George Washington had many pets during his lifetime, but his wife, First Lady Martha Washington – our nation’s first First Lady – had pets of her own. One rather famous pet was a parrot.
In fact, the Washingtons owned a plethora of birds before, during, and after their time in the White House and these birds were remarked upon by many a guest. Martha’s parrot, called Polly, was a great favorite and spent time sitting with the First Lady, even when entertaining guests. However, George Washington preferred his horses. In a letter he exasperatedly complained of a move: “On one side I am called upon to remember the Parrot, on the other to remember the dog. For my own part I should not pine much if both were forgot.”
The Washingtons’ granddaughter Nelly also owned a parrot, and just before her death in 1802 a visitor to Martha Washington’s residence noted several of the birds. One parrot in particular was noted as being rather dejected due to Martha’s recent lack of attention, having been “fed, caressed, and played with daily by Martha for years and loved Mrs. Washington deeply.” At the time, Martha was bedridden and roughly 2 days later she passed away. What became of the parrot and the rest of the birds of the household is unknown.