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Oct 01, 2008 Washington, D.C.

The 2008 White House Christmas ornament honoring the presidency of Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893), the twenty-third president of the United States, was inspired by the Harrison family’s Victorian Christmas tree, the first documented tree to decorate the President’s House. The ornament, the 28th in a series started by the White House Historical Association in 1981, presents the White House as a family home.

Christmas stands out in White House memory as a special time for the Harrisons. Accommodations were tight with six adults and three grandchildren sharing the second floor family quarters. The president doted on his grandchildren and went to great lengths to amuse them. He said, “We shall have an old-fashioned Christmas tree for the grandchildren upstairs, and I shall be their Santa Claus.” To the delight of the children, the tree was laden with decorations and innumerable toys and treats. Mrs. Harrison had made sure each member of her husband’s staff was remembered with a personal token and all of the domestic employees were called in to receive gifts from under the tree.

Inspired by the Harrison’s Christmas tree, this year’s gold finished ornament is an interpretation of the first tree. Beneath the tree are the presents the Harrison grandchildren received: a toy train and a wooden sled await Benjamin, Mary’s rosy cheeked doll sits on a tricycle, and nearby is Marthena’s much wished for dollhouse. A three-foot high Santa Claus completes the season’s spectacle.

Of the previous White House ornaments, 20 honored presidents starting with George Washington. The 1989 ornament pays tribute to the bicentennial of the American presidency, and 1992 honors the laying of the White House cornerstone in 1792. The bicentennial of the White House as home of the president was commemorated in 2000. In 2002 the ornament honored the centennial of the restoration of the White House and the building of the West Wing.

For more information, please visit shop.whitehousehistory.org.

About the white house historical association

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy envisioned a restored White House that conveyed a sense of history through its decorative and fine arts. She sought to inspire Americans, especially children, to explore and engage with American history and its presidents. In 1961, the White House Historical Association was established to support her vision to preserve and share the Executive Mansion’s legacy for generations to come. Supported entirely by private resources, the Association’s mission is to assist in the preservation of the state and public rooms, fund acquisitions for the White House permanent collection, and educate the public on the history of the White House. Since its founding, the Association has given more than $45 million to the White House in fulfillment of its mission. 

To learn more about the White House Historical Association, please visit WhiteHouseHistory.org

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