white house historical association > president's park / citizen's soapbox : a history of protest at the white house
animal ambassadors
With the growth of pet keeping and the widespread marketing of animals and pet products in American society by the late nineteenth century, public interest in presidential animals and pets grew exponentially. Whether purchased or received as gifts from well-wishers or foreign officials, pets became minor celebrities and goodwill ambassadors used to promote causes or smooth diplomatic relations. With the rise of the mass media and the increasing international importance of the American presidency, White House pets often came into the spotlight. They became favorite subjects for political cartoons lampooning presidential policies and initiatives.

Fun Fact: President Pierce gave Jefferson Davis a dog so small it could be carried in a pocket.

A Japanese spaniel, ca. 2005. Photo by Carol Ann Johnson, as published by Kennel Club Books

In 1855, President Franklin Pierce gave a Japanese spaniel to his Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, who would become the president of the Confederacy. Many years later, Mrs. Davis recalled that as puppies such dogs were so small “that a coffee saucer made an ample scampering ground for them.”

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