Creating a Private Life

Dollhouse made by a White House gardener for the Cleveland children, c. 1896

When George Washington took office, he decided that the president should work and live in the same residence. Every chief executive since has abided by that rule. And while it has made performing the job of president more efficient, it has made family life more difficult. Quiet time and privacy must be seized from or interwoven with official business. Ultimately it is almost impossible to lead a "normal" existence when living in the White House.

"Sally," the White House doll, made around 1829 for Maria Louise Adams, granddaughter of John Quincy Adams
Christmas pageant program made by the grandchildren of Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1960
Spencer repeating rifle used by Abraham Lincoln for target practice, about 1864
Book of trout flies in a leather case belonging to Grover Cleveland, about 1888
Deep-sea fishing reel used by Herbert Hoover, about 1930
Wooden bowling pin used in the White House during Harry S. Truman's administration, about 1951
Truman installed the first bowling alley in the White House in 1947.
Baseball pass presented to Warren G. Harding by the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, 1921
Harry S Truman's vacation shirt
One way presidents create a private life is by getting out of Washington. Harry Truman spent 175 working vacation days at the commander’s house at the U.S. Naval Station, Key West, Florida. He went so often it became known as the Little White House. Around 1947, Harry S Truman gave a shirt he had worn there to a friend who teased him about his vacation attire. The shirt was autographed by the Truman family.
William J. Clinton's saxophone
President Clinton, a talented musician in high school, sometimes played the saxophone at White House events.
Calvin and Grace Coolidge with their sons John and Calvin, early 1920s
Calvin, Jr. died of blood poisoning in 1924, the middle of his father's term.
Courtesy of Library of Congress
Woodrow Wilson holding his first granddaughter, Ellen Wilson McAdoo, 1915
Courtesy of Library of Congress
Grace Coolidge with her pet raccoon, early 1920s
Like many White House families, the Coolidges had several pets, some more unusual than others.
Courtesy of Library of Congress
First Lady Barbara Bush with her grandson Charles Walker Bush, 1990
Courtesy of George Bush Library
Lyndon B. Johnson in his bedroom, talking with members of his staff, 1966
Courtesy of Lyndon Baines Johnson Library
First Lady Rosalynn Carter and her daughter Amy relaxing at the White House, 1979
Courtesy of Jimmy Carter Library
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt with her grandchildren Sistie and Buzzie Dall on the White House lawn, 1933
Courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt Library
First Lady Lucy Hayes with two of her children and a family friend in the White House conservatory, 1879
Courtesy of Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center
Barbara Anne and David Eisenhower visiting their grandfather Dwight D. Eisenhower at the White House, 1953
Courtesy of National Archives
Abraham Lincoln with his son Tad (Thomas), 1864
Courtesy of Library of Congress