12.08.2008

A New Ornament Commemorates President Benjamin Harrison and The First White House Christmas Tree

In 1981, the White House Historical Association began offering an annual ornament in honor of a United States President. The 2008 White House ornament has a Hoosier history.

The ornament is a tribute to the nation's 23rd president and the only president from Indiana, Benjamin Harrison. In 1889, for the first time in White House history, President Harrison and his wife Caroline put ornaments on an inside evergreen and placed gifts for the family and White House staff around it.

Ornament collector Jamia Jacobsen said she started collecting the White House ornaments in 1981 while she was in Washington D.C. She said her favorite may be the Benjamin Harrison ornament.

"And it's just so intricate and so special this year," said Jacobsen.

Benjamin Harrison Home President and CEO Phyllis Geeslin said an artist spent four days in the home earlier this year studying Harrison before settling on the tree design.

"We have always known here at the Harrison home how much Benjamin Harrison loved Christmas," said Geeslin.  The toys under the tree, including a train and a doll house, were given by President Harrison to three of his six grandchildren while they lived with him in the White House.

"And of course Benjamin and Caroline had a son and a daughter and both of their families, from time to time, lived in the White House,? said Geeslin. Each White House ornament comes beautifully displayed in a box that gives a detailed history of the ornament and its president. Leslie Olsen, WISH-TV

(Click here for the Video of the story)
Read more about the annual White House Ornament.

On a personal note: It was one of my favorite times of the year to help decorate the Harrison Home for Christmas and work with my friends and colleges there preparing exhibits and school programs teaching about a Harrison Christmas and that first White House Christmas tree.

I also LOVE Phyllis. She's a wonderful woman who has done more to promote the memory of President Benjamin Harrison and his home than any Director, President or CEO the Harrison Home has ever had. They are so very very fortunate to have had her loving and guiding hand there for these 15 years! Cheers!

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