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Title: Presiding Ladies of the White House - containing biographical appreciations together with a short - history of the Executive mansion and a treatise on its - etiquette and customs
Author: Woolfall, Lila Graham Alliger
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

                            PRESIDING LADIES
                                 OF THE
                               WHITE HOUSE

                       WITH A SHORT HISTORY OF THE
                         EXECUTIVE MANSION AND A

                           LILA G. A. WOOLFALL

                         WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
                          MARGARET E. SANGSTER

                        ILLUSTRATED WITH SYMBOLIC
                        BORDERS AND REPRODUCTIONS
                         IN PHOTOGRAVURE OF THE
                        FIRST LADIES OF THE LAND

                              Published by
                            Washington, D. C.

                           COPYRIGHT, 1903, BY



    INTRODUCTION                                       13

    MARTHA WASHINGTON                                  19

    ABIGAIL ADAMS                                      23

    MARTHA JEFFERSON RANDOLPH                          27

    DOROTHY PAINE MADISON                              31

    ELIZABETH KORTRIGHT MONROE                         35

    LOUISA CATHERINE ADAMS                             39

    RACHEL DONELSON JACKSON                            43

    ANGELICA VAN BUREN                                 47

    ANNA SYMMES HARRISON                               51

    LETITIA CHRISTIAN TYLER                            55

    SARAH CHILDRESS POLK                               59

    MARGARET SMITH TAYLOR                              63

    ABIGAIL FILLMORE                                   67

    JANE APPLETON PIERCE                               71

    HARRIET LANE                                       75

    MARY TODD LINCOLN                                  79

    ELIZA MCCARDLE JOHNSON                             83

    JULIA DENT GRANT                                   87

    LUCY WARE WEBB HAYES                               91

    LUCRETIA RUDOLPH GARFIELD                          95

    MARY ARTHUR MCELROY                                99

    FRANCES FOLSOM CLEVELAND                          103

    CAROLINE SCOTT HARRISON                           107

    IDA SAXTON MCKINLEY                               111

    EDITH KERMIT CAROW ROOSEVELT                      115

    THE WHITE HOUSE                                   121

    The East Room                                     122

    The Blue Room                                     125

    The Red Room                                      125

    The Green Room                                    126

    State and Private Dining Rooms                    126

    The Library                                       129

    The Executive Office                              129

    OFFICIAL ETIQUETTE                                135


                                            OPPOSITE PAGE


    ADAMS, ABIGAIL                                     23

    ADAMS, LOUISA CATHERINE                            39

    CLEVELAND, FRANCES FOLSOM                         103

    FILLMORE, ABIGAIL                                  67

    GARFIELD, LUCRETIA RUDOLPH                         95

    GRANT, JULIA DENT                                  87

    HARRISON, ANNA SYMMES                              51

    HARRISON, CAROLINE SCOTT                          107

    HAYES, LUCY WARE WEBB                              91

    JACKSON, RACHEL DONELSON                           43

    JOHNSON, ELIZA MCCARDLE                            83

    LANE, HARRIET                                      75

    LINCOLN, MARY TODD                                 79

    MADISON, DOROTHY PAINE                             31

    MCELROY, MARY ARTHUR                               99

    MCKINLEY, IDA SAXTON                              111

    MONROE, ELIZABETH KORTRIGHT                        35

    PIERCE, JANE APPLETON                              71

    POLK, SARAH CHILDRESS                              59

    RANDOLPH, MARTHA JEFFERSON                         27

    ROOSEVELT, EDITH KERMIT CAROW                     115

    TAYLOR, MARGARET SMITH                             63

    TYLER, LETITIA CHRISTIAN                           55

    VAN BUREN, ANGELICA                                47

    WASHINGTON, MARTHA                                 19

    BLUE ROOM                                         125

    EAST ROOM                                         121

    THE LIBRARY                                       130

    STATE DINING ROOM                                 126


America stands to-day among the greatest and most progressive of the
nations of the earth; and as the law of nations from earliest times
has been the decline and fall of one, as another rises to prëeminence,
it would seem that this great land of ours is fast soaring towards the
highest pinnacle of national attainment.

If a nation is great, it is made so by the men who make and enforce its
laws, who fill its positions of trust, who manipulate its finances, and
who prove worthy citizens of the land of their birth or adoption.

And who are responsible for the men?

Are not the women, the wives and mothers of the nation, the bearers of
this great burden of responsibility?

No nation has ever risen, or can rise above the level of its women, and
in no other country is this truth more obviously demonstrated than in our
own beloved and favored land.

Reasoning thus, we find that the American woman not only holds a high
position of trust, but it is conceded by all who know her, that she fills
it worthily, and is capable of meeting the varied demands upon her with
rare tact and skill.

There are no women in the world to-day who are more truly the cynosure
of all eyes, than are our own. They stand in the glare of public life in
the highest circles of their own land, and are closely allied to royalty
abroad, participating in, or presiding at, many of the functions of
almost every foreign court, and everywhere the homage which is their due
is freely accorded them.

There are two attributes of the American woman which are undeniably
predominant in her nature, and these are _adaptability_ and

They are displayed by the members of all ranks and classes, but probably
the twenty-five women who form the coterie of “First Ladies of the Land”
in our republican court at Washington, have had as great, if not greater,
opportunities for exercising these qualities than any who have entered
only into court life abroad.

“Noblesse oblige” is true in all stations of life, whether it be the
nobility of honorable living or of high social birth, but in royal
circles there is a code of etiquette which is enforced from generation to
generation, just as royal sons and daughters are born to royal parents,
and so its followers abide by its mandates as a matter of course. In a
democratic country like America, no such rule obtains, for the children
of a President of the United States, after their father’s term expires,
may relapse into social inconspicuousness and seldom appear before the
public, instead of, as in royalty, inheriting their father’s official

We have but one instance of the son of a President following in his
father’s footsteps, and only one where a grandson did likewise. The wife
of a President may have been born in affluence and social prominence, or
she may have passed her early years in the humblest environment, as was
the case with a number of the women who have presided at the White House,
but in every instance the duties of hostess have been faithfully and
creditably discharged, while natural ease, grace and tact, combined with
this wonderful power of adaptation, have rendered the hospitality of the
White House unquestionably refined, and marked by the highest breeding.

Some of the women who have held this exalted position have been called
to it while little more than young girls, and others have assumed its
responsibilities and obligations late in life, yet all have upheld the
dignity of the nation of whose social life they were, for the time being,
the highest exponents.

Can this always be said of the life at foreign courts?

When we consider the laxity and licentiousness of some of the so-called
nobility, and the freedom of royal personages in their accepted code of
morals, we realize that the life at the White House at Washington, makes
for all that is pure in social life, having had no breath of scandal
attaching to it in all the years since its establishment, and having set
an example of moral righteousness for all the homes in the country at
whose head it stands.

The individuality of each hostess has left its imprint upon the history
of her time from the pomp and ceremony of Martha Washington’s régime,
to the greater freedom from restraint of that of “Dolly Madison.” We
hear also of the extreme “simplicity” of Jefferson’s administration and
the social festivities which marked Mrs. Grant’s residence at the White
House. Mrs. Polk abolished dancing, while Mrs. Hayes banished wine, from
their entertainments. Mrs. Fillmore founded the library, for of books
there were none when she was installed as mistress of the White House;
and Mrs. McElroy marked the administration of her brother, Chester A.
Arthur, with the acme of refined hospitality.

The list might be prolonged, but instances enough have been cited
to show that while the women who preside over the nation’s home at
Washington, must conform to certain accepted rules of etiquette, there
is left sufficient scope for each to display individual tastes and
characteristics, without in any way lowering the tone of the social life
of the Executive Mansion.

The author who has with marvelous industry and good taste, written these
condensed biographies of our country’s most eminent women, deserves
the thanks of all; yet such short sketches as are embodied in this
volume, can give but little knowledge of facts concerning lives with
so much interest attaching to them that a history of each would offer
absorbing entertainment to the lover of biography, but they can serve to
enlighten every intelligent reader sufficiently to arouse a desire for
more information relating to these women, famous in the story of their
country’s social and political events, and to awaken a feeling of pride
that these queens of a republican court have no peers in any foreign

                                                   _Margaret E. Sangster_

Martha Washington



Martha Dandridge, of Virginia, was married at nineteen years of age
to Daniel Parke Custis. At an early age she was left a widow with two
children, Martha and John Parke Custis. In 1759 she married George
Washington, thus becoming the wife of the first President of the United
States. Accomplished, wealthy and fascinating, fond of ceremony, yet
hospitable, her entertainments at Mt. Vernon were world-famous. The
White House was not erected until after Washington’s death, hence
she never presided there. New York being the Capital of the Country
during Washington’s administration her court was held in that city,
refined taste and abundant wealth admitting of appropriate display. Her
patriotism was equal to that of her husband and led her through many
trying scenes and privations during the Revolution. She died in her
seventy-first year, having gradually failed in health since her husband’s
death, nearly three years previous.

[Illustration: _MARTHA WASHINGTON_

_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Abigail Adams



Abigail Smith, of Weymouth, Mass., became the wife of John Adams at
twenty. Ill health during her early years retarded her education, but her
strong mind overcame this difficulty. Her letters to her husband and her
son prove her mental powers and strong character, and many of them have
been published on account of their literary and historical value. During
her husband’s term the Capital was removed to Washington, and, though the
White House was not yet completed, and the city was only a straggling
town, the ceremony of Washington’s time was resumed there during her
short reign of only half a year. In private life she was her husband’s
constant companion, until, at the age of seventy-four, eight years prior
to her husband’s death, she died, leaving the record of a unique life.
She was the mother, as well as the wife, of a President, John Quincy
Adams being the eldest of her three sons, and in this respect she stands

[Illustration: _ABIGAIL ADAMS_

_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Martha Jefferson Randolph



Martha Jefferson Randolph, the elder of the President’s two daughters,
presided at the White House whenever possible during her father’s
administrations, his wife having died nineteen years before his election.
The White House, however, during his terms, was practically without a
mistress, although at times Mrs. Madison also acted in that capacity.
Mrs. Randolph was eminently fitted for such a sphere, but was able to
assume its duties only twice. Having received the advantages of foreign
education and travel, and the continual association with men of letters,
she was a most brilliant woman, and had her tastes been less domestic
she would have shone in society. She gave her father unremitting care
when, after his retirement from public life, he settled at his estate
Monticello, where two years after his death her husband also passed away.
Monticello was then sold and the remaining eight years of her life were
spent among her children.


_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Dorothy Paine Madison



Dorothy Paine, a Quaker, first married at nineteen, John Todd, a young
lawyer of Philadelphia. One year after his death, when twenty-two, she
married James Madison. Her kind heart, frank, cordial manners, and
personal beauty made her very popular. When she presided at the White
House her tact, ready recognition of every one, and her remembrance
of events concerning them increased this feeling. Although her
entertainments lacked the ceremony of past administrations, “Dolly”
Madison was considered a charming hostess. While she was extremely
charitable, she always dispensed her husband’s wealth with prudence and
judgment. The war of 1812 showed her true nobility in many ways, and it
was she who saved the Stuart portrait of Washington when the British
were about to pillage and burn the White House. The Government bought
from her Madison’s Record of the Debates in Congress from 1782-1787, for


_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Elizabeth Kortright Monroe



Elizabeth Kortright was the daughter of a retired captain in the British
Army, who, after the peace of 1783, remained in New York. She married
Mr. Monroe there during a session of Congress, but later the seat of
government was removed to Philadelphia, where they resided until 1794,
when Monroe was made Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
to France. Her husband’s several foreign positions of trust obliged
them to live much abroad. She saved the life of Madame de Lafayette,
who, upon the very day of Mrs. Monroe’s call at the prison, was to have
been beheaded; but the powerful support of the American Minister’s wife
caused her liberation. Mrs. Monroe was elegant, accomplished, dignified
and charming, and her “drawing rooms” were more ceremonious than those
of Mrs. Madison. She died suddenly, one year before her husband, who
spent the remainder of his life with his daughter Mrs. Gouverneur in New


_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Louisa Catherine Adams



Louisa Catherine Johnson was born and educated in London. She met John
Quincy Adams there, and they were married in 1797. His father, becoming
President, transferred him to Berlin, where she accompanied him. During
Jefferson’s terms America was their home, after which Monroe appointed
Mr. Adams Minister to Russia, where nearly six years were spent. In
1815 he was made Minister to England. When Napoleon was returning from
Elba, Mrs. Adams, traveling from Russia to rejoin her husband at Paris,
after several escapes entered the city just after Napoleon’s arrival
and the flight of the Bourbons. Having graced such high positions, she
was eminently fitted to preside at the White House, but ill-health
incapacitated her, although at the time Mr. Adams was Secretary of State
they entertained most agreeably. When Lafayette last visited America he
was entertained by Mr. and Mrs. Adams at the Executive Mansion.


_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Rachel Donelson Jackson


Rachel Donelson, wife of Andrew Jackson, died the December before the
inauguration. Therefore the position of Presiding Lady was accorded to
her niece, Emily Donelson, wife of Major Andrew J. Donelson, private
secretary to the President. His adopted son’s wife, Sarah Yorke Jackson,
presided at the Hermitage then, and for many years. Mrs. Donelson was
very young when called upon to fulfil her social duties; but innate
refinement, ease, grace, dignity and various accomplishments rendered her
capable of adding much to this period’s noted brilliancy. All admired
her, even when party spirit quenched unbiased judgment. In all points
of etiquette she was arbiter, the President deferring everything to her
opinion. Her four children were born in the White House. Early in 1836
she returned to Tennessee, as her health was failing, hoping for renewed
strength; but consumption developed, and her death followed in December
of the same year.


_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Angelica Van Buren



Angelica Singleton was presented by her cousin, Mrs. Madison, to
President Van Buren, in 1837, and in the following year married his
son, Major Van Buren. On New Year’s day, 1839, she assumed her place as
hostess of the White House, as Hannah Hoes, the wife of Martin Van Buren
had died in 1819, leaving him a widower when elected President. This
was a great loss, for she would have filled well the exalted position
occupied in later years by her eldest son’s wife. The next spring Major
Van Buren and his wife went abroad, where they received most flattering
attentions, attributed to their high standing in America, and also to
Mrs. Van Buren’s exceeding charm of features, form and manner, and long
ancestral descent. They were invited to dine at the Palace of St. Cloud,
where they were entertained with a cordial lack of ceremony by Louis
Philippe and his Queen. In later life she was a society leader in New
York, her death occurring in 1878.

[Illustration: _ANGELICA VAN BUREN_

_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Anna Symmes Harrison



Anna Symmes was born near Morristown, N. J., and early in life was left
motherless. Her father, disguised as a British officer, successfully
carried her to her grandparents on Long Island, where she remained until
the evacuation of New York. Trained in godliness, her whole life echoed
her early teachings. When nearly twenty she married Captain Harrison,
later General, and afterwards President. While he was Governor of the
Indiana Territory she dispensed liberal hospitality, being greatly loved
and admired, and here in her home in the old French Town of Vincennes
many happy years were spent. Her husband being much away, she reared
almost alone her ten children, afterwards seeing one infant, three grown
daughters, four sons and ten grand-children die during thirty years at
North Bend. The thought of removing to Washington was distasteful to her,
but as the President died one month after his inauguration, this became


_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Letitia Christian Tyler



Letitia Christian, of Virginia, President Tyler’s first wife, was
extremely delicate, and lived scarcely two years after his inauguration.
She was lovely and gentle, highly accomplished and beautiful, greatly
beloved by her husband and family, but seldom seen in public, therefore
during his administration the White House had several mistresses. The
duties of hostess sometimes devolved upon his married daughter, but were
generally assumed by his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Robert Tyler, to whom were
relegated the duties of permanent hostess until, in 1844, the President
married Miss Julia Gardiner. The ceremony took place at the Church of the
Ascension in New York City, and was the first instance of the marriage of
a President, which fact excited intense interest throughout the United
States. Mrs. Julia Tyler, for the remaining eight months of the term,
filled her position creditably and gracefully. She died in 1889, having
long outlived her husband.


_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Sarah Childress Polk



Sarah Childress, of Tennessee, when nineteen years old married James Knox
Polk, a member of the Legislature of that State. The next year he was
elected to Congress, continuing fourteen sessions in Washington, and Mrs.
Polk held a high social position there owing to her courteous manners,
dignity and many accomplishments. When she returned to Washington as
the wife of the President, having no children, she devoted herself
exclusively to her duties in that position. At her weekly receptions the
custom of serving refreshments to guests was abolished. As she was a
strict Presbyterian, dancing also was forbidden; nevertheless, she was
very popular. She was a handsome woman of the Spanish type, dressed with
refined and elegant taste, and was noted as a conversationalist, beside
realizing keenly the obligations of her station. She survived her husband
over forty years, living at “Polk Place,” Nashville, the home they had
hoped to share in old age.


_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Margaret Smith Taylor



Margaret Smith, wife of General Zachary Taylor, was the daughter of a
Maryland planter. Domestic in taste and devoted to her husband, she
lived much in garrisons and afield, making a home anywhere. She was
without social ambition, and therefore had no desire to preside at the
White House, preferring her quiet home at Baton Rouge, where she and
her youngest daughter, “Miss Betty,” were widely known and liked, and
where she permanently established an Episcopal church. When her husband
was elected President, she relinquished the duties of hostess to Mrs.
Bliss (Miss Betty), then but twenty-two years of age, whose grace of
manner and youthful charms relieved the formality of Mrs. Polk’s previous
reign. Their residence at the White House was suddenly terminated by the
President’s death, sixteen months after his inauguration. Mrs. Taylor
died two years later, at the home of her only son in Louisiana.


_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Abigail Fillmore



Abigail Powers was born in Saratoga County, New York, and reared in
poverty. In order to help her widowed mother she taught from very early
youth, although still a student herself. Fine health, height, fair
coloring, delicate features, kindly eyes and an expression of humor, made
her attractive, if not classically beautiful. At twenty-eight she married
Millard Fillmore. In his early professional struggles her varied talents
were devoted to his interests. When he became President she graced her
position with ease; if possible, never neglecting any functions, but
owing to feeble health late in life she often gave place to her daughter,
Mary Abigail, who, though young, was a charming and dignified hostess.
Mrs. Fillmore established the White House Library, no books having been
there on her advent. Three weeks after her husband’s term expired she
passed away quite suddenly, leaving the memory of a devoted wife and

[Illustration: _ABIGAIL FILLMORE_

_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Jane Appleton Pierce



Jane Means Appleton, daughter of the President of Bowdoin College, and
later wife of Franklin Pierce, was delicate in her physical and nervous
organizations from early childhood. She was rendered more so, however,
at the time of her husband’s inauguration, by the death of their only
remaining child, a son of fourteen, in a railway accident. Nevertheless
she did not give way to her personal grief, but dispensed cordial
hospitality from the White House, presiding at every function requiring
her presence, and thus sustained her popular husband, although her own
preference would have been for a more retired life. Unselfishness and
great mental ability distinguished her; as she was a deeply religious
woman, she materially influenced the Sabbath observances of the White
House circle while presiding there. In 1857, after her husband’s term
expired, they went abroad for two years, but her health was not restored,
and she died six years before her husband.


_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Harriet Lane



Harriet Lane was left an orphan at nine years of age, and was brought up
by her uncle, James Buchanan, who took great pains with her education.
When he became Minister to England in 1852, she accompanied him and was
a marked favorite in court and diplomatic circles. She was a handsome
blonde of twenty, dignified, graceful, clever and an engaging talker. On
her uncle’s return to America, and his subsequent election she became
mistress of the White House and was renowned for her charm, good taste
and diplomacy. She entertained the Prince of Wales, now King Edward VII,
while in America in 1860, and in recognition of this was an especially
invited guest at his Coronation Ceremony. Shortly after her return
to America she developed symptoms of a serious illness, to which she
succumbed in July, 1903. After her uncle passed away, her great sorrows
were the deaths of her husband, Henry Elliot Johnston, and her two young

[Illustration: _HARRIET LANE_

_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Mary Todd Lincoln



Mary Todd, born in Lexington, Ky., had from girlhood a supreme desire to
become mistress of the White House, which, however, did not seem probable
when she married Abraham Lincoln in 1842, but later her ambition was
realized. She was small, attractive in appearance, inclined to stoutness,
self possessed in manner, and would have enjoyed her high position had
not the troublous events of the Rebellion prevented all festivities and
converted the White House into a public institution. The death of her
second son preyed sorely upon her, but when in 1865 her husband was
assassinated, the shock was too great, and that, added to the blow of
her youngest boy’s death soon after his father’s, partly unsettled her
reason. Although she traveled much abroad, she never recovered, mentally
or physically. She died of paralysis in her sister’s home at Springfield,
Ill., in 1882, and was interred in the Lincoln Monument vault with her
husband and children.

[Illustration: _MARY TODD LINCOLN_

_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Eliza McCardle Johnson



Eliza McCardle, of Tennessee, married in 1826 Andrew Johnson, a
tailor, eighteen years old, whose early education she superintended
perseveringly until his learning exceeded her own. Her character was
simple, true and unostentatious, the duties of wife and mother being
always conscientiously fulfilled. Her health being undermined by
suffering during the Rebellion, she was a confirmed invalid when called
to the White House, therefore Mrs. Patterson, her eldest daughter,
became hostess. She presided with simple elegance, ease, grace and
remarkable tact during her father’s stormy administration. Their home
life was delightful, and when they left Washington the whole family was
much regretted socially and by all retainers, as their popularity was
widespread. Mrs. Johnson’s influence over her husband was always very
marked, and throughout his life she was his greatest helper and adviser.
She survived him only six months.


_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Julia Dent Grant



Julia Dent, in 1844, became engaged to Lieut. Grant. The Mexican
war separated them, but they married in 1848. Years of failure and
poverty followed, but her faith in his ability survived, and when his
military prowess made him famous, she shared his triumphs. Later, as
the President’s wife, she was most hospitable, entertaining extensively
in private as well as in public life, making Grant’s administrations,
socially, very notable. When his term expired, General and Mrs. Grant
journeyed around the world and met with a continuous ovation. A special
feature of it was the dinner given to Mrs. Grant by the wife of China’s
Viceroy, which was the first of its kind. During her husband’s last
illness she was his constant nurse, and was always an adored mother. Her
remains, with those of her husband, share the famous mausoleum, built as
a memorial to him, on Riverside Drive, New York City, the site of which
she herself chose.

[Illustration: _JULIA DENT GRANT_

_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Lucy Ware Webb Hayes



Lucy Ware Webb was born in Ohio, and married Mr. Hayes in 1852, the union
resulting most happily. During her husband’s military career she often
visited him in the field and endeared herself to the soldiers by her
gracious sympathy. Frank, cordial, hospitable and beautiful, she freely
expressed her pleasure at becoming mistress of the Executive Mansion,
winning many friends by her sunny smile and sincere greeting. She was
very popular, although she displeased a certain few among her guests by
banishing wine from the White House table, thereby gaining strong support
from the temperance advocates. A fine oil painting of her was added by
these adherents to the collection at the Mansion, Frances Willard making
the presentation. During her husband’s administration their silver
wedding was celebrated, the occasion arousing national interest. She did
not long survive her husband, who died at their home in Fremont, Ohio, in

[Illustration: _LUCY WARE WEBB HAYES_

_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Lucretia Randolph Garfield



Lucretia Rudolph, born in Hiram, Ohio, married James Abram Garfield
in 1868, soon after he became President of Hiram College, where both
studied. The marriage was ideal, his wife’s intelligent sympathy and
co-operative ability aiding greatly in his advancement to his high
office. Through the terrible ordeal of his assassination, painful
illness and death, Mrs. Garfield was vastly sustained by her power of
self-control. Her short stay at the White House proved her tactful and
cordial in dispensing public and private hospitality, gaining for her the
nation’s love and sympathy in her sorrow. President Garfield’s was the
first mother of a President to reside at the Executive Mansion, although
others had seen their sons thus honored. A fund of over three hundred
and fifty thousand dollars was partially raised for the Garfield family
before the President’s death, and the knowledge of this was a great
comfort to him in his dying moments.


_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Mary Arthur McElroy



Mary Arthur McElroy presided at the White House when her brother,
Chester Alan Arthur succeeded to the Executive office upon the death of
President Garfield. In 1859 he had married Ellen Lewis Herndon, daughter
of Commander William Lewis Herndon, who, by order of the Government,
explored the Amazon River in 1857, but she died in January, 1880, less
than one year previous to his election as Vice-President. Mrs. McElroy
was specially adapted to fill such a position from her natural tact
and previous social experience. Her residence at the White House was
therefore marked by graceful and dignified hospitality and the task of
entertainment was greatly lightened by the extreme geniality of the
President. Like her brother, she was of fine and imposing appearance.
After the death of Mr. Arthur his only daughter Ellen Herndon Arthur,
lived in Albany with her aunt, Mrs. McElroy, the son, Chester A. Arthur
Jr., residing chiefly abroad.

[Illustration: _MARY ARTHUR MCELROY_

_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Frances Folsom Cleveland



Frances Folsom, ward of Grover Cleveland and daughter of his late law
partner became his wife in 1886. She was the first President’s wife to
be married in the White House and to give birth to a child there, the
second daughter being born during her father’s second term. As President
Cleveland was a bachelor when elected his sister, Rose Elizabeth
Cleveland, presided at the White House. Beside being a literary woman she
earnestly and creditably fulfilled all social demands. Mrs. Madison and
Mrs. Cleveland were the youngest wives of Presidents. The latter quickly
won all hearts by her ease, grace and charming manners, and upon her
return in 1893, she received a hearty welcome. Since his retirement from
office Ex-President Cleveland’s home has been at Princeton, New Jersey,
where Mrs. Cleveland and her young daughters sustain the popularity of
earlier years gained by them in the Executive Mansion at Washington.


_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Caroline Scott Harrison



Caroline Lavinia Scott, daughter of Prof. Scott, President of Oxford
Seminary, was born in Oxford, Ohio. She married Benjamin Harrison in
1853, before he attained his majority. Nearly forty years passed in
congenial companionship, before death deprived him of a faithful and
devoted wife. She was talented in music and painting and had decided
literary taste. She was also an earnest church worker and truly
charitable. Her social bearing in her high station was dignified, womanly
and hospitable, and her death during her husband’s term cast a heavy
shadow over its closing months. They had two children, Russell and Mary.
The latter, Mrs. McKee, made her home at the Executive Mansion, assisting
her mother most graciously in her many and varied social duties. After
Mrs. Harrison’s death, she assumed entire charge as mistress of the White
House, until the close of her father’s administration in 1893.


_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Ida Saxton McKinley



Ida Saxton, daughter of a prominent banker of Canton, Ohio, married Wm.
McKinley in January, 1871. She was a devoted wife and inspiring companion
in whose sound judgment her husband placed entire faith, while her
personal attractions were also great. An enduring sorrow, caused by the
deaths, in infancy, of the two children born to them, added to a chronic
physical ailment, rendered her an invalid. Therefore, when appearing
at public functions she received her guests seated. However, the death
of the President’s mother early in his term, and the grave situation
resulting from the war with Spain, suppressed the festivities at the
White House temporarily. Mrs. McKinley sustained a terrible shock in the
assassination of her husband, early in September, 1901, from which she
has never entirely rallied, although she shows great resignation, and a
devotion to her husband’s memory as great as that bestowed upon him in

[Illustration: _IDA SAXTON MCKINLEY_

_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt



Edith Kermit Carow, the playmate of her husband in childhood and “perfect
comrade” since their marriage in 1886, has transformed the White House
into an ideal American home. She is a model housekeeper, and in spite of
the exactions of time and duties, tunes her household in perfect accord
amid the unusual stir of young life there. She is splendidly equipped
for her arduous task by her delightful charm of manner, tact, and an
unusual ability to connect names, faces and incidents. She is endowed
with rare good sense, to which, combined with many winning attributes
and accomplishments, she owes her remarkable social success. She has a
charming ally in her step-daughter, Miss Alice Lee Roosevelt, a typical
“out-of-doors” American girl, who shares with Mrs. Roosevelt’s five
children a mother’s full-hearted devotion, which was so severely tested
and so heroically demonstrated during their father’s perilous absence in




The site for the erection of the White House, or the “President’s Palace”
as it was termed on some of the earlier maps, was selected by President
Washington and General L’Enfant when they laid out the city of Washington
in 1792. The corner stone was placed in that year.

The plans were procured by competition, which gave the award to James
Hoban, a distinguished young architect from Dublin, afterward identified
for many years with the architectural work of the capital city. By the
architects of to-day his design is considered to surpass anything of a
similar style since constructed in this country. The White House was so
called after the home of Martha Washington in Virginia.

According to the original plan, the building was 160 feet long. The North
and South porches, constructed from designs made by Latrobe in 1803, were
added twenty-five years after the first occupancy of the house; and in
Jefferson’s time and under his direction, terraces were built extending
150 feet east and west of the mansion. The West Terrace, enclosed in
glass and otherwise disguised, became in time the Conservatory so dear
to the heart of the Washington sight-seer. The East Terrace was removed
about the time of the Civil War, but, happily, both of these were
restored and beautified during the general making-over of the house in

The White House, when President Adams came to take possession of it in
1800, was neither finished nor furnished, and its surroundings were
rough and unattractive, little or no effort having been made to reclaim
the adjacent country from its state of mud and ragged woodland. From
time to time Congress made small appropriations for the adornment of the
Executive Mansion, and this money was spent more or less wisely by the
several administrations in their efforts to make the official residence
comfortable. An appropriation of fifty thousand dollars was made to
President Madison after the fire of 1814 for the purpose of refurnishing;
but despite the expenditure of more than two million dollars upon the
furnishing and decorating of the building during the first three-quarters
of a century of its existence, it contained but few articles of value at
the time of the remodelling under President Roosevelt.

It was originally intended that the public offices should be separate
from the President’s home, and previous to 1814 the Executive Departments
occupied small detached buildings in the White House grounds. But of
necessity the President’s privacy was invaded by the business of his
office, until finally, during the war, President Lincoln set aside the
second story of the East Wing for official business purposes. This
invasion limited the accommodations for comfortable living and introduced
a degree of publicity into the family life of the Chief Executive that
was far from agreeable. But these and many other discomforts were at
last removed by the construction of the new office building and by the
remodelling of the entire old building. There is now little business of
an official nature conducted in the house proper, and the East Wing has
been reclaimed for domestic purposes. With the exception of the outside
walls, scarcely any part of the building has been left unchanged. The
old flooring, long in a dangerous condition, has been replaced by new,
supported upon steel beams. The latest improvements in heating, lighting,
and plumbing have supplanted the old-fashioned arrangements tolerated by
many administrations. In this process, it is to be regretted that many
nooks and crannies of historic interest have been obliterated, but it is
comforting to know that the alterations will preserve in good condition
and for a much longer period the main structure and the chief beauties of
the old house.

=The East Room.=--It is difficult to realize in viewing this magnificent
apartment that it was at one time used by Mrs. John Adams as a
drying-room for the family linen. The East Room was not finished until
1836, and a bare, bleak place it must have been in those early days. In
former times state banquets were held here, but, in more recent years, it
has been chiefly used for public receptions. During the administration
of President Arthur this room was redecorated and refurnished, and
afterward no changes of importance were made until 1902, when, with the
rest of the building, it underwent almost complete transformation. The
walls previous to this period were hung with historical portraits, among
them the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington, saved from the fire of
1814 by Mrs. Madison; but these were removed, as were also the pillars
and beams of the old room, to give place to the present beautiful scheme
of decoration. The walls and ceilings are now of white; the spaces over
the doors and windows contain low-relief panels, each illustrating one
of the fables of Æsop. The ceiling is most elaborate, but of delicate
design; from each of its three panels depend the splendid cut-glass
chandeliers, which have taken the place of the former larger, but less
artistic ones. Four beautiful mantels of colored marbles are features of
the recent remodelling. The draperies are of rich yellow silk.

[Illustration: _EAST ROOM_

_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

=The Blue Room.=--It is in this famous apartment that the President
receives his guests upon state occasions. The room is considered the
handsomest in the house in point of decoration, and also in its beautiful
proportions. The floor is a fine, highly polished parquetry, and the
walls are covered with a heavy steel-blue silk with yellow embroideries
at the ceiling and wainscot. In the pattern of this embroidery and in
the decoration of the ceiling and the window hangings the star is used
with graceful effect. Each of the three windows is surmounted by a golden
eagle. A feature of the room is the fine marble mantel with its supports
representing sheaves of arrows tipped with gold bronze. When receiving
in the Blue Room, the presidential party stands in front of the windows,
but formerly they occupied the north end of the room. A heavy rope of
silk encloses a passageway for the procession of guests, who must pass
from the Red Room into the presence of the host and thence into the
Green Room. This change is one of the many that were brought about by
the rearrangement of the entire premises. During the administration of
John Adams, the Blue Room was used as a sort of vestibule, its convenient
location making it available for this purpose.

[Illustration: _BLUE ROOM_

_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

=The Red Room.=--In early times this was the anteroom to the Library and
the Cabinet Room. It adjoins the State Dining Room, and by recent changes
has been turned into a smoking room, except when it is required for
service on receiving days. It is then used as formerly, in conjunction
with the series of state parlors. Its walls are covered with dark red
velvet and hung with historical portraits. Its marble mantel is one of
those which formerly adorned the State Dining Room, the other was placed
in the Green Room.

=The Green Room.=--In old times the Green Room was the family dining
room. The present Private Dining Room was then used for state dinners.
Like the Blue Room, its walls are hung with velvet; here, however, the
color is an exquisite silvery green. Some of the original paintings
which, are reproduced in the White House Gallery of Portraits of the
Presidents, also adorn the walls of this room.

=State and Private Dining Rooms.=--The State Dining Room was enlarged in
1902 by the addition of a corridor from which the private stairway led.
This necessitated the removal of that portion of the stairs. The room
now measures forty by fifty feet and will accommodate as many as one
hundred guests at table. The walls are of panelled oak, and the window
draperies of heavy green velvet. Flemish tapestries of the sixteenth
century are a feature of the room, which is further decorated by a number
of heads--trophies of the chase in American hunting-grounds--arranged
around the beautifully carved cornice. The furniture is of red mahogany;
it includes two tables, the larger, crescent in shape, and the smaller a
rounded oblong.

An interesting feature of the furnishings of the State Dining Room is
the complete service of china and cut glass, manufactured from special
designs made exclusively for the White House and selected by Mrs.
Roosevelt from a number submitted to her for approval. The design is
simple but rich in effect and the china is of the purest texture, the
whole having been very costly. The glass, which includes many pieces, is
of the best American cut.

[Illustration: _STATE DINING ROOM_

_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

The Private Dining Room has been remodelled in a style essentially
colonial, with an attractive color scheme of ivory white and red. The
ceiling is domed and the window hangings are of red velvet. The furniture
in this apartment harmonizes with the general plan of decoration, it also
being distinctly colonial in design.

=The Library.=--The room, which is oval in shape, is situated on
the second story of the Executive Mansion and was once used as the
President’s office, but is now converted into a private sitting room.
It was during President Fillmore’s administration that the Library was
first organized, an appropriation being made for that purpose. The low
book-cases line the walls which contain over seven thousand volumes,
principally literature of an historical and classical character, and
chiefly of Mrs. Fillmore’s own selection. She greatly deplored the lack
of books in the White House and urged the need of a more extensive
Library. However, it did not progress, as it should have done, and is not

[Illustration: _THE LIBRARY_

_Copyright 1903, by Bureau of National Literature & Art._]

=The Executive Office.=--From the time of President Lincoln’s
administration the business of the White House began to encroach
seriously upon the living quarters. The discomfort and inconvenience
resulting from this combination of public and private life under one
roof--and that a roof of very limited dimensions--had long been realized.
Plans to relieve the situation were occasionally brought forward, but
nothing was accomplished until 1902, when the reconstruction of the
entire establishment took place. It was then that the one-storied and
basement building was erected at the end of the West Terrace for the
accommodation of the Executive Offices. The architects have placed the
structure most effectively in its relation to its surroundings. It
contains a Reception Room, the President’s suite of rooms, the offices
of the President’s Secretary and Assistant Secretary, telegraph and
telephone rooms and several other offices. The building is comparatively
small and will probably give place to a larger one in the course of


As the State social functions in America are not hedged about by the
privileges and prerogatives to which rank, station and birth alone
entitle the holder in monarchical courts, the ceremonies, observances
and ritual are, in comparison, simple and meagre. No special lessons are
required nor are rehearsals needed to carry off with proper dignity any
of the observances of state courtesy. Nevertheless, while there is an
absence of that ostentatious display that marks the ceremonies of the
courts of Europe, official etiquette in America is prescribed by a rigid
code established by the highest authorities, which none dare disregard.

It is only natural that state receptions should be governed by more
arbitrary rules than those which direct purely social intercourse. It
must be remembered that when an official reception is held, it is always
an official duty that is being performed. The state forms and ceremonies
which have obtained in America have varied from time to time according to
the usages of the day and the taste of the national hostess. They have,
at times, been further modified by periods of national calamity, war and
the death of immediate relatives, but through all this variation and
modification there has run the golden thread of democratic simplicity so
dear to the national heart.

The period of Washington’s administration must be regarded as a time
of transition. Nor is it to be wondered at that much formality and
stateliness marked the dispensation of national hospitality in the
beginning of the nation’s development. The term “colonial” is to-day
associated in our minds with a courtly, stately conventionality
peculiarly its own. Men and women of that time, who either at first hand
or through their mothers and fathers, had received their education in
courtesy, grace and proper behavior from the customs of England, could
not easily shake off that second nature and no doubt fretted over the
meagre means of gratifying their wishes; but as soon as they were cut
off by their own desire from this influence and became self-dependent,
that pure simplicity nurtured by individual worth became evident. It is
not surprising that in the earliest period the Executive Mansion was a
place of stately and continuous reception and that Martha Washington is
famous for the dignity, grace and splendor of her social reign: but, on
the other hand, the simplicity of Jefferson’s time has passed into a
proverb, and was such as to excite comment even abroad. The youth, gaiety
and impetuous brilliancy of “Dolly Madison” contributed largely to the
breaking down of much of the severity and conventionality which preceded
her time.

The President is the leader of social as well as of official life. While
he is accessible to all to the extent that all may call upon him, he
is not expected to return any visits. He, of course, has the privilege
of calling upon a friend. The same is equally true of the wife of the
President. He is always addressed as “Mr. President.” He can not leave
the country, and in this respect is under greater restrictions than are
any of the crowned heads of Europe. Under this “unwritten law” a foreign
legation in Washington is construed as being foreign ground and may not
be entered by the President. Neither can he set foot upon a foreign
vessel. The only formal calls that he can make are those upon a President
elect, an ex-President, a President or reigning monarch of a foreign
state visiting Washington. It is regarded as an impropriety for him to
accept an invitation to dinner at any time or to receive other than very
intimate friends on Sunday. He carries no personal card but one reading
simply “The President.” He can not accept valuable gifts and if such
are tendered they are usually placed in the National Museum. It is not
expected that he should allow himself to be interviewed.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court ranks next to the President
socially. He takes precedence over all others because his office is for
life while that of others is only temporary. Below him in turn socially
come the Vice-President, the Speaker of the House, the General of the
Army and the Admiral of the Navy. It is considered one of the first
duties of the Members of the House of Representatives to call upon these
when coming to Washington. The social rank of women is decided by that of
the husband or father.

The Inaugural Ball is the first social event in the life of the newly
inaugurated President. It is always held upon the evening of the day of
his inauguration, and partakes more of the nature of a reception than a
ball for it is so largely attended that dancing is an impossibility. It
is usually held in one of the departmental buildings. For several days
after his inauguration, public informal receptions follow and a week
or more is consumed in receptions during the day and dinners at night.
These latter are classified, to a certain extent, so that all branches of
the official service are formally recognized. Saturday is the official
reception day at the White House. The public receptions which are held
from the first of January until the beginning of Lent were inaugurated by
President Jackson. The guests assemble in the East Room and as quickly
as this is filled the President greets them as they pass out. The formal
receptions are not held so frequently as previously, on account of the
great increase in the number of Senators and Representatives. This is
compensated for by inviting some Members of Congress to state dinners and
entertaining others with less ceremony.

The scene at a formal or official reception is a brilliant one. The
Government officials, the officers of the Army and Navy, and the foreign
legations mingle together in uniform, and the ladies are not in full
dress but in reception toilettes. Diplomats and attachés wear their court
costumes. The President stands at the head of the line, next to him his
wife who invites several prominent ladies to assist her in receiving.
As the guests enter they pass down the receiving line until they have
greeted all of the ladies of the receiving party. The daughters of the
household of a state official are not invited to state dinners unless the
daughter is the female representative of the family.

The general conduct of, and the social observances at these several
ceremonies are the same as those which direct social observances
elsewhere in good society. The cards of invitation and responses to the
ordinary receptions do not differ from those in other American homes; but
at the state dinners and official receptions, which are to be regarded
in some sense as an interchange of international courtesy, the rules of
attendance are very strict and no one would think of neglecting to attend
without an eminently satisfactory excuse.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Presiding Ladies of the White House - containing biographical appreciations together with a short - history of the Executive mansion and a treatise on its - etiquette and customs" ***

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