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Rubenstein Center Scholarship

Andrew Jackson and Music at the White House

The White House under Andrew Jackson was simpler in its customs, ambience and attitudes than it had been under Adams or Monroe. It was the people’s house with public receptions that opened its doors to one and all. At one of President Jackson’s receptions, the Marine Band played one of the president’s favorite tunes, "Auld Lang Syne," as his hungry guests devoured a 1,400 pound "Mammoth Cheese." In American culture during this decade, ballet dancers were beginning to capture the attention of audiences, as well as the interests of presidents Jackson and Van Buren. A caricature of the popular ballerina Celeste Keppler, appearing before President Jackson and his cabinet, also shows Vice-President Martin Van Buren, who later when president invited the famous Fanny Elssler to the White House. With her voluptuous hip-swaying dance, known as the cachucha complete with Spanish castanets, Elssler took all of Washington by storm at the time. So popular was the provocative Fanny, that it was decided Congress would only meet on the days she was not dancing.

Ballerina Fanny Elssler was known for her hip-swaying dance, known as the cachucha complete with Spanish castanets.

Library of Congress