recipe for the hoecakes Washington loved.