Tag Archives: White House

Tyrant of the White House Kitchen


(White House photo by Paul Morse)

Imagine a formal White House meal. Glistening silver, glittering china and crystal. And the food! I was a guest of the first President Bush at a luncheon in 1991. The chow there is good. Trust me.

Except for once during the 20th Century, when the woman charged with feeding the president served meals that were so bad guests cringed. That hottest ticket in Washington, an invitation to dine with the president, was something to dread. “Eat before you go to the White House” was the rule.

Incredibly, the man who brought down Hitler and Mussolini was powerless to do anything about the dictator under his own roof.

Meet the Tyrant of the White House Kitchen.

Continue reading

The President’s Cow Is Missing!


Holy Cow

cow-and-eobFor two years in the early 20th century, the Washington press corps was fascinated by a White House resident. They hung on every development, reported every coming and going, and even vied for exclusive interviews.

It wasn’t the president, nor the first lady, or even one of their children. It was a 1,500 pound member of the president’s extended family who stole America’s heart.

She was Pauline Wayne, a Holstein cow who captured the media’s fancy in a way no other presidential animal has before or since. Yet at the height of her fame, she came dangerously close to an unplanned trip to the slaughterhouse. Here’s how it happened. Continue reading

The Secret Behind Harry’s Famous Balcony

Why Truman Really Built It

Truman on the balcony

[Spoiler alert: the payoff to this remarkable story comes at its conclusion; please stick with it till the end to learn the secret.]

Early one evening in February 1946, Harry Truman summoned the White House’s chief usher to the second floor Oval Study. He pointed out the window through the South Portico to the Washington Monument and Potomac River beyond.

“That’s a magnificent sight,” he said. Then he dropped his bombshell.

“I’d like to take better advantage of the view. I’m going to put a balcony there.” Continue reading

When the “Big Cheese” Came To the White House

Jefferson's Cheese (top with this)

How do you express your appreciation to the President of the United States? Sending a positive letter is nice. A card or telegram works, too. But 214 years ago, folks in one town devised a unique gift … which turned out to carry malodorous consequences. And it inspired an even bigger, even smellier presidential gift 34 years later, which went on to serve as the inspiration for two episodes of a popular 1990s TV series. That’s a lot of legacy from a single token of appreciation. And here’s how it all started. Continue reading

Tiffany’s Extreme White House Makeover

entrance-hall-1882Chester Arthur never ran for president, but he got the job anyway. And the first time he walked into the White House as its new resident, he didn’t like what he saw.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

To fully understand what Arthur did to the place, you must first understand why.

To say the White House was rundown by the early 1880s is an understatement.  Let’s be blunt: it looked like a shabby hotel on a courthouse square in a little county seat town. Continue reading

Grover Cleveland’s Strange Wish

Grover -standing

It’s a common desire. Many parents secretly hope their child grows up to become President of the United States. The odds are long; but it never hurts to dream, right?

However one day back in the spring of 1887, a man who actually had the job made a very strange wish … and he had no idea what Fate had in store for the child he wished it upon. Continue reading

A White House Séance & A President’s Sad Secret

Pierce-CUHistorians loving ranking presidents by their performance. You’ve seen the lists. There are the Greats (Messrs. Washington, Lincoln, et al). There are the Near Greats, and the Average or Mediocre ones. Scholars have a field day pigeonholing a particular president in this category or that.

Then there is the bottom of the barrel. The washouts. The Failures. There’s little arguing over the Worst of the Worst. Grant, Harding, and my personal pick for All-Time Worst President, James Buchanan. (When it comes to being lousy at the job, you can’t beat standing by helplessly as your country splits in two and slides into civil war.)

Another name always makes the Failure list. And maybe he deserves to be there. But after you’ve heard the story of the secret pain that haunted him during his time in the White House, you’ll probably look at him in a new light and, at the very least, pity him. Continue reading

Golf & Presidents: The Toxic Combination

Current pres

“If I had my way, no man guilty of golf would be eligible to hold any office of trust or profit in these United States.”   -H.L. Mencken

Chances are, someone you know will spend time this Labor Day weekend playing golf. Chances are even better that President Obama will, too.

There’s been much talk in recent weeks about the Chief Executive’s passion for the game. He likes playing golf; he really, really, really likes it. (So too, for that matter, does House Speaker John Boehner, who’s also crazy about the game.) Continue reading