The History of the White House Christmas Ornament

November 16, 2015William B. Bushong, Chief Historian, White House Historical AssociationNPF Blog

In celebration of the National Christmas Tree at President’s Park (White House), the National Park Foundation is partnering with the White House Historical Association and its 2015 White House Christmas Ornament. For every purchase of this ornament, the White House Historical Association will donate $2 to the National Park Foundation.

2015 White House Ornament

History of the White House Christmas Ornaments

In 1981, the White House Historical Association released its first annual White House Christmas Ornament, “Angel in Flight,” which depicted a copper weather vane inspired by those atop many historic American buildings, such as Mount Vernon and Independence Hall.

Made out of high quality copper with a patina finish, the original 1981 and 1982 ornaments today are rare collectibles. All of the ornaments in the series (1981-2015), including gold plated copies of the original two, can still be purchased today.

White House Chief Usher Rex Scouten arranged to have the Association’s first ornament hung on the Blue Room Christmas tree in 1981. This initiated the tradition of hanging the Association’s ornament on that official tree each holiday season.

White House Historical Association christmas ornaments

The Association was fortunate with the early promotion of the ornament. The National Park Service asked Willard Scott of NBC television in 1984 to display the ornament during a Today Show segment on the Ellipse covering the annual Pageant of Peace. He agreed and the exposure helped bring national attention to this finely-crafted holiday keepsake.

For many years, word of mouth primarily promoted sales of the ornament and buyers soon found that relatives and friends on their gift list anticipated receiving one each year.

During the holiday season, booster clubs, churches, civic groups, and other organizations purchase the White House Christmas ornaments in bulk to resell as a fundraiser. These sales not only help the Association’s mission to preserve the White House, but also assist charitable causes in communities across the nation.

As part of the White House bicentennial commemoration of the laying of the original White House cornerstone, a 1992 White House Christmas Ornament was placed inside a special time capsule alongside other contemporary White House objects. Chief Usher Gary Walters said that the objects selected for the time capsule were designed to capture the 1992-era White House. As shown by its inclusion in this commemoration, the 11-year old ornament program was fast becoming an established White House tradition.

An Annual Tradition

Now entering its 35th year, the Official White House Christmas Ornament has thus far honored 30 presidents beginning with President George Washington, as well as commemorated four White House milestone anniversaries such as the bicentennial of the founding of the American presidency (1989), the bicentennial of the laying of the White House cornerstone (1992), the bicentennial of the occupancy of the White House by President John Adams and First Lady Abigail Adams (2000), and the centennial of the 1902 White House renovation by President Theodore Roosevelt (2002).

Every ornament is American-made in Lincoln, Rhode Island by ChemArt manufacturing, the Association’s partner since the ornament’s inception in 1981.

For every purchase of the ornament made here today through December 30, or by visiting the on-site kiosk adjacent to the National Christmas Tree December 5 through December 24, the White House Historical Association will donate $2 per purchase to the National Park Foundation in support of the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and President’s Park. Learn more and purchase your ornament today!

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