President John Quincy Adams succeeded James Monroe in the White House, serving as President from 1825 to 1829. Admittedly, he wasn’t able to accomplish much during this tumultuous time, but one lesser known fact about Adams is that he and his wife Louisa kept silkworms in the White House.
Until Melania Trump became First Lady, Louisa was the only First Lady to have been born outside the United States, hailing originally from London. She was said to be sickly, suffering many miscarriages and prone to migraines and other ailments. However, she did enjoy harvesting the silk from the silkworms, which lived in mulberry trees on the grounds, and using it to spin with.
Adams showed interest in the worms as well, watching their progress and even counting how many eggs were laid, but the silkworms were much more Louisa’s project than his. Many sources say that the Adams couple did not have a happy marriage and that Louisa felt abandoned and misunderstood much of the time. Raising the silkworms, harvesting their silk and using it in her sewing were one way that she coped with her depression. She was also said to gorge herself on chocolates and write plays and poetry that she kept private.
What became of the silkworms is unknown. Andrew Jackson’s Southern Magnolia trees are the earliest remaining trees currently on the White House grounds. As mulberry leaves are the sole food of silkworms, it is likely that as the mulberry trees died off, so too did the silkworms.