Thomas “Tad” Lincoln, fourth and youngest son of President Abraham Lincoln (1861-65), rides one of his two ponies.
Archives for July 2013
Excerpt from a news story about Grover Cleveland from the Chicago Daily Tribune, February 12, 1894:
Besides the two babies, Esther and Ruth, there are innumerable pets at the White House. Scattered through the broad demesne belonging to the Chief Magistrate are myriads of hares running wild in the grounds and furnishing rare sport for the foxhounds and dachshounds [sic] belonging to Mrs. Cleveland. In the limpid pools of the rose and orchid houses attached to the conservatories are hundreds of imported fish, the principal being the many-tailed Japanese variety of goldfish and the famous paradise fish from Siam.
Game chickens of the shawineck breed are conspicuous whenever a visit is paid to the stables attached to the White House, and Coachman Willis is justly proud of the success which has attended his efforts in raising these pretty fowls. In quadrupeds there is almost every known specimen at the little pagoda-shaped sentry box on the east side of the mansion, where the White House babies in charge of their nurses can be seen every fair day. Gamboling about toddling Ruth, or hiding under the carriage containing infantile Esther, can be seen a cocker spaniel, beautifully marked in white and brown, or a collie, which, though a new arrival, seems perfectly at home amid his new surroundings.
Hector, the well-known black French poodle of Mrs Cleveland, is at Buzzard’s Bay for the winter, as a companion for the St. Bernard, famous as a medal winner.
A bow-legged, squat-figured dachshund, with long flapping ears, is a great pet with the occupants of the White House, being a recent importation from Germany.
Until a few days ago, a voracious tulip-bulb fiend in the shape of a raccoon could be seen climbing up and down the trees facing the Treasury Department, but he made one foray too much, and the story is that a gardener’s spade cut his earthly career short.
Mrs. Cleveland’s ponies, a handsome pair of animals, which their mistress usually drives to a low and easy going phaeton, complete the list of pet animals contiguous to the White House, birds being tabooed inside the mansion.
Special thanks to: The Long and the Short of It All
Our nation’s 23rd president, Benjamin Harrison, had at least one soft spot — his grandchildren.
In fact, some of these kids moved into the White House along with their parents, Russell Benjamin Harrison and Mary Scott McKee.
President Harrison was known for closing up the Oval Office around noon most days and heading out to the White House Lawn to play with his grandchildren and their many pets.
One of those White House pets was Old Whiskers (or “His Whiskers,” according to some sources).
Like most goats, Old Whiskers was a bit of an ornery fellow. One day, the goat apparently had had enough of pulling a cart and being poked and prodded by children. Possibly falling under the misconception that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, Old Whiskers took off running through the White House gates trailing the cart with the Harrison grandchildren aboard.
The president, who was waiting for his own carriage at the front of the White House at the time, raced after the cart. Old Whiskers did eventually stop, but only after quite a few Washington, D.C., residents saw their commander-in-chief running down the street holding on to his top hat, waving his cane and yelling at a goat.
(Special thanks to Amy Miller for help with research.)
Theodore Roosevelt and family once owned a one-legged rooster. Photo: National Photo Company, Library of Congress.
The White House was definitely a lively place during Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency.
Theodore Roosevelt, our youngest president, took the oath of office in 1901 after the death of President William McKinley. He and his wife, Edith, moved to Pennsylvania Avenue with six children and a veritable menagerie of well-loved animals (see full list of their pets below this article).
One of the more colorful — and noisy – of the Roosevelt pets was Eli Yale, a Hyacinth macaw parrot. Apparently named after Elihu Yale, the 18th-century British merchant and philanthropist who is the namesake of Yale University, the colorful macaw is best known for being in a photograph on the arm of a well-dressed and serious-looking Teddy Jr., only 14 at the time.
This 1902 portrait was taken in the White House conservatory, where the bird must have enjoyed spending time.
Unfortunately, the White House greenhouses were torn down that same year to make room for an office annex that evolved into the West Wing.
Loud? Sure, Maybe Just a Little Loud …
“Loud” is the first word that comes to mind when macaw owners describe their pets. In fact, you can hear macaws in their native rainforest habitat from at least five miles away.
Playful and active, Hyacinth macaws have a lively personality to go along with their size, which can reach up to 42 inches in height and 3 to 4 pounds in weight. The largest parrot by length in the world, the Hyacinth macaw is a striking bird with vibrant blue feathers, a large black curved beak, and bright yellow accents on its face.
The Roosevelt kids – and their pet-loving dad — undoubtedly enjoyed the fact that macaws are very good at mimicking speech and sounds. Macaws require quite a bit of interaction from their owners and can get especially noisy when they are bored.
Chances are, however, that Eli was well entertained by the rowdy Roosevelt family.
President Roosevelt himself kept a sense of humor about the bird. He wrote in June 1902, “Eli [is] the most gorgeous macaw, with a bill that I think could bite through boiler plate, who crawls all over Ted, and whom I view with dark suspicion.”
Here is a video explaining more about Hyacinth macaws:
When President Theodore Roosevelt, his wife, and his six children left Washington, D.C. in 1909, he remarked: “I don’t think any family has enjoyed the White House more than we have.”
The lively young family did have quite the menagerie of pets, including dogs, cats, birds, and a pony.
One of the beloved family dogs was a black, smooth-haired Manchester terrier named Blackjack, or Jack for short.
Known for their alertness, Manchester terriers have been described as cat-like in their fastidiousness. Reserved with strangers but devoted to its family, the Manchester terrier generally is a well-mannered house pet.
“Absolutely a Member of the Family”
In a letter dated July 27, 1902 to a Mrs. Roswell Field, President Roosevelt wrote, “It is a real pleasure to send you a photograph of my boy Kermit, with Jack, the Manchester terrier, who is absolutely a member of the family.”
Apparently Jack did have at least one weakness: He was afraid of cats. One source, in fact, reports that the family cat, Tom Quartz, capitalized on Jack’s fear of her and terrorized him every chance she got.
According to a biography of Theodore Roosevelt Jr., Jack was the family’s first ever “inside” dog, and he slept with Ted “and would crawl under the covers and sleep alongside his feet.
The problem was that Jack sometimes enjoyed eating covers of books. But the dog’s personality still won over all of the family. President Roosevelt wrote: “Jack was human in his intelligence and affection; he learned all kinds of tricks, was a high-bred gentleman, never brawled, and was a dauntless fighter.”
Buried and Then Moved
When Jack died, the family buried him behind the White House. First Lady Edith Roosevelt had a change of heart, however, saying she couldn’t bear to have the little dog there “beneath the eyes of presidents who might care nothing for little black dogs.”
At the end of Roosevelt’s second term in 1908, Jack’s coffin was exhumed and reburied at Sagamore Hill, the Roosevelts’ Long Island estate.
Theodore Roosevelt Jr. wrote in All in the Family: “Mother wished another dog as much like him as could be found — a “Jack dog.” We got another Manchester terrier, a miserable meaching creature, like Jack in nothing but color.