The whole family [of President Theodore Roosevelt] were fiends when it came to reading. No newspapers. Never a moment was allowed to go to waste; from the oldest to the youngest they always had a book or magazine before them. The President in particular would devour a book, and it was no uncommon thing for him to go entirely through three or four volumes in the course of an evening. Likewise we frequently saw one of the children stretched out on the floor flat on his stomach eating a piece of candy with his face buried in book.

Chief Usher Irwin H. Hoover, 42 Years in the White House (1934)


The White House never celebrated the change of seasons so heartily as it did under Mrs. Eisenhower. For St. Patrick's Day, she twined the columns with green ribbons and top hats, with shamrocks hanging from the chandeliers, leprechauns in the State Dining Room and green carnations and bells-of-Ireland in the flower bowls. At Eastertime there were butterflies hanging from the chandeliers, artificial birds singing with tape-recorded voices ("Would you please shut off the birds?" Mrs. Eisenhower said to the butler), Easter bunnies hatching from pale blue shells on the mantel, ropes of cherry blossoms climbing the marble columns, and masses of fresh spring flowers throughout the White House.

Chief Usher J. B. West, Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies (Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1973)


A little before eight-thirty the President and Mrs. Taft and the family would come down to the private dining room for breakfast. As a rule he would eat two oranges, a twelve-ounce beefsteak, several pieces of toast and butter and a vast quantity of coffee, with cream and sugar. In looking through my diaries of this period I find that on November 27th, 1911, I have a note which reads: "The President weighs 332 pounds and tells me with a great laugh that he is going on a diet but that 'things are in a sad state of affairs when a man can't even call his gizzard his own.'"

Housekeeper Elizabeth Jaffray, Secrets of the White House (Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, 1926)


While he lived in the White House the military side of life was uppermost in everyone's mind, and naturally Tad [Thomas Lincoln] was interested in soldiers. To be a soldier was the height of his ambition, and he had a regulation army lieutenant's uniform, with epaulettes and all the other accessories, in which he often would dress up and strut around in high feather. Like all children he was very fond of private theatricals and delighted in 'acting plays.' So a room in the White House was fitted up for him as a miniature theatre, and there he spent many of the happiest hours of his life.

White House Paymaster Colonel W. H. Crook, Memories of the White House (Little Brown and Company, 1911)


I did a draft not apparent in the final version of Roosevelt's great speech to the Teamster's Union, which seemed as we heard the magnificent delivery of it, the turning point in the [1944] campaign. I can still hear the laughter about Fala (but at Dewey) in the lines FDR sang out at the Statler banquet: "The Republican leaders have not been content to make personal attacks upon me or my wife or my sons they now include my little dog Fala. Unlike the members of my family, Fala resents this. When he learned that the Republican fiction writers had concocted a story that I had left him behind on an Aleutian Island and had sent a destroyer back to find him at a cost to the taxpayer of two or three million dollars his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself but I think I have a right to object to libelous statements about my dog."

White House Staffer Jonathan Daniels, White House Witness, 1942-1945 (Doubleday, 1975)


She [Frances Cleveland] returned unexpectedly and found several of the girl help in the library with the fireman, a German of considerable musical talent, banging away on the piano while the girls danced. Did she rave and discharge those whom she knew were taking advantage of her absence to violate the unwritten rules? Not at all. On the contrary, after relieving their embarrassment with a look of reassurance, she insisted on the continuation of the fun while she seated herself comfortably and looked on.

Chief Usher Irwin H. Hoover, 42 Years in the White House (Houghton Mifflin, 1934)


All the social functions were discontinued at the White House [during World War I], and Mrs. Wilson inaugurated meatless days, heatless days, Sunday gasless days meaning no Sunday pleasure drives and she spent many hours before her sewing machine making pajamas for the soldiers in the hospital wards, to be distributed by the Red Cross. Conservation was the by word around the White House; eight sheep were soon gracing the lawns . . . many thousands of dollars were raised for the Red Cross through the auctioning of wool. Two pounds of wool were sold for each state when the sheep were fleeced of almost a hundred pounds of raw wool.

White House Maid and Seamstress Lillian Rogers Parks, My Thirty Years Backstairs at the White House (Fleet, 1961)


It seems that the White House is haunted. This was a most interesting piece of news to me, for it seemed to me to be the only thing wanting to make the White House the most interesting spot in the United States. . . . The ghost, it seems, is a young boy¾ from its description, I should think about fourteen or fifteen years old. The housekeeper, a spooky little person herself, informs me that he has been felt more often than he has been seen, but when I remonstrated with her that ghosts have not the sense of touch, at least those self-respecting ghosts of which I have heard, she insisted that it was this manifestation of the Thing which caused such fright among the servants.

Archibald Butt to Clara Butt, July 26, 1911, Taft and Roosevelt: The Intimate Letters of Archie Butt, Military Aide, Vol. 2 (Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1930)


You never knew what to expect when you went around back in those days. One day I found [tennis stars] Bill Tilden, Little Bill Johnston, R. Norris Williams, and Dick Washburn playing tennis on the White House courts, while the President [Harding] watched. Once I brought the car around to the front door to take him golfing, and he appeared with two utter strangers, one of them was a dark-visaged man who looked like a Balkan spy. He was Ring Lardner. The other man was Grantland Rice. One day he turned up with a pair of very pretty girls. They were Hope Hampton and Viola Dane, two of Hollywood's brightest stars at the time.

Secret Service Agent Edmund W. Starling, Starling of the White House (Simon and Shuster, 1946)


The [Franklin D.] Roosevelts always had Christmas at the White House with all the children and most of the grandchildren there. They always braved the hazards of fire by having a Christmas tree lighted with candles in the East Hall. The family tradition included reading of Charles Dickens's Christmas Carol by the President. The gathering of the family with the President and Mrs. Roosevelt, the President's mother, the children and grandchildren made a comely family group of four generations.

Maitre d' and butler Alonzo Fields, My 21 Years in the White House (Coward McCann, 1960)


Elizabeth Jaffray, 1926.

Elizabeth Jaffray, 1926. Harris and Ewing (published in Literary Digest, December 1926)