tv The Presidency First Ladies White House Preservation CSPAN May 7, 2022 12:50am-2:10am EDT
house on lafayette square. i am especially pleased to be here today to talk about the incredibly important role that first ladies have played in historic preservation and to do so during may which has been celebrated as national preservation month. since 1973 at the national trust we're in the midst of our where women made history campaign to highlight and preserve the places where women made important contributions to our country. a key component of this campaign is to highlight the central role that women including first ladies have played in the preservation movement itself. fittingly the honorary chair of this campaign is former first lady laura bush who is a great preservation advocate in so many ways and a trustee america of the national trust. today our panel will primarily discuss the role of three first.
ladies mrs. kennedy mrs. johnson and mrs. nixon in the preservation of the white house. but i do think it is also important to briefly acknowledge a few of their broader contributions to preservation as well. in addition to creating the white house historical association mrs. kennedy almost single-handedly preserved lafayette square. staring it from new federal buildings that would have radically altered its character and in doing so helping to establish the idea that the federal government should preserve cultural landscapes like the square. in 1966 when president johnson sent the final version of the national historic preservation act to congress. it was accompanied by a handwritten note from him that stated simply ladybird wants it. and on may the 8th 1973 almost exactly 50 years ago today first
lady patricia nixon read the first presidential proclamation of preservation month at where else but the story decatur house. saying as the pace of change accelerates in the world around us americans more than ever need a lively awareness of our roots and our origins in the past on which to base our sense of identity in the present and our directions for the future. to share more about these three first ladies as preservationists. we are joined by three brilliant women as our presenters today. speaking about mrs. kennedy will be barbara a perry. who is the gerald l biles professor and director of presidential studies at the university of virginia's miller center. she is the author of jacqueline kennedy first lady of the new frontier. speaking about mrs. johnson will be nancy keegan smith who began her career at the lbj library in
austin, texas and retired as the director of the presidential materials division at the national archives in washington. she is one of the founders of flair the first ladies association for research and education. and speaking about mrs. nixon will be mary c brennan. who is the author of pat nixon in battled first lady and currently serves as dean of the college of liberal arts at texas state university. with that, i'll turn it over to barbara, but we'll all be back for a q&a after the presentation. thank you. well, thank you so much catherine for guiding us and putting together this wonderful panel and unifying our conversations today on three amazing first ladies. i think i'm waiting for the powerpoint to pop up and there it is. and so if we can go to the next
slide, i'm going to be talking about mrs. kennedy's work on restoring the white house and several other projects. some of which katherine is already mentioned and putting it in the context of the cold war. of course the kennedy's were in power at the height of the cold war from 1961 to 1963 and it seems to me that we can actually broaden the scope of thinking about all that mrs. kennedy did in the white house and beyond by thinking about it as a part of the tactics if you will of fighting the cold war and let me explain what i mean by that. i mean by that is i'm using a foundational definition by fellow political scientists barbara hinckley and she wrote in a lovely monograph. i just adore it called the symbolic presidency how presidents present themselves and what she did was say that political symbols convey a larger range of meaning beyond themselves in other words beyond
just what they may look like to us and that they have a moral a psychological or emotional impact and then interestingly she said that the symbolic meaning need not be independently true, but will tap into ideas people want to believe in as true and so my first symbolic slide here in first picture is of mrs. kennedy at one of her state dinners. this was in june of 1961. probably her her top. i would say state dinner of the 16 or so that she in the president through particularly for heads of state this particular one she held at mount vernon and she voted down the guest on the potomac river to the mount vernon estate. this was for the head of state of pakistan president kahn and his wife and so you see president and mrs. kennedy and the cons standing out on that beautiful lawn of mount vernon, and this is kennedy was so
symbolic and so into imagery that she asked that the gown that she wore that night would be white and column nerve a similar to the beautiful columns on the front of mount vernon. so with that we'll to the next slide. and so in restoring the white house mrs. kennedy came in with this plan that she wanted to make sure that that the white house would be historic in its presentation to certainly the american people and beyond and it seems to me that it's perhaps not just coincidental that at the very time that she begins to focus her first lady on restoring the white house. there's a book that comes out in 1960 by a political scientist called professor richard newstat who would become the dean of presidential scholars, and he took this in a different direction. he took the concept of the power of the presidency, by the way. his book was called presidential power and whereas constitutional historians had been focusing on the formal powers of the
president as our spelled out in delineated in the constitution. he began to depart from that someone in the way that our earlier panels were talking about how we can view women in power and that is that he said the power of the is the power to persuade and to persuade those constituencies that he would need to get on his side in order to carry out his decisions and his policy so that would be congress. it would be obviously the electorate the american people the press and and foreign powers. and so president kennedy loved that book he gave it to those in his administration to read so i find that it is quite fascinating then that mrs. kennedy is sort of centering her first ladyship in the white house itself and restoring it and making it this great symbol for the united states as it had been earlier in its history to be sure but in a way that i think is helpful for the messages that the kennedy administration wanted to put out in the cold war. we know of course that mrs.
kennedy then established in 1962 the white house historical association, and we want to thank them and steward and of course anita an american university for putting together this wonderful conference today and then mrs. kennedy also as adolescent had come to the white house and had been very disappointed that there were no takeaways in the sense of something physical that she could purchase and take away as a souvenir. so i have my first souvenir of the white house. this is the guidebook from the early 1970s. my first trip to washington was as a senior in high school my mother and i came to washington. we took our tour of the white house and this is with mrs. nixon's opening point. we'll be talking about her in the white house today, but she puts a letter into this booklet and it is still in pristine condition. it is part of my wonderful memorabilia about the white house and this is mrs. kennedy as well. she gets the national geographic society together to help put together the photographs. she calls on arthur's lessenger
who of course was the harvard historian brought to the white house and advisor to the president, but the in-house historian and he loved working with mrs. kennedy. so he helped with the the narrative of it and should know that over the three branches of government. it's the white house that has the first historical association very soon after the capitol historical association would be founded about 10 years later the supreme court historical society, but mrs. kennedy was on the cutting edge and doing that and of course most of us know as well that she put together an office called the curator of the white house and again worked with that office and putting together this guidebook as well as a history of the presidents in a similar package that arthur schlessinger also helped her with let's move on then to the next slide in which we can talk about her famous 1960 to tour of the white house. this was something that really made a hit. it wasn't the first time that the american people have been taking on a televised tour of
the white house harry truman had done. so with walter cronkite in 1952 after the complete getting of the inside of the white house and the refurbishing of its infrastructure because it was literally falling apart and collapsing. and needed updating and ensuring up but this was mrs. kennedy in 1962 taking the american people and it turns out taking more than just the american people on a tour. we think about three out of four americans. watch this tour on valentine's day, february 1962, but it was also sent abroad by the us information service. and so now we get into my thoughts about the cold war messaging and it was even sent behind the iron curtain. so even more to the point about sending our messages out as we've talked about in our most recent panel about communications. here's mrs. kennedy sending out a message about the white house in its history not just to americans but all over the world and then i point to jfk's cameo appearance. he comes in at the end of the
tour and he sits down with mrs. kennedy and cbs is charles collingwood who had been the host for the evening and president. kennedy makes a very important statement in addition to thanking jackie for restoring. white house, but he says, you know when the united states was founded there was a king in france and as are in russia and an emperor in peking he calls it we didn't get call it beijing. he said there's an emperor in peking and and he says and all those are gone now, but the united states still remains, it's regime. it's form of democracy still remains, and we hope it will and he says he thinks that it's the white house that can symbolize that longevity of our regime. so i think that that is more than just a subtext about how we are an important country in the in the bipolar contest between the free world and the communist world. so let's go to the next mrs. kennedy wanted to make it clear that she wasn't merely as she
said redecorating the white house, but she said restoring it and she said to the great journalist and and person who covered the presidency i think in journalism better than anyone i can imagine and i've just been so delighted to get to know his daughter cindy who is at the white house historical association, and this is actually a picture of her father. he said he behind mrs. kennedy on that fateful day in dallas in 1963, but he did an interview with her very early in her first ladyship and then life magazine put together a feature cover story of her project and it is in that quotation that she says, this is not just redecorating, but this is restoring the white house, too. it's historic beauty and authenticity and she also makes the case that that is based on scholarship. not simply, you know changing paint and changing wallpaper. next slide please. and as catherine said jackie also helped along with her husband to rescue lafayette
square be aware that the burgeoning federal bureaucracy in the 1950s certainly starting in the fdr period but still growing in the 1950s had been such that the general services administration of the federal government believed that there needed to be more office space for federal bureaucrats and it decided it was going to zero in on lafayette square and it was going to knock down all of the townhomes there the row houses the somewhat more modern buildings and it was gonna put up high-rise office buildings. and when mrs. kennedy found this out, she was appalled and she went to her husband and said we must save lafayette square and he agreed with her and so he called upon his friend from california john carl. warnegie also called jack who was a west coast architect known for historic preservation. but also what is called an architecture. naturalization in other words when he would put up a new building he would have it fit in
to the neighborhood or to the college campus or in the case of creation the hawaii state capital it would reflect the context of the history of the topography of that area. and so what he was able to show mrs. kennedy in this model that they're looking at of lafayette square as we now know it would be to keep those beautiful 19th century townhomes and then put up office buildings behind those in red brick. so that wouldn't stand out like a sore thumb with modern building materials and keep them rather low-rise. so i always say to people go to lafayette square take a look at the beautiful townhomes including the one that dolley madison lived in and you almost won't be able to see the federal office buildings that are behind those beautiful historic buildings or their recreations and so mrs. kennedy made this case that she did to the gsa. administrator to the director of the gsa. she said i just think it's such a shame, you know, we we protect
buildings now like mount vernon, but we don't seem to care about 19th century buildings. and then she said a century from now will be sorry that they're all gone and they're replaced by these hideous glass skyscrapers next please. another area in of the white house neighborhood in lafayette square that she cared about was blair house where presidents had typically put up heads of state visiting heads of state and i came across this letter and i should say that when i did my book on mrs. kennedy's first lady ship as part of the university, press of kansas's modern first lady series. i did that book on mrs. kennedy in early 2000s and none of her papers had that at that time been open most are still closed at the kennedy library, but her papers on the restoration are now open as of about 2011, but i did discover a letter in the wardrobe museum exhibit that went around the country in the early 2000s about mrs. kennedy's wardrobe and included a letter that she wrote to henry dupont
the great owner and founder of the winter term museum in delaware the great expert on american decorative arts, and she assigned him and appointed him to be the head of the fine arts committee at the white house and she wrote to him on her. beautiful blue stationary in her stunning handwriting and she said we've got to do something about lafayette square. she said this is where we put up heads of state and yet the pain is peeling and their wire coat hangers, and there's a ghastly television set and over stuffed chairs. and here's the cold war message. she said and these are people who are coming from these countries. i would say she met third world countries in particular where she and president kennedy would reach out to third world country leaders and try to get them to our side and the cold war and she said they've probably just been to the soviet union and eating off. i've in the terrible gold plates and they've gone to the kremlin and then we put them up at this browsy blair house. so let's do something about that, too. let's redecorate it. so my point there is that again. she was it was more than a
subtext that she was interested in putting on a really good presentation for those who were coming to this country from other parts of the world and next please and this will take us then to nancy's presentation on lady bird and that is that of course mrs. kennedy said outright that she was interested in historic preservation and she indeed was but she also wants to make the point. i think that it is it is again based on scholarship and that is the foundation. i believe that she develops that lady bird can then plan on and build on because lady bird realized that some of the urban renewal projects of the kennedy era the eisenhower era the interstate the interstate highway systems that week today to this day see cutting through cities and and really ending neighborhoods and and knocking down historic buildings lady bird made sure that with this with a heritage so rich report
that she helped to guide but then became the basis for the national historic preservation act of 1966 that i really do believe that it is mrs. kennedy who if we can talking metaphorical terms of saving buildings. she started that foundation for mrs. johnson and then mrs. johnson, of course build the superstructure of historic preservation. so if there's more information that you would like if you see the next slide, my book has an entire chapter on mrs. kennedy's restoration of the white house as well as her work to preserve blair house and lafayette square. so, thanks again. i look forward to your questions. thank you so much barbara. what a fascinating fascinating presentation and a beautiful segue into our next panelist. so now we'll be hearing from nancy keegan smith. it is suppressor to be here today. i would like to thank the white house historical association katherine barbara and mary.
you're a great panel and i would just like to say that my presentation virtues on a little bit more personal as an archivist at the lbj library where i started my career in 1973. i had the wonderful privilege of getting to know mrs. johnson processing her beautification files for dr. lewis schools book and interviewing and talking with her in my slides anything that is scripted in brown script. it's mrs. johnson's writing and i did that way because she loved to use brown flair pan, although we advise you're not to use it because it wasn't permanent, but she loved to use brown flair pan to do her writing. in looking at mrs. johnson's
white house restoration efforts. we also learn a lot about the relationship between mrs. kennedy and the johnsons, which is somewhat different from a lot of public perceptions and how the restoration of these two first ladies reflected their personalities. we also learn about mrs. johnson's very substitute of efforts that really have not been given that much credit. so like the points julia was making earlier and terms of other issues that she wasn't given as much credit on. the two couples came from very different backgrounds the kennedys of course were raised in a background of eastern privilege surrounded by art and culture. the johnsons from texas rural
environments surrounded by nature these different backgrounds definitely influenced their taste and what they stressed in the restoration efforts. slide two, please. during the vice presidential years mrs. kennedy asked vice president johnson for help with white house restoration. she wanted three victorian chandeliers that had hung in the grant white house, but had later been transferred to the capitol back to the white house for her restoration. mrs. kennedy had asked the architect of the capitol and senator burr but to no effect in may of 1962. she writes a long letter to a vice president johnson some of which i will quote.
at jack's suggestion, i turn to you for help. i did not want to bother you. but now i wish i had. everyone knows you are legendary at making congress do things they don't want to do could you possibly accomplish this miracle dear lyndon? we could have a big unveiling the day they were put up. you could press the light switch and it could shine on mr. stewart's angry face. forgive me for troubling you but you are my friend. so i have the courage to ask you this mr. stewart. well only listen to you anyway, because the speaker raver i will desperately hope until i hear from you affectionately jackie. and we can play on this slide if you can the video. it was designed for the east
room in president grant's time. but it soon passed from room to room until it finally wound up gracing president theodore roosevelt new office. every time the door opened it tinkled. distracting him greatly he ordered it to be sent to the capital. and he was supposed to have said put it in the vice president's office and it will keep him awake. and there it remains until my husband became vice president in 1961. during mrs. kennedy's renovation. london was instrumental in returning yet to the white house. buried hangs today. this room has seen many treaty signings. in our time, i witnessed two treaties here. involving the geographic extremes of our country. the first was the the story of
the chandelier and to end it hung in the white house until the carter administration when the capital wanted it back mrs. carter said no and they ended up giving it back to the capitol because jimmy carter wanted some legislation pass. the tragic assassination changed so much including mrs. kennedy's white house restoration efforts. however, mrs. kennedy in spite of the heart that had happened still had the focus grace and composure to host the new first lady mrs. johnson at a tee on november 26 1963 to discuss housekeeping details in this meeting mrs. johnson remembered to me that mrs. kennedy had prepared a seven-page handwritten letter on yellow notepad giving detailed guidance on the history of what she had done in the white house and
advising mrs. johnson on her hope for continuing and making a permanent structure for white house restoration as there was no permanent structure at this time except for the white house historical association in an interview. i did with mrs. johnson. she said mrs. kennedy quote really wanted me to safeguard that and continue that her words fell on fertile ground because i care deeply about it although from a very different viewpoint because i wasn't formally trained in 19th century furniture art or anything like that. my drive was to get american artists represented in the white house and i did lady bird lets jackie know that president johnston formerly planned to establish a committee for the preservation of the white house.
jackie response by writing mrs. johnson in december of 1963 i'm touched that you want to do this thing. maybe i will be remembered as the person who started restoring the white house, but you will be the one who is remembered as preserving it and making sure for all time it was cared for. that was the moment. i was always scared of. would the next president's wife scrapped the whole thing as she was sick to death of hearing about jacqueline kennedy or which she forget about me and ensure the white house will be always cared for. well, you have done that and i thank you. precedent johnson passed executive order 11145 in march of 1964. it provided a formal structure for few future white house
restorations by making the white house curator of permanent government position and establishing the committee for the preservation of the white house. slide by place slide next okay. thank you, mrs. johnson said and these are her words that the white house had three main purposes which she kept in mind during her restoration. first it belonged to all of the people of the united states and it is the natural national museum. it really records the way of furnishing and the memories of the lives of everybody who has lived there from john and abigail adams on second it was the place where the head of nation extends hospitality to visiting heads of state. and third it's the home of the family day in and day out.
slide sixth place on may 7th. 1964 mrs. johnson held the first meeting of the committee for the preservation of the white house recording in her diary quote. this is the day i had regarded as an emotional hurdle something to teach my mental muscles for and to jump over successfully. she later told me she was scared quote because they belonged to a world that i didn't belong to most of them are terrifically knowledgeable in their own fields, but i really felt i left there with some good friends unquote. she wanted the group to focus on adding american art to the white house and practical things like replacing precious rugs with good copies. she was always concerned about
both beauty and practicality. slide 7 place of course mrs. johnson loved to beautify the environment and was the environmental first lady as julius swag has so aptly mentioned earlier. the white house grounds were no exception. one of our efforts was to complete jack blaine kennedy's restoration of the east garden making it a hedge border retreat and the 18th century style. she decided to dedicate this garden to jack queen kennedy inviting her to the dedication, but mrs. kennedy could not come back to the white house writing mrs. johnson in april of 1965 quote. thank you for dedicating the garden. i was more touched than i can possibly express to you.
by the way, you did it the things you said the people you asked to be there you have been so understanding of my reluctance to come back to the white house. i appreciate all that and the garden when you first mentioned it i never thought it should have been named for me. but as i see it now a garden for a wife and little children. i think it is as it grows more beautiful every year it will always be make people remember the side of precedent kennedy all as gentleness and love. slide eight, please. in 1967 mrs. johnson decided to embark on the project of getting a new state white house china set. the china that she picked reflected her desire to support american companies. tiffany and company was the
designer, castleton china of pennsylvania the manufacturer. the china reflected her love of beautification using wildflowers on the border of the china plate and the dessert plate. it was funded by an anonymous donor and purchased through the white house historical association establishing a new president for the private funding of presidential state services. slide 9 place in 1968 mrs. johnson made a movie which i just discovered for this presentation called the president's house in contrast to mrs. kennedy's more formal movie. this movie was never aired in in mrs. johnson decides to show the family quarters of the white house going room to room and telling stories about the
families had look who had lived there in the family living room. she talks about some of the american paintings and their meaning to her as required as part of the white house restoration efforts and if we can play the movie now, he's as a reminder of our time here is the addition to the white house permanent collection of paintings. thomas sully is portrait of fannie campbell a share romance, and i love it. this is our most recent acquisition for the permanent collection. robert henry's gypsy girl the first painting acquired during our stay at the white house. was winslow home was sorry it perhaps neck. i saved my favorite the mary cassat for last. you can almost feel the love between the mother and those children. look at that little girl. is she wondering but the small
child is going to mean to her life? it's such a deer painting. it seems to set the tone of the room. it's where the family shared so many personal and intimate moments. where we eve as in her last meeting of the committee for the preservation of the white house. and i in the last meeting of the committee for depression of the white house on december 12. 1968 mrs. johnson makes an interesting observation saying the committee mistakenly did not quote promote our acquisitions and our goals all the pictures we wanted i came very late to the uses of power it would have been possible to create an atmosphere that it was smart and very very patriotic to give the painting to the white house, but
it comes more easily to me to thank than to ask. in spite of this the accomplishments had been many and reflected of mrs. johnson's personality ranging from new copies of white house rugs buying new curtains for the state dining room formalizing for the future the structure of white house restorations with the curator and committee and adding many new pieces to the permanent collection and inspiring as many american artists as possible for display in the white house slide 10 place. her last project was a gift to the white house which was finished and dedicated on january 19th. 1969 the white house children's garden. in talking to two previous curators very monthman and bill on and i found out that mrs.
johnson wrote a letter to curator james caption describing which is part of the permanent white house collection describing what she hoped this garden with me. i have just walked down to see the tiny little garden which we want to leave for white house children and grandchildren a days to come. i like the way it's tough away and you are almost surprised to come across the flagstones leading through secret tunnel line by holly trees. i think of the spot as the sort of place the first lady who is the grandmother might will a baby carriage and sit in the shade and very especially it would be a good place for a four year old to have a tea party or watch the goldfish in the little pond or for their mother or grandmother to read about peter
rabbit or winning the poop and a funny little story. is that when they took lynn newton down to the garden he immediately ran in to the pond so mrs. johnson, of course, he's rescued by lucy writes catch him that they need to put a fence around the little pond. to the end mrs. johnson's substantial efforts for white house restoration were true to her lives of americana the outdoors. and making the white house a beautiful and comfortable place for subsequent presidential families and the nation and then my last slide. slide 11 thanks, everyone who has helped including the white house historical association the white house curator the lbj
library and museum and former white house curators betty monkman and their arms. thank you very much. nancy thank you so much mrs. johnson is such an important preservationist, but you brought her to life with those details and in her own words in such a beautiful way. thank you. and with that we'll turn to our third panelist. and then again, we'll all be back to answer some questions. so i hope you're thinking of great questions to drop in the chat, but with that i'm delighted to turn it over to mary brennan. thank you, katherine. we have just heard two wonderful presentations focused on first ladies. you probably already associated with preservation and now here i am talking about pat nixon and you're thinking there has to be some kind of mistake after all plastic pat with her quote
jcpenney taste and quote is one critic put it could not possibly have contributed to anything as sophisticated as white house preservation. now mrs. nixon was very aware of the assumptions about her about her reputation and and she was somewhat reluctant to step into the preservation arena. but her dedication to ordinary people as opposed to what she would label the big shots led her into what i will argue is an altered version of preservation. for nixon any discussion of the white house has to begin with a concept of expansion or what we would call today accessibility. in her view the white house was the people's house all of the people. continuing this line of reasoning of course meant that the white house should also be a showplace. she willingly could slow down just a little bit. she willingly she willingly turned to experts to help her
accomplish this goal in the end. she succeeded in both of these goals accessibility and preservation without most of the american public even knowing that she had had any hand in it. in these efforts in her efforts to do this as in most aspects of her life nixon's accomplishments were lost in the midst of her husband's career. now i think we have to begin and that's where this slide really begins with the fact that mrs. nixon's background was very different from her predecessors from both mrs. johnson and mrs. kennedy and even mrs. eisenhower's with certain extent. she came from a very humble background. she worked most of her life here. we have a picture of her working in in ordering her way through college. she worked as a teacher and then we go to the next slide you can see that even as she and and it got married and started their political career. they were still struggling. this is they they use most of their own money to finance his early career when he became vice
president. they were still struggling to try and kind of get by she was still making a lot of her own clothes. she she had some help but not too much help and so she still has a lot of things that she's doing one last point that i think is important here before we get to the presidency and this third picture the little picture down at the bottom is actually taken in between their kind of their years in washington. so it's just this particular picture is a trip that they took to berlin, but i do want to mention that after the nixon's left dc they moved to california and then they moved to new york and when they moved to new york, this is the first time that the nixon's really have money -- has sold his first book. he he's working for a big law firm and he gives her free rein to decorate and this is the important point here even though she has this free reign and she does by gold-plated trap gold plated traps for some of the sinks. she also hand makes the curtains for the girls rooms. she's still this girl from this
this farm in you know, this truck farming in california. and so this this duality i think is very important in understanding her and understanding how she sees the white house go to the next slide. when they finally get to the white house, it's important to remember that she's not new to the white house after all she had been in the white house numerous times when she was second lady. she actually got along very well with me eisenhower. she got invited to the family quarters before --. did she also had a good relationship with mrs. johnson as as nancy had just pointed out she and mrs. johnson new one another for the years when she was the second lady mrs. johnson was what her husband was in the senate so they had a relationship and mrs. johnson was very good about inviting her inviting the nixon's in to kind of see how they were going to live in the white house thing. we have one more picture on this slide of this and this was this was one of her first goals when she moved into the white house
was to get the family set up so that they could be comfortable now once she does that once she realizes that then her next goal really is to think about how she is going to approach how she is going to approach her job as first lady? and this is where we get to this that that shot. i had in the beginning about about the little people the ordinary people and the big shots the the first day that they're actually in the white house. they are she's get she's talking to some campaign workers and she says quote you'll all be invited back. we're gonna have our friends here instead of all the big shots now. she got a little bit of trouble from her own press secretary and from her husband because she said that she said no, of course, we're gonna have everybody back, but i think it's important to remember that for mrs. nixon ordinary people the little people were important to her this you can also see this in her i would almost call an
obsession with her correspondence. she's been a tremendous amount of time going over correspondence because she knew that a letter from the white house could make someone's reputation in small town or would be passed around so that everyone could see and she thought that this was very important. she thought this was a huge part of her responsibility as first lady was to make sure that people did have access to the president but also especially access to the white house. this at this desire to be able to make the white house more accessible. we can see in various forms. now what we have here is a nighttime tour of the white house and this is one of the things that mrs. nixon had thought about is what about the people who work and live in dc but who never have a chance to tour the white house or do you even really see the white house as part of their community because it's dark or because it's only open while they're at work.
so she started nighttime tours. she also started lighting up the white house so that everyone could see it as they were driving past, but that wasn't enough because there has to be more so she also if you go to the next slide, she also revives something that had existed earlier in the century. and that is the white house garden tours. now the white house garden tours had taken place and annually twice a year until pearl harbor and then they had been stopped but in 1973, she brings them back and here you see pat and -- nixon leading the first of these tours through the rose garden in april of 1973. this desire on her part, and i'm not sure if you can actually see her on this picture, but if you go to the next slide and go to the first go ahead and go to this picture this first picture right here down here where she's surrounded all these people you look at the smile on her face for a lot of years people talked about mrs. nixon as plastic pat and if you look at more formal
pictures of her the first picture that i had the very first picture that i had up she can have this very kind of stiff smile on her face, but if you look at this picture of her surrounded by these children, this is a diplomatic. this is a party for children of the diplomatic corps. you can see the genuine affection. she liked people and people liked her and because of this sense of warm, she really wanted to open the white house up to different groups of people and she was especially interested in making children feel wealthy. welcome now the picture that you see up here is a picture with pat in with pat and michael newsome, who is who is of the she was he was the poster child for her in 1972? now in her biography of her mother julie nixon tells the story of one of these visits by a child and that mrs. nixon was telling the child that you know, this was her home and this was
everybody's home, but it was but she lived there and the little boy said well, no, i don't believe you this. is it really your house? and she said well, what do you mean? it's not my house and he said well, where's your washing machine? and she said well, okay. i'll show you and so she took him and they went up to the third floor and she showed him the washing machines and then they came back down hand in hand in a little boy was grinning and his parents remarked that this was the first time he had gone anywhere with a stranger but in mrs. nixon's mind she was in a stranger because this was her home and this should be everyone's home and everyone should be welcome and to make that possible. she was very interested in the tours and you we heard earlier about the the tour guide that that we had with her letter in the front of the tour guide, and she wanted to make sure that brochures were published in all different languages and she also made a special effort and this is her standing in the in the hallway, and she's actually
speaking to tour guides and one of the things that she did was to set up special tours for the hearing impaired and they made sure at that point one of the things that they were that they really concentrated on was lip reading and so she made sure that all of the tour guides in you that they should face front that they should make sure that everyone could see them as they were speaking. that was one way to make sure that people had access if you go to the next slide we can see another example. this is julie nixon eisenhower giving a tour for site impaired children. mrs. nixon realized that the visually impaired really couldn't have access to this. so in addition to recording an audio tour so that they could hear things. she also set up special tours and if you can see in the picture some of the children have gloves on they have gloves on because they're actually being allowed to touch the sculpture. there and so they went through and they had special things set up so that these children could see what was going on with their
hands and they could touch the sculptures. they could touch some of the wallpaper and they could actually take part in a tour in a way that they wouldn't be able to otherwise. the other thing that she realized fairly early is that there was there there was no way for anyone who was in a wheelchair to be able to take part in these tours. so she installed the first wheelchair ramps in the east wing and the north portico to again make sure that the white house was accessible to everyone and that everyone was going to have access to it. all of these efforts go along with this idea up expanding the notion of not just i mean if you think about what we talked about earlier with mrs. kennedy and then with mrs. johnson, this is not just about redecorating. it's about restoring but it's also about making certain that the white house is available for everyone and that's the first part of what we have with mrs. nixon, but that isn't where it
ends because she is also very aware and very proud to be living in the white house and to she wants to continue what mrs. kennedy and mrs. johnson had begun by by turning the white house into a showplace. but she realizes that she needs some help here if you go to the next slide. but no go back one more. okay, so she's going to she's going to seek help with this and she's going to say okay. i have to talk to people. so this is this is her meeting with a 1970 with the committee for the preservation of the white house and they talked about their desire to to update and renovate and restore seven staterooms. she looked around and there was carpet that you know millions of tourists coming through walked on things that needed to be revamped, but that that they also needed to kind of continue the work that had begun. so go to the next slide, please
and this for this purpose she turns to clement conjure and i might be pronouncing his name wrong. so i hope that i am not now. he was the deputy chief of protocol and the curator for the state department and she convinced him that he should come over and work with her at the white house and they began this very methodical process of going through the rooms of looking at the furn. of looking at what the artwork it looking at everything that was available so that they would be able to see what they had and what they didn't have so that they would be able to kind of get through and and kind of take advantage of what was there, but also try to restore many parts of the white house to where it had begun if you go to the next slide we can see her kind of unveiling one of these. this is the green room and the work on this room had actually begun many years earlier, but she and conjure gave the room a classical early 19th century
style and featured american sheraton furniture and donated and donated items and go ahead. there's a one more little picture of the green room and i think if you go to the next room to the next slide one of the things that i want to point out is that is that she worked very hard to to try and and kind of get the right pieces and in doing that this could be this could be very expensive. i think there's one more picture on this slide chris. there you go in in doing this it was it was important to be able to find the pieces. and then convince people to perhaps loan them back to the white house or to donate them to the white house. and now this is something that had been done and actually the the room on the on the upper left an upper right here. there's actually a silver collection back in the corner and this one had been donated this silver collection is a gilded silver collection had been donated much earlier.
but i i point this out because while some things were donated the white house others. had to be bought and for this and for the work itself for the the rebuilding and the restoring of the the woodwork and the floors everything else mrs. nixon would set up these luncheons or these teas and they would invite people in and they would have they would say, okay. so now come in and this is what we're planning to do here and this is going to take a little work and we need your help and support in this and and so mrs. johnson nancy pointed out that mrs. johnson didn't like to ask people for money, but she was very good at saying thank you mrs. nixon was was good at bringing people in and charming them and showing them this is what we have and this is what we would like to accomplish and you could be a part of all of this and helping to convince them that they should actually donate the money to be able to create
the the room and to restore the white house to to its former glory and that is really what they they very much worked on. now they like to be able to go out and to get some of the the pieces back. i think we go to the next slide. we have the portrait of louisa adams that they wanted to attend and then this this portrait of dolley madison. this was one of their biggest cues. so so mr. collins was out looking at some pieces at the pennsylvania art gallery of fine arts. it depends when you academy of fine arts. i'm sorry and he saw that not only did they have the piece that he was he had come there to kind of talk to them about but they also had this portrait of dolley madison and they very much wanted that to be back in the white house and and so they succeeded he and mrs. nixon succeeded and convincing them convincing the gallery to allow them to have it back and to bring it back so that she would
she could be back in the white house where she belong so the gallery donated it for the no they l for a time and that eventually it was donated to the white house. this it was now hung in the in the red room where mrs. mrs. nixon had the walls painted the same red as in the the drapes so that it would it would match. by the time she left the white house in 1974. i didn't go to the first one and just leave the first picture there. there you go. all right by the time that she left the white house in 1974. she and conjure had added more than 500 18th and 19th century pieces of american furniture artwork chandeliers rugs and rugs to the collection many of these pieces were loaned to the white house, although some were purchased. the american public was almost completely unaware of the fact that mrs. nixon had done any of these works and although she was
often pressed as to why she didn't like people know you should let people know you're doing all of this work and so people would ask her why she didn't want why she wasn't telling people that she was doing this. oh, she wasn't necessarily keeping it a secret, but she really wasn't promoting it nor did she make it something that but no she really pointed out to her husband's press people because they they had kind of really saw her as as kind of good press coverage. and so if they had realized that they might have pushed us, but she never does that and when she was asked why she said she didn't wish to be compared to her predecessors and i had to say that in particular she was very sensitive about being compared to mrs. kennedy. if we go to there's two little pictures on here. and i think you can see why here now the the news we cover. it's from 1960. and what's interesting. is that campaign in that campaign? they very specifically the media very specifically kind of.
i don't want to say they pit jackie against pat, but there really is this sense of okay. so here we have team jackie and here we have team pat and they would run these articles and they would compare their wardrobes and they would compare their styles and they would talk about that and you have to remember these women were were roughly the same age. although the public tended to perceive them in very different kinds of age groups. so these these are people who are who had been who had been kind of competitors that the campaign in 1960 was a very hard font campaign. it was a very difficult campaign for mrs. nixon when mrs. nixon were mrs. nixon lost the campaign. she actually thought of it is losing she lost the campaign and so she took it very personally and so she said no. no, i'm not going to do this and i want to tell one very brief story here and part of the reason perhaps that she was a little gun. shy about this when moved into
the white house. there was a mantle piece in her bedroom. and this mantle piece had actually been they had planned to remove this. they plan to remove this earlier mrs. johnson. it really didn't fit in with the decor that we're going to remove it, but it didn't get done until mrs. nixon was there. the problem was that on the mantle was a plaque inscribed in this room. john fitzgerald john fitzgerald kennedy lived with his wife jacqueline during the two years 10 months and two days. he was president of the united states. pat trade it out the old one not she intended to she wanted to get remove any trace of the kennedys, but because it had already been planned that this was done and that this was historically more accurate at least one washington paper. however accused mrs. kennedy of trying to to erase history by removing any trace of the kennedys. now i do want to say one little thing because because i i want
to empty since i brought this story up. i think we need one more story to close this out nancy alluded to the fact that in 1965 mrs. johnson had invited jackie to come to the to attend the opening of her garden. in 1974 the nixons invited mrs. kennedy and her children to come to the formal unveiling of her husband's portrait and go to the next picture. and mrs. kennedy said that she would as long as it was kept secret and the nixon's did this was on lockdown very few people knew that was having glue. no media people knew that it was happening before it happened. they very few of the staff knew that it was having they kept the whole thing very it was it was a family dinner. they gave the children the girls the nixon girls took the cook john and caroline on it on a tour and let's gave them a moment alone in the oval office. they they let mrs. kennedy be have some time in front of the portrait. and so they all kind of recognized that this was in this
was an important moment and mrs. kennedy thanked, mrs. nixon afterwards and and told her that it had been very difficult for it to come back. she had been dreading it and that she was very glad that it had happened and that mrs. nixon had handled it. so well. and then she said that she had done she had succeeded from what she could see she had succeeded in turning the white house into an authentic showplace. mrs. nixon mrs. nixon i'll kind of conclude with the fact that mrs. nixon did what she wanted to do you go to the last very last slide mrs. nixon did what she which she wanted to do and that is she was she was able to preserve the dignity in the beauty of the white house and also to make certain that more americans than ever would have access to experience it whether or not her work would have been recognized and become if it become public knowledge will never know because because as with many things it all just kind of got shrouded in the in this the watergate scandal and it kind of went away and so mrs.
all of mixes nixon's work is available to anybody who wants to go and see it and is with most of these first ladies the white house to her was more than just it was a place for her family lived, but it was all so a place for the entire country to be able to to enjoy so thank you very much and i will turn it back over to katherine. thank you so much, mary, what wonderful presentations and what a tremendous legacy of preservation these three first ladies represent as i was listening to you. also. i was thinking, you know, one of the things that i think is one of the great strengths of preservation in general. i'm a big tent preservationist is that um, everybody can bring their own anybody can bring their own passions and interests and find a place in the work of preservation and oh my goodness, you're a presentation and these your presentations and these
first ladies certainly demonstrate that thank you so much. well we have time for some great questions from our audience. and so i want to start with one from our audience that really gets at you know you all each so beautifully laid out this sort of continuum of preservation between these three first ladies, but but one question from our audience about a specific sort of preservation moment and how it influenced first ladies going forward so from craig did mrs. kennedy's emmy win for her tour help influence the future for white house restoration efforts with the other first ladies i think nancy would you like to answer that or start answering wrong? i would like to say that mrs.
johnson flight is is barbara bush said something and certainly michelle obama and many first ladies have said it when they're asked. what type of first lady do you want to be and i think barbara was asked do you want to i'm sorry. laura was asked you want to be barbara and she said no. i want to be more. okay, mrs. johnson came in at a terrible time her whole goal. she told me was to support mrs. kennedy mrs. kennedy have the word with all. three days after the assassination to say i really like you to work on this one like you to make it permanent and this is really important to me and so it became very important to mrs. johnson. i don't think that mrs. kennedy's. winning the yummy while mrs.
johnson was showing on and admired mrs. kennedy so much influenced mrs. johnson in terms of what she wanted to do. she wanted the american women to the white house. she sort of put as mrs. nixon did her own and as subsequent firstly did their own play on the white house to improve it, but certainly in mrs. johnson's case i can say she fell she needed to be true to yourself. and i don't think she was following and you know an emmy. understood barbara any any thoughts on the on the emmy win itself? sure. well, first of all, i agree with nancy wholeheartedly lady bird johnson and pat nixon as mary showed where their own ladies their own first ladies and their own personalities and brought
their own stamp as all first. ladies do to the white house. i would just say the emmy shows the popularity of the tour the televised tour 1962 and how it was received in we've already talked about first ladies and popular culture. it actually became such a part of popular culture so much so that if people have seen the fairly recent movie jackie, they know that that piece both the camelot interview that mrs. kennedy did right after the assassination and the tour in 1962 became a major part of that hollywood film several years ago. well, and i would just say that i don't think it's a matter of following up. i think that that anytime you have something like mrs. kennedy's tour in which in which what she did was kind of open up the possibility. i think that was that was really kind of if they followed in any way they followed that they followed this thing that we can say. yes. this is our home. this is where we live and this
is anybody can come here and be a part of this and i think that's the part that they if they were following anything. they were following her example and kind of building on that tradition and i do think that was important and i do think it's interesting that i found this video this that has been aired in 1968, which so different barbara from mrs. kennedy's white house tour and i i would love to know, you know the real race and missus johnson never aired the video. that it certainly shows a lot of interesting things and it emphasizes more of the family component and are telling family stories. right and just add katherine just to say i think to mary's point that what mrs. kennedy does is she institutionalizes by virtue of the white house historical association getting museum status for the white
house setting up the various committees and and fundraising in part through the books at so she she sets up on infrastructure that allows these other first ladies to continue, but she certainly wasn't the first to restore the white house or work on restoration of the white house. there's a whole series of first ladies and presidents prior to that. absolutely. well, i was just going to say nancy. what a remarkable discovery during the the process of preparing this presentation. and so i guess quickly. i'll ask the other two of you. you know, you are tremendous scholars of these first ladies. is there anything you learned that was was new to you as you looked at them as preservationists? well, i actually last night was looking for some more information on john carl warnicki the architect from the west coast who worked with mrs. kennedy by virtue of his
friendship. first of all with president kennedy, and so there's a really brilliant lecture given by a stanford architectural history professor last year about john carl warnicki, and he spends a fair amount of time talking about this relationship with miss kennedy, but i learned a lot about this concept of contextualization and i i knew that that he was famous for being able to preserve historically while building buildings for modern use, but interestingly they said because of this concept of contextualization that he would build a building for each of the context in which he was designing. he didn't become known for a particularly was so art. i mean i knew this but it only reinforces that it was so our team so artist so knowledgeable about history and architecture that that was very meaningful to her and i had known that the thing but this professor goes into a little bit more detail that after president kennedy's
assassination, by the way. he wanted wernicke to design his presidential library in cambridge and warren key ends up as it turns out sadly designing the arlington grave side of the president, but then warricky who was divorced at that point was kennedy done a widow they fall in love and they have a romantic relationship. obviously it ends eventually and she marries airy onassis. but yeah, it was an another interesting element to the story. absolutely well and you know contextualism becomes just a fundamental tenant of preservation in particularly how we for the federal government in particular regulates preservation that it's easy to forget there was a time when we didn't consider the context of a neighborhood as we thought about how to how to preserve it mary. did you did you learn anything new? i learned a tremendous amount in your oh i i yes no when i mean
looking at all this and especially the part that really kind of that. i really learned that i i didn't really talk about in in my biography of her was all on the stuff about accessibility and about really how she she opens things up to a broader part of the population, which makes perfect sense with everything else that she does and with her interest in in people and individuals, so it does make sense, but i had known a lot of the the all of the variety of things you know, i mean the wheelchair ramps and the tours and all kinds of things that you can see how far we've come since then but really that the way that she kind of recognized that okay. this is a problem. we need to do something about this. and the touching tours where people are allowed to touch this the sculptures. that's amazing. why the other thing i'm learned will try to just fascinated by
and talking to three curators the current one and two previous. is that letter mrs. johnson road on the children's garden to get to the permanent collection. she was sort of starting to start a history a first place when they left the white house sort of riding water for the permit correction and what was important it didn't really start the trend, but the letter is very interesting and it's very vintage mrs. johnson. and in fact that she would do that with that say well and list carpenter and bestest the other person she was so close to and they started about the 10th and it was completed on the 19th and then in her next meeting was with pat nixon show her the white house. and and mary, i think it's
interesting in that meetings. she's showing pat nixon pat nixon wants to know what's in storage and how they get furniture. and is it expensive and stuff like that? that's sort of the that well, and she and her daughter had just gotten married so they had also given away a lot of their furniture for julian david's apartment. so she was also kind of law in between furniture but yes ever the frugal frugal housewife definitely. well, we have another great question from the from the crowd and how does public opinion or interest shape the historical preservation efforts of the first ladies? i'll take i'll take a step at that catherine. i think it can influence it in two ways and i'll speak about the way i think it influenced mrs. kennedy one was that she was always concerned as well. she should be about any taint of
scandal that that might attach itself to acquiring money acquire using congressional money acquiring furniture. how much was being paid for it? so she always knew that there was a cutting edge there that if you slipped over just as anything a president does or a member of the family does and certainly the first lady does that it could turn public opinion could turn capital hill against you the first lady and then perhaps your husband so it can be a negative consideration in that way, but i certainly think looking on the positive side that both president mrs. kennedy really wanted the public as we were talking about with mrs. nixon and as well really wanted the public. come and savor this symbol of american democracy as president. kennedy talks about in this cameo appearance in the televised tour in 1962 and indeed the figures went way up to a little bit under a million people coming through the white house and the end of the
eisenhower era to well over a million people coming through in the kennedy era. so it was working in a very positive way that way in president kennedy thought he would be running for re-election in 1964 for a second term and i think that's always a consideration as well. well, obviously mrs. nixon obviously mrs. nixon knew that there were that this was this was the public received this as mrs. kennedy's domain i and that she was very reluctant to try and step into that or to kind of set herself up for a comparison there. and so i think public opinion really did affect not what she did but how public she let if she didn't let the public know what it was she was doing. and in mrs. johnson's case. i think it just reaffirmed and mrs. johnson to be mrs. johnson in other words mrs. johnson was very clear with me. she was terrified before the
first committee for the preservation of the white house. these were experts it wasn't her world. she felt comfortable with bringing in america with in the first meaning it's really funny. they're talking about getting expensive rights where i think it was the state dining room and mrs. johnson is going well, aren't they walk down these antique rocks ruins. they finally come to the conclusion. maybe they should get good copies, but i think that the public opinion influenced her and then she loved it didn't want to compete with mrs. kennedy and just sort of enabled her to be more. class he raised with through the white house historical association and through their own brands a lot of things. the first ones were homer that was added walked in through a
good texas friend of hers in a paper bag to the first meeting of the committee for the preservation and said, i have a little pressure for you. what a great story and so we'll we'll end on that fantastic story, but thanks so much to all of you barbara and nancy and mary for just bringing these first ladies to life and they're extraordinary work as preservationists and their legacies as president to use
camp david and set a precedent for hosting dignitaries there when he invited british prime minister winston churchill to be his guest. this is an hour. >> it is and gentlemen, please welcome the chief executive officer of the george w. bush presidential center, can hersh hersh. [applause] >> like you, and welcome to the engaged theories