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Jun 11, 2014 Washington, D.C.

Today, the White House Historical Association unveiled the 2014 White House Christmas Ornament which celebrates the life of Warren G. Harding, the 29th President of the United States (1921-1923). President Harding took over the controls on the Alaskan railroad during the “Voyage of Understanding,” his famous transcontinental speaking and sightseeing tour. The Presidential Special, the train that carried President Harding west at the outset of his ambitious voyage and that would tragically carry his casket back east following his sudden death, just two months later, is the inspiration for the 2014 ornament.

“As the new president of the White House Historical Association and a history buff, I am delighted that this year’s ornament features President Harding’s historical transcontinental train travel. What a special way to feature the fond memories so many Americans have of trains around the Christmas tree and taking the train at holiday time to see family,” said newly appointed WHHA president Stewart McLaurin.

About the Ornament

The Ornament is decorated with gold tones and enamel finishes and it is the first ornament to be comprised of two pieces, which can be hung as two separate ornaments or linked together. The locomotive is a detailed miniature replica of one of several steam-powered locomotives that pulled the Presidential Special; it is attached to the coal car that held its fuel. The other miniature car is the Superb, the president’s private heavyweight Pullman car. The last car on the Special, the Superb, was outfitted with a public address system. President Harding made appearances and delivered speeches at stops across the country from a platform at the back of the car. The last known photograph of President Harding is an image of him on the Superb shortly before his death in a San Francisco hotel on August 2, 1923. On August 3, President Harding’s casket was placed on board the Superb and began a return trip to Washington, D.C., during which an estimated three million people paid their last respects.

About The Harding Administration

As President, Harding believed that the Executive Branch should cooperate with Congress, and supported congressional moves to lower federal spending and reduce taxes on corporations, raise tariffs, develop highways, provide expanded loans to farmers, and limit immigration. In foreign affairs, the Harding administration signed peace treaties with Germany, Austria, and Hungary and sought to improve relations with neighboring Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean nations.

In June 1923, Harding left Washington on a scheduled two-month speaking and sightseeing tour. The president believed his spirits would be revived by the natural beauty of the Great West and by first-hand contact with the American people. That July, President Harding became the first president to travel through Alaska. President and Mrs. Harding and their party traveled on Alaska Railroad’s Number 618 special in the Denali, an 18 year-old, 10 by 81 foot Pullman car with a buffet, drawing, and observation rooms. President Harding fell ill on the return sea voyage from Alaska to San Francisco. Listless and exhausted, he died from apoplexy or a stroke on the evening of August 2 in his room at the San Francisco Palace Hotel.

Christmas In The Harding White House

President and Mrs. Harding enjoyed entertaining and their Christmas celebrations were old fashioned with quiet dinners and fireside gatherings with close friends. In the autumn of 1922 Mrs. Harding, afflicted by a chronic kidney ailment, drew perilously close to death. The White House cancelled all social events and the first lady’s slow recovery diminished the cheer of the 1922 Christmas season. The Hardings were enthusiastic supporters of the Christmas Seals campaign to fight tuberculosis. Adding a lighthearted note to the 1922 Christmas season, Gabe Burkhardt a hunter from Okmulgee, Oklahoma, sent the Hardings a live 15-pound white opossum fattened for the president’s dinner table. The opossum’s fate is not known.

The cost of the 2014 White House Christmas ornament is $18.95 and includes packing and standard shipping, and can be ordered toll free at 1-800-555-2451 or online: Each of the 33 past ornaments in the collection (from 1981–2013) are also available, along with educational brochures.

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 nonprofit, nonpartisan 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 $50 million to the White House in fulfillment of its mission.

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

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