1225RE: [tr-m] RE: He is everywhere thread--Christmas Trees
- Jan 5, 2006
Here is some info from the web—
There was almost a break in the tradition during the tenure of President Theodore Roosevelt. The story is that in 1902 the president, an ardent conservationist, forbad his children to have a Christmas tree on the grounds that it would undermine his conservation program  ; often, the children in question are identified as Archie and Quentin.  Roosevelt is reported to have said "It's not good to cut down trees for mere decoration. We must set a good example for the people of America ." However when the matter was broached with Gifford Pinchot, a cabinet member and founder of the Yale School of Forestry, the President relented. Pinchot assured the President that thinning the forest by cutting down Christmas trees actually helped the forest thrive. It is reported that after this episode, the Roosevelts had a small tree each year.
Roosevelt, in a letter to Master James A. Garfield, dated December 26, 1902, wrote:
Yesterday morning at a quarter of seven all the children were up and dressed and began to hammer at the door of their mother's and my room, in which their six stockings, all bulging out with queer angles and rotundities, were hanging from the fireplace. So their mother and I got up, shut the window, lit the fire, taking down the stockings, of course, put on our wrappers and prepared to admit the children. But first there was a surprise for me, also for their good mother, for Archie had a little Christmas tree of his own which he had rigged up with the help of one of the carpenters in a big closet; and we all had to look at the tree and each of us got a present off of it. [Emphasis added.] There was also one present each for Jack the dog, Tom Quartz the kitten, and Algonquin the pony, whom Archie would no more think of neglecting than I would neglect his brothers and sisters. Then all the children came into our bed and there they opened their stockings. Afterwards we got dressed and took breakfast, and then all went into the library, where each child had a table set for his bigger presents. Quentin had a perfectly delightful electric railroad, which had been rigged up for him by one of his friends, the White House electrician, who has been very good to all the children. 
In a letter to his sister, Mrs. Douglas Robinson, Dec. 26, 1903, President Roosevelt wrote:
We had a delightful Christmas yesterday—just such a Christmas thirty or forty years ago we used to have under Father's and Mother's supervision in 20th street and 57th street .
At seven all the children came in to open the big, bulgy stockings in our bed; Kermit's terrier, Allan, a most friendly little dog, adding to the children's delight by occupying the middle of the bed. From Alice to Quentin, each child was absorbed in his or her stocking, and Edith certainly managed to get the most wonderful stocking toys. Bob was in looking on, and Aunt Emily, of course.
Then, after breakfast, we all formed up and went into the library, where bigger toys were on separate tables for the children. I wonder whether there ever can come in life a thrill of greater exaltation and rapture than that which comes to one between the ages of say six and fourteen, when the library door is thrown open and you walk in to see all the gifts, like a materialized fairy land, arrayed on your special table? 
Roosevelt wasn’t against Christmas, however, in two works published in 1913, he wrote about Christmas customs observed by the Roosevelt family.
In ["The Yale Book of American Verse’s"] the anthology of hymns, for instance, besides all the great hymns, from Bernard of Morlais to Cowper and Wesley and Bishop Heber, I would like to put in some hymns as to which I know nothing except that I like them. Every Christmas Eve in our own church at Oyster Bay , for instance, the children sing a hymn beginning "Its Christmas Eve on the River, its Christmas Eve on the Bay." Of course the hymn has come to us from somewhere else, but I do not know from where; and the average native of our village firmly believes that it is indigenous to our own soil—which it can not be, unless it deals in hyperbole, for the nearest approach to a river in our neighborhood is the village pond. 
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of prosperena
Sent: Wednesday, January 04, 2006 7:10 PM
Subject: [tr-m] RE: He is everywhere thread
Regarding TR's banning of Christmas trees in the White House... The same "trivia question" appeared a couple of weeks ago in the online "Martha Stewart Newsletter." This is the answer according to that website: "Theodore Roosevelt prohibited Christmas trees in the White House for fear of undermining his forest-conservation efforts." A similar posting appears at: http://www.bugwood.org/christmas/BHHTT.html: "Theodore Roosevelt decided for the sake of forest conservation that the White House would not have a tree. His two sons snuck a small tree into their room and were caught, to the embarrassment of their father." And here: http://www.clover.okstate.edu/fourh/aitc/lessons/extras/facts/cmastree.html
"President Theodore Roosevelt - known for his campaign for the con servation of natural resources - banned the use of such trees for White House festivities. Shortly afterward he discovered that two of his sons had smuggled a tree into the mansion and set it up in their room. The boys appealed to their father's good friend, Gifford Pinchot, ' America 's first professional forester.' Pinchot convinced the president that if young evergreens were properly cut, it was helpful rather than harmful."
Neither site cites its sources but they seem fairly reliable. Perhaps someone can find definitive information in one of the (unnamed) boys correspondence...?
--Kari E. Johnson
Los Angeles , CA
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