Teddy Roosevelt’s son snuck the family’s first Christmas tree into the White House.

  • National Christmas Tree
National Christmas Tree
Jon Bilous/ Alamy Stock Photo

In 1901, early on in Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, putting a Christmas tree in the home was still a relatively new trend in the United States — Benjamin Harrison was the first President to put up a tree in the White House only 12 years before, in 1889. Roosevelt had no such plans, but his wishes were thwarted when his 8-year-old son Archie secretly “rigged up” a tree in a large closet with the help of one of the White House carpenters. Archie adorned the tree with lights and presents for his family (and pets), thus beginning a new Roosevelt family tradition.

According to a common myth, President Roosevelt had gone so far as to ban Christmas trees in the White House because he was a staunch conservationist. Some reports at the time claimed Roosevelt was so dedicated to preserving America’s forests, he saw cutting down trees for the holidays as a contributor to deforestation. In 1901, The Baltimore Sun reported what is likely the actual reason that President Roosevelt and his family would not have a Christmas tree: because they’d never had one before. This isn’t altogether surprising: The Christmas tree was a German tradition that was popularized by Queen Victoria and her German husband Prince Albert in 1848. By the early 20th century, the holiday tradition was on the rise, but trimming a tree wasn’t yet a given in the United States.

You may also like

Love it?

Arts & Culture