National Geographic : 2017 Dec
| EXPLORE | TRADITIONS In 1929 a fire broke out on Christmas Eve in the White House during a party for children. As flames licked the walls of West Wing offices, 130 firefighters arrived and extinguished the blaze. The next year, President Herbert Hoover sent toy fire trucks to some of his young guests. Anecdotes like these often inspire the design of the White House Christmas Ornament—a festive annual tribute to past presidents and events, conceived during the Reagan administration and managed by the White House Histori- cal Association. Since 1982 the holiday decorations have honored each presi- dent sequentially, with brief pauses to recognize significant occasions such as the White House bicentennial anniver- sary in 2000. More than a million ornaments are sold each year, with proceeds going to- ward publishing educational books and restoring presidential artifacts. “It’s not political,” says Dave Marquis, who runs the firm that has manufactured all 37 ornaments. “It’s about celebrating the House itself, and the men who served.” ORNAMENTAL HISTORY By Catherine Zuckerman A DECORATED PAST 1982 2003 1999 1991 2013 PHOTOS: WHITE HOUSE HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION 2017: The shape of the ornament honoring Franklin D. Roosevelt evokes a tabletop radio—like those that broadcast the president’s “fireside chats” into American homes. Roosevelt’s beloved dog, Fala, sits near the Christmas tree, with the gifts. Four stars toward the top of the ornament represent Roosevelt’s historic four terms as president, and the chevron border recalls the design of the card case he carried. This ornament honors George Washington, the first president of the United States. It is a replica of the dove- of-peace weather vane that he commis- sioned for his home at Mount Vernon. This ornament commemorates Ulysses S. Grant and his family. A young child is surrounded by a wreath adorned with toys that were available at the time at Washington, D.C.’s, fancy goods stores. Woodrow Wilson’s quest for world peace inspired this design, featuring two doves perched on olive branches and Wilson’s words: “Peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty.” Abraham Lincoln’s official presidential portrait hangs over the fireplace in the State Dining Room. The ornament’s frame was adapted from a Civil War–era frame in the White House collection. William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States, rode a white charger in a large procession to take the presidential oath of office at the Capitol. He died just 31 days later.