The big white home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., has been the residence of world-famous personalities – including those of the feathered and four-footed varieties.
Animals have been a part of White House life since John Adams became the first president to reside in the White House. From horses that provided transportation for 19th century chief executives to pets whose popularity rivaled that of their masters, non-humans provide a vibrant part of presidential history.
The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center explores this fascinating aspect of America’s past through a pair of special exhibits, “White House Pets: Ambassadors at Large” and “White House Horses,” on display through Jan. 10, 2010 in the Hayes Museum. The pair of White House Historical Association exhibits is sponsored by Wonderly-Horvath-Hanes Funeral Home & Crematory with additional funding provided by Memorial Health Care System. “White House Pets: Ambassadors at Large” takes a look at the menagerie of animals that have called the White House home. Pet keeping in America evolved from Native Americans’ and European settlers’ domestication of animals for hunting, guarding, working, and friendship. Cows, goats, chickens, dogs, cats, songbirds, parrots, and other small animals were a part of daily life during the early years of the White House. Since 1870, domestic pets at the White House have mirrored the species generally seen in American households. The major difference always has been that a pet belonging to a president generates great public interest and scrutiny.
The exhibit “White House Horses” focuses on the steeds that carried presidents into battle, served as loyal presidential companions and provided a visual symbol of leadership. George Washington regarded horses as a source of pardonable pride, and his warhorses were of great importance to him. A succession of presidents since his time has enjoyed the beauty and skill of these uncomplaining public servants for work, sport, and leisure.
The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center is located at the corner of Hayes and Buckland avenues in Fremont. Visit www.rbhayes.org for a complete list of year-round special events.
P.E. Allen, of the White House police force, and Harry Waters with some of the White House dogs Sept. 23, 1929 during the Hoover administration. (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)