Eleanor Roosevelt’s First Press Conference - March 6, 1933
On March 6, 1933 Eleanor Roosevelt held the first of her 348 women’s only press conferences. Before this time, First Ladies had little contact with reporters. Eleanor recognized that holding regular conferences could enhance the public role of the First Lady - a role she transformed during her 12 years in the White House.
About 35 women attended Eleanor’s first press conference which was held in the Monroe Room on the second floor of the living quarters in the White House. The press conferences were attended by the major female reporters of the day - including Lorena Hickok, Ruby Black, Bess Furman, May Craig, Emma Bugbee and Martha Stayer.
Eleanor used these press conferences as a way to not only announce her schedule of activities but also as a platform to publicize the work of women leaders, answer her critics, and entertain questions on a variety of subjects. Topics covered everything from domestic issues like social programs, race, youth activism, etc. to international politics and the role of women in war and peace.
Shirley Temple Black (April 23, 1928 - February 10, 2014)
Today we remember Shirley Temple. During her early years as an actress, Shirley visited with the Roosevelts at the White House and in Hollywood. In her March 19, 1938 “My Day” column, Eleanor Roosevelt had this to say about Shirley:
Our first visit was to Shirley Temple, whom I have had the pleasure of meeting before and who is, without exception, one of the most charming children I know. She is simple and unaffected and accepts the inevitable photographers and her as naturally as if this was the way every little girl lived her life
While visiting the White House in June 1938, Shirley presented FDR with a “Shirley Temple Police” Badge. She signed her letter from “Chief Shirley Temple.”
In July of 1938, Shirley and her parents visited Hyde Park for a picnic. Mrs. Roosevelt wrote all about the day in her July 11, 1938 “My Day” column.
On the Menu: Suprême of Royal Squab
Chefs in the White House kitchen begin preparing the squab that will be the main course at the state dinner for Prime Minister Harold Wilson of Great Britain.
One of the first steps in planning what to serve at a state dinner involved contacting the State Department to inquire about dietary restrictions and likes or dislikes of the visiting guests. In this case, they were informed Prime Minister Wilson didn’t like oysters.
White House executive chef Henry Haller would prepare sample menus that were sent to the First Lady’s staff. Mrs. Ford approved this menu on January 23, a week before the actual dinner.
In 1836, President Jackson accepted 1,400-pound wheel of cheese from Col. Thomas Meacham, a dairy farmer near Sandy Creek, NY. The cheese was mammoth, and it sat, ripening, in the White House for over a year. Eventually, Jackson invited everyone in Washington, DC, to stop by and help consume the massive wheel. He threw the doors open, and in just two hours, the cheese was gone.Even members of Congress went crazy for cheese and were absent from their seats. From the Vermont Phoenix, March 3, 1837:
Mr. Alford opposed the motion for a recess. He said it was time, if they intended to do any public business this session, that they forthwith set about it, for they had wasted enough time already. As for the battle with the great cheese at the White House, he was for leaving it to those whose tastes led them there, and to-morrow they might receive a full account of the killed and slain. The gentleman from Maine, (Mr Jarvis) could as well finish the speech he was making to the few members present, as not.
Mr. Wise remarked that it was pretty well understood where the absent members had gone. There was a big cheese to be eaten at the White House to-day, and the appetites of members had driven them there to partake in the treat. To obtain a quorum he therefore moved that the Seargent-at-arms be directed to go to the President’s house, and invite the members there to return to their seats. [“Those that have done eating!”—exclaimed a member.] “Oh yes,” continued Mr. W. “those that have done eating their cheese, of course.” [“And let them bring a portion with them,” said a third.] “No, he did not want any of it—he had no wish to partake of any thing at the White House.”
A motion was again made that the House take a recess till 4 o’clock.
This true story is the basis for today’s first virtual “Big Block of Cheese Day” at the White House, which is hosting an online open house for citizens to ask questions. Sadly, there will be no physical cheese giveaway!
When we heard about the event, our archivists hunted through our records, but there are no official Federal documents relating to the cheese, probably because the cheese was a private gift. (In fact, we only turned up a handful of cheese-related records, including a recipe for making “loaf” from cottage cheese.)
However, we did find a mention of Jackson and cheese in this handwritten note (see page 4 and 5) from President Truman in 1952. The White House was being renovated, and Truman was thinking of previous Presidents and their treatment of the official furnishings.
Truman wrote, “Then old Andy Jackson and his rough, tough backwoods [illegible] walking on the furniture, with muddy boots and eating a 300-pound cheese, grinding it into the lovely Adams and Monroe carpets!”
Jackson was not the first President to receive a giant wheel of cheese as a gift. President Jefferson received on as well. There is even a monument in Cheshire, MA, to the cheese press used to make the cheese for Jefferson.
Alas, this cheese slicer was patented 30 years too late to help President Jackson get rid of his cheese more quickly….
Cheese Press & Slicer patents thanks to our colleagues at the National Archives at Kansas City!
Patent for a cheese press, given to Luke Hale in June, 1838 (National Archives at Kansas City).
Patent for a cheese slicer, granted to J. G. Barker in 1860 (National Archives at Kansas City)
Strong Voices, Strong Women
Entertainers Carol Burnett and Helen Reddy serenaded guests with a medley of songs of the Sixties at a state dinner honoring Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel on January 27, 1976.
Then starring in the ninth season of her Emmy-winning variety program “The Carol Burnett Show,” Burnett was also known for her roles in musicals. Reddy, one of country’s leading recording artists, had achieved success on the popular music charts after moving to the United States from Australia in 1966.
They followed the medley with a rendition of Reddy’s hit song “I am Woman” dedicated to Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Rabin.
Barney, Ready for His Close-Up
From 2002 through 2008, Barney and Miss Beazley (who came to the White House in 2004) hosted a series of holiday videos at the White House recorded by the White House Communications Agency.
The 2002 video being filmed in this photograph can be viewed on the Barney Cams page of the George W. Bush Library website.
Barney Tours the White House for the Barney-Cam Holiday Video, 12/09/2002
RIP Barney (September 30, 2000 - February 2013)
President Ford hosted a working stag dinner for Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau on December 4, 1974.
The event outline illustrates how streamlined the evening would be. All of the guests were high-ranking U.S. and Canadian government officials. Unlike other state dinners spouses were not invited, and there was no after-dinner entertainment.
Acknowledging & Apologizing for the Overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii
President William Jefferson Clinton signing Public Law 103-150 in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C., 11/23/1993. The resolution acknowledged the 100th anniversary of the January 17, 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii and offered an apology to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Vice President Albert Gore, Senators Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel K. Akaka and Representatives Patsy T. Mink and Neil Abercrombie are present. The image was photographed by Sharon Farmer.
For more context on the annexation of Hawaii, be sure to see:
On the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, we’ll be featuring your favorite images & documents from his life:
daltonblankenship answered: His children playing in the oval office. I especially liked image 47 from your catalog.
“At its best, public television would help make our Nation a replica of the old Greek marketplace, where public affairs took place in view of all the citizens.”
-President Lyndon B. Johnson
On this day in 1967, LBJ signed the Public Broadcasting Act (S.1160).
Photo: President Lyndon B. Johnson delivering remarks prior to the signing in the East Room of the White House. November 7, 1967.
Read the full remarks at the American Presidency Project.
-from the LBJ Library
Happy National Cat Day! We’re sure that Socks the Cat, seen here behind the desk in the Oval Office, would approve this message.
We asked two archivists at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library if they were Team Buddy or Team Socks, and they both went for the cat.
“Socks was a rock star presidential pet. I feel bad for Buddy since he came in 1997 and was never able to shed the shadow of Socks. Socks was found outside the Governor’s Mansion here in Little Rock and made it to the White House,” said John Keller.
“Socks was a true example of American shorthair exceptionalism. After all, this smart tuxedo cat went from being a stray on the streets of Little Rock, Arkansas, all the way to the White House! We have some of Socks’s ashes here in museum storage at the Clinton Library,” said Kim Coryat.
Image: National Archives Identifier 6036916
President William J. Clinton presides over the historic handshake of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat during the Middle East Peace Agreement signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, September 13, 1993.
Photograph at the Middle East Peace Agreement Ceremony, 09/13/1993. Vince Musi, Photographer. From the series: Photographs Relating to the Clinton Administration, 01/20/1993 - 01/20/2001