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December 6, 1927

Governor General Freeman Freeman-Thomas, 1st Marquess of Willingdon — Canada’s governor general and wife Marie arrived at Union Station and were greeted by Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg and Mrs. Clara Kellogg, and then inspected an honor guard of U.S. Marines. A cavalry troop with drawn sabers then escorted the visitors to the Canadian legation on Massachusetts Avenue. About 4 p.m. a squadron of motorcycle police escorted them from the legation to the White House for a state dinner. Following their White House call, the visitors accompanied President and Mrs. Coolidge on a return journey to the legation for a late night reception. The following day the Willingdons attended teas and receptions at the Canadian legation and British embassy and also visited Arlington National Cemetery, the U.S. Capitol and Library of Congress before departing by train for New York, thence a return to Ottawa.

March 30, 1937

Governor General John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir — On a hectic touring day that included stops at Fort Myer and Arlington National Cemetery, Baron Tweedsmuir (an author of adventure novels and spy thrillers) and his wife Susan were taken by President and Mrs. Roosevelt to visit Mount Vernon, and the president and governor general discussed issues of mutual interest on their 45-minute ride back to the White House. Later in the evening the Roosevelts hosted the Tweedsmuirs at a White House state dinner. Following the dinner the Howard University Glee Club presented a performance of songs, including African-American spirituals.

November 10, 1945

Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King — When Canada’s Prime Minister Mackenzie King and Prime Minister Clement Attlee of Britain visited President Harry S. Truman, only Canada, Britain and the United States possessed the atomic bomb. The three-power talks centered on how to manage the atomic bomb and on strategies for the peaceful development of atomic energy. Following discussions on the presidential yacht Sequoia, President Truman hosted a White House state dinner. Since Thanksgiving was less than two weeks away, the menu featured roast stuffed turkey with cranberry jelly and cream soup with royal custard garnish.

May 3, 1954

Governor General Vincent Massey — Vincent Massey, who had served as Canada’s first ambassador to the United States during 1926-1930, returned to Washington for a state visit as Governor General. President Dwight and First Lady Mamie Eisenhower honored him with a state dinner at the White House for 62 guests, with the State Dining Room overflowing with yellow irises, roses and snapdragon. During an arrival ceremony for Massey on the steps of the District Building where he was presented with a key to the city, an enormous rainstorm quickly soaked the participants and brought the ceremony to a halt. When Massey arrived at the White House he apologized to Eisenhower, saying “I must look like a drowned rat.” The president replied, “Oh no – I though you would look even wetter.” Eisenhower then told Massey he had had a poor golf outing the previous Saturday. “If I don’t do better than I did Saturday, I don’t care if I ever play again,” he said, flashing the famous Eisenhower smile.

June 3, 1960

Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker — On the day of the state dinner for Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, President Eisenhower was concerned about First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, laid low in Walter Reed Army Hospital with acute asthmatic bronchitis. Eisenhower ordered the White House florist to send his entire stock of pink and green carnations to the first lady. At the state dinner the 86 guests were surrounded by gold and purple iris and dined on Rock Cornish game hen with wild rice dressing, chilled melon wrapped in prosciutto ham, horseradish soup, crabmeat creole casserole, tomato pudding and string beans, accompanied by hearts of palm salad with green goddess dressing. Vanilla ice cream garnished with strawberries and macaroons served as dessert. The chancel choir of the Eisenhowers’ place of worship, the National Presbyterian Church, provided the entertainment. During the after-dinner toasts Eisenhower and Diefenbaker affirmed warm ties of friendship between Canada and the United States and promised to work as partners for international peace, an end to nuclear weapons testing and general disarmament.

March 24, 1969

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau — Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau attracted widespread interest on his first state visit to the United States, where many were anxious to get a glimpse of the charisma that had inspired “Trudeaumania” in Canada during its general election the previous year. For President Richard Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon, Trudeau’s visit marked their first opportunity to host a White House state dinner. Mrs. Nixon and White House Social Secretary Lucy Winchester designed a new seating plan of eleven round tables and a rectangular table to accommodate the 121 guests. The guests listened to the U.S. Air Force Band’s Strolling Strings and dined on artichokes, beef filet jardinière, Bibb lettuce, camembert cheese, Charlotte Monticello, cocotte potatoes and seafood Americaine.

Following the dinner, Nixon and Trudeau waited for singer Robert Goulet to entertain and talked casually with guests and reporters about Trudeau’s passion for skiing and skin-diving. Asked if he had ever skin-dived, Nixon replied, “Oh my, no, I can swim, but I don’t like the feeling of a mask around my face. I feel like I am suffocating.”

Trudeau, who kept to an exercise and physical fitness schedule of someone far younger than his 49 years, expressed a wish to take a dip in the White House swimming pool, and his request was granted. On the evening of March 24 Trudeau’s official limousine dodged in and out of rush-hour traffic before arriving at the Southwest Gate, where he was taken to the pool for a 20-minute swim with football coach Bud Wilkinson, a special White House consultant on physical fitness and sports programs for young people. Trudeau followed up his swim with a sauna, shower and massage.

February 21, 1977

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau — Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was the second state visitor of the Carter presidency, following that of Mexican President José López Portillo. After a welcoming ceremony on the South Lawn, Trudeau and President Jimmy Carter discussed oil and natural gas exports from Canada to the United States and the prospect of the province of Quebec’s possible separation from the rest of Canada.

At the state dinner, guests dined on Alaska king crab, glaced carrots, saddle of lamb, salad and spinach timbale with orange sherbet ambrosia and cookies for dessert. Yellow and white candles with anemones formed the centerpieces on the tables. The Carters’ 9-year-old daughter Amy read two books during the dinner, including one about the Gettysburg Address. When asked by a table-mate, Maine Senator Edmund Muskie, if she planned to memorize the address, she replied: “Never.” For entertainment, The Young Columbians, a 19-member group of high school students from the Columbia, Maryland School of Theatrical Arts, presented a 30-minute retrospective of 200 years of U.S. music.

Some U.S. fashion critics panned Canadian first lady Margaret Trudeau’s choice of a non-floor-length dress to wear to the dinner; Mrs. Trudeau replied: “Look, I just don’t care what the American designers thought. What I wear is nobody’s business but my own.”

March 18, 1986

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney — After an arrival ceremony on the south lawn, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President Ronald Reagan held talks on damage to the environment caused by acid rain, agreed to an extension of the North American Aerospace Defense Agreement and approved joint development of a manned space station. Prime Minister Mulroney, his wife Mila and other guests at the state dinner dined on angel hair pasta with seafood, Chevre cheese, chicken volauvnet supreme, fennel and red leaf lettuce salad and a dessert of Pistachio Marquise with petits fours. Entertainment was provided by concert pianist Rosalyn Tureck. “In just two days,” Reagan jokingly observed of Mulroney, “Brian will be 47 years old, and kid, I wish you the very best. Every time they bring out my birthday cake, the top of it is beginning to look more and more like a torchlight parade.”

April 27, 1988

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney — During the final Mulroney-Reagan state visit, Reagan told the Canadian prime minister he favored Canada’s effort to buy U.S.-designed nuclear-powered submarine technology, subject to congressional approval, and the two leaders pledged to work together to find a way to resolve the acid rain issue.

After the Mulroneys met the Reagans on the North Portico, a state dinner was held featuring roast loin of veal, shrimp mousse, smoked salmon, sweet red pepper puree, watercress and radicchio, and pineapple champagne sorbet for dessert. Witty and sentimental toasts followed, with Mulroney joking: “I want to just say, parenthetically, something that happened to me in August of 1987. It was a Sunday, and I was reading the New York Sunday Times. And I was struck by this headline. And here’s, I think, a direct quote, though I’m speaking from memory. The quote is, ‘Reagan's Popularity Plummets To 59 Percent’ . . . Now, what I did that day after I finished reading the Times was, I called the President up. He was at Camp David, and I said, ‘Did you read the Times?’ He said, ‘Yes, I did.’ And he didn't sound so enthusiastic. I said, ‘I don't know how to break this to you, but on a good day, Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl, and I together would be happy with 59 percent.’ Look, I'll settle for 39 percent.” Following the dinner, baritone Bruce Hubbard and pianist Larry Woodard entertained guests in the East Room.

April 8, 1997

Prime Minister Jean Chretien — President Bill Clinton and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien discussed the protection and recovery of endangered wildlife, NATO enlargement and trade promotion. The state visit took place a little more than three weeks after President Clinton had to undergo surgery after he tore a tendon in his right knee at the Florida home of professional golfer Greg Norman. At the state dinner for Chretien, Clinton made light of his injury and joked when the after-dinner dancing began: “There will be music and dancing in the hall for those of you who are capable. The rest of us will creep off into the sunset.”

The White House was decorated with live cherry trees and the dinner was served on Reagan china, with centerpieces of amaryllis, tulips and roses. The menu featured fiddlehead fern, herb-crusted lamb with artichokes and spring vegetables, and maple-cured salmon, with a dessert of raspberry and chocolate truffle ring mold. In the East Room, after-dinner entertainment was provided by mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves.

March, 10, 2016

On March 10, 2016, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was welcomed to Washington, D.C., with a State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. After meeting with President Obama, a State Dinner was held in the Prime Minister’s honor. Menu items included Alaskan halibut casseroles, roasted apricot galette, lamb chops with Yukon potato dauphinoise, and maple pecan cake for dessert. The first state dinner with Canada since 1997, this visit continued the long tradition of friendship between Canada and the United States.

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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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