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Music & Dance at the White House

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  • First Lady Dolley Madison is considered to have introduced social dancing to the White House–notably the Waltz, which critics at that time called "the hugging process set to music."
  • The United States Marine Band played at the first reception on New Year's Day in 1801 and has performed regularly at the White House ever since. From the time of Jefferson, the band has been known as "The President's Own."
  • Thomas Green Bethune "Blind Tom" was the first black artist known to have performed at the White House. He played the piano for President James Buchanan in 1859. Accounts from the period made it clear he was a phenomenal prodigy, although apparently mentally retarded, who was said to have played like Mozart, Beethoven, or Gottschalk.
  • Ulysses S. Grant once remarked about his musical knowledge: I know only two tunes–one is Yankee Doodle and the other isn't."

An artist's depiction of President Washington dancing at a party.

Library of Congress