white house historical association > president's park / citizen's soapbox : a history of protest at the white house
pets in the past
Pet keeping in America evolved from Native Americans’ and European settlers’ domesticating animals as hunters, guardians, workers, and companions. Horses, cows, goats, chickens, dogs, cats, songbirds, parrots, and other small animals were a part of daily life during the early years of the White House. Since 1870, domestic pets at the White House have mirrored the species generally seen in American households. The major difference has always been that a pet belonging to a president generates great public interest and scrutiny.

Fun Fact: Tad Lincoln saves Jack the Turkey.

President George W. Bush pardons a turkey before Thanksgiving at the White House, 2006. White House photo by Paul Morse

In 1863, ten-year-old Tad Lincoln befriended a turkey sent to the White House for a holiday feast. He named the bird Jack and treated him as a pet. As Christmas day approached, Tad realized it would soon be time to prepare the turkey for Christmas dinner. The young boy burst into the cabinet meeting in tears and pleaded with his father to pardon the bird from the "executioner." Recent presidential speeches cite this historic anecdote as the basis for the modern-day turkey pardoning photo-op at Thanksgiving.

white house pets > open page
white house pets : one > introduction
white house pets : two > pets in the past
white house pets : three > animal ambassadors
white house pets : four > a president's best friend
white house pets : five > merry manageries
white house pets : six > first ladies with family pets
white house pets : seven > conclusion