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Sep 08, 2011 Washington D.C.

The 2011 White House Christmas ornament celebrates the life and presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth president of the United States (1901–1909), and his family and highlights the return of children to the White House after a long period of absence. With the arrival of the Roosevelt’s, six children would call the White House “home” and filled it with excitement and life as well as a rooster, a pony, parrots, snakes, dogs, cats and guinea pigs.

Sworn in at the age of 42, Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest president in the nation’s history. A civil servant, Spanish-American War hero, and politician, Roosevelt was serving as vice president when he was suddenly elevated to the presidency after the tragic assassination of William McKinley. A popular president, he brought vigor and power to the office as he led Congress and the American public toward progressive reforms and a place on the world stage.

Christmas at the Roosevelt White House was a family time for rest and leisure and the day usually included a ride on horseback or carriage drive through Rock Creek Park, a visit to the home of local relatives, and an intimate Christmas dinner in the State Dining Room.

The front of the 2011 Theodore Roosevelt ornament is a colorized reproduction of a Harper’s Weekly political cartoon by William A. Rogers that captured the anticipation associated with the Roosevelt family’s first Christmas at the White House in 1901.

It reflects the excitement President Roosevelt and his lively young family brought to life at the White House. There had been no children in the White House for more than a decade so the caption noted, “I hear that there are some kids in the White House this year.” The similarity of the drawing of a jolly and rotund Santa Claus with his white flowing beard was popularized in later twentieth century advertising and reflects an evolution of the modern identity of Santa Claus from cartoonist Thomas Nast’s elf-like Santa in Harper’s Weekly in 1862, the Rogers 1901 version on this ornament, to artist Haddon Sundblom’s famous 1931 red-suited Santa for a Coca Cola ad campaign.

The reverse side of the 2011 Theodore Roosevelt ornament is a colorized scene of the family’s discovery of Archie’s hidden Christmas tree found in a seamstress’s closet in 1903.

The discovery of the tree, defying the president’s ban, was a popular Christmas illustration for a story that ran in Ladies Home Journal underscoring the simplicity of the Roosevelt family’s Christmas decorations and the president’s conservation ethic. Holly and candle motifs from that article inspired the design of the ornament’s gold plated brass frame.

Of the previous White House ornaments, 23 honored presidents. The 1989 ornament paid tribute to the bicentennial of the American presidency, and 1992 honored 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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