Hanukkah at the White House
Among the gifts from heads of state that are in the holdings of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum is a menorah presented to President Truman by Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion. The menorah dates back to at least 1767, when it was donated to a synagogue in Buergel, Germany.
The menorah was used in the synagogue until 1913, when it was found broken in pieces. A man by the name of Siegfried Guggenheim asked for the broken pieces and provided a replacement. The Guggenheim family restored the old menorah for their personal use, and brought it to the United States when they immigrated in the 1930s. Eventually, the menorah was acquired by the Jewish Museum in New York.
When Prime Minister Ben-Gurion visited the United States in 1951, he searched for a suitable gift to give to Harry S. Truman in light of the President’s recognition and support of the State of Israel. The Jewish Museum suggested the menorah, and Prime Minister Ben-Gurion presented it to Truman on his birthday, May 8, 1951. Read More
Photos: Menorah presented to Harry S. Truman by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Ambassador to the U.S. Abba Eban, of Isreal on May 8, 1951. The menorah is currently on Display at the Truman Library.
From Table to Farm - The White House Turkey Presentation
The annual turkey pardoning ceremony at the White House is a lighthearted event that has evolved over the years. Harry S. Truman presided over the first live turkey presentation in 1947, complete with a bird intended for the Thanksgiving meal. In fact, turkeys presented to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson wore signs that read, “Good Eating, Mr. President.”
It wasn’t until November 14, 1989 that President George Bush officially “granted a Presidential pardon” to a turkey. Take a gander at the lucky bird from that year in the photo above.
Photos: Annual presentation of Thanksgiving turkey to Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House. 11/16/67.
George Bush at the first official turkey pardoning, 11/14/89.
May 21, 1967. 9:15 PM. LBJ, Lady Bird, and their guests head to the White House Theater after dinner to watch three films: "El Weekend," a USIA film about the weekend that Latin American ambassadors spent at the Ranch; “The Australian Trip,” about LBJ’s 1966 journey (probably this film, shot by Lady Bird, later renamed): and "The President—December 1966," a monthly documentary of his activities.
All are now available, with many more, on the LBJ Library’s YouTube channel. Lots more about the White House Family Theater on the White House Museum site. Above: the theater in 1992.
Grace Kelly was born on this day, November 12, in 1929. Here she is during a visit to the White House. President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy hosted a luncheon in honor of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace of Monaco on May 24, 1961.
See all the White House photos from the luncheon here.
-from the JFK Library
Reviews of a Revue
The Fords invited actress-singer-dancer Ann-Margret to entertain guests after the dinner honoring the Shahanshah and Empress of Iran. Known for her work in musicals and movies including Bye Bye Birdie and Tommy, she had also traveled to Southeast Asia on a USO tour to entertain troops stationed there.
Ann-Margret’s debut White House performance was based on her night club act. Her musical numbers included “I Won’t Last a Day Without You,” “Swedish Lullaby,” and a “Salute to the Bicentennial.”
Press reaction to the entertainment was mixed to negative. The Fords took it in stride. “We certainly didn’t please all of the people all of the time. We thought it was great, for instance, to ask Ann-Margret,” Betty Ford wrote in her memoirs. “Well, Betty Beale came out with a column in the Washington Star that ripped us up and down for having made that choice.” Other commentators called the Vegas-style revue tasteless and deemed it too low-brow for the White House and its royal guests.
Betty Ford enlisted the aid of David Jones, a floral designer and interior decorator from Los Angeles, to put together decorations for this dinner honoring the Shahahshah and Empress of Iran. It was a white tie event, and one of the more formal dinners that the Fords would host.
The garden-themed decor featured bronze sculptures on loan from the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they were designed by American artists Robert Ingersoll Aitken, Abstenia St. Leger Eberle, Janet Scudder, and Bessie Potter Vonnoh. Each sculpture was placed on a low platform surrounded by greenery and candles.
Garlands draped on the back of the chairs and around the room finished the decor. The garden theme carried outside of the State Dining Room as well with the addition of trees and planters in the Cross Hall.
Although the Johnson china with its wildflower pattern was often used at state dinners, for this one the meal was served on the Truman china with its green border. The Kennedy crystal and Monroe vermeil completed the table settings.
Presidential Pups x 7 = Cute
In the fall of 1975, the Ford family’s Golden Retriever Liberty gave birth to puppies. Here they are, exhibiting seven sorts of cute with President Gerald Ford, Betty Ford, and daughter Susan. South Lawn of the White House, November 5, 1975.
-From the Ford Library