The Story of the 2011 White House Ornament: Part 1

Since 1981, the White House Historical Association has produced an annual White House Christmas ornament that celebrates the life and presidency of each United States President. Each year, careful consideration goes into the theme and design of each ornament and the one that best honors and reflects the president is selected.

Front of the 2011 White House Ornament showing cartoon of Santa in front of the White House

The front of the 2011 Theodore Roosevelt ornament is a colorized reproduction of a Harper’s Weekly political cartoon by William A. Rogers that captured the anticipation associated with the Roosevelt family’s first Christmas at the White House in 1901. Political cartoon of Santa in front of the Theodore Roosevelt White House

Original cartoon by William A. Rogers as it appeared in Harper’s Weekly.

It reflects the excitement President Roosevelt and his lively young family brought to life at the White House. There had been no children in the White House for more than a decade so the caption noted, “I hear that there are some kids in the White House this year.” The similarity of the drawing of a jolly and rotund Santa Claus with his white flowing beard was popularized in later twentieth century advertising and reflects an evolution of the modern identity of Santa Claus from cartoonist Thomas Nast’s elf-like Santa in Harper’s Weekly in 1862, the Rogers 1901 version on this ornament, to artist Haddon Sundblom’s famous 1931 red-suited Santa for a Coca Cola ad campaign.

An 1893 depiction of an elf-like Santa in the St. Paul Daily Globe. Library of Congress.