After serving as Eisenhower’s Vice President and then losing the election of 1960 to John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon retreated from executive-level politics until 1967, when he decided to again run for President in the election of 1968. Appealing to the “Silent Majority” of socially conservative Americans as well as promising peace in Southeast Asia, Nixon beat out Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace to become the 37th President of the United States.
For President Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon’s first Christmas in the White House in 1969, they began a tradition of gifting Presidential portraits to their staff members. That year they gave reproductions of Gilbert Stuart’s famous portrait of George Washington (the same portrait that Eisenhower used for inspiration to paint his 1954 Christmas gift print).
Hallmark’s services were once again used to produce 3,500 colored prints. Each print was matted and contained a gold plaque with the inscription, “George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, The White House Collection from The President and Mrs. Nixon, Christmas 1969.” The Washington keepsakes were than encased in red velour folders, each folder embossed with the Presidential Coat of Arms and accompanied by a gold-inscribed parchment cover sheet describing the portrait.
For their first official Presidential Christmas cards, the Nixons used a Hallmark customized design featuring an embossed engraving of the south view of the White House on a cream colored stock bounded with a red and gold border. Hallmark printed 40,000 White House Christmas cards for President Nixon and the First Lady, most of which were sent to heads of government, business associates, and friends.
On December 16, with Mrs. Nixon and daughter Tricia at his side, the President lit his first National Community Christmas Tree. The tree, a 75-foot Norway spruce from Glen Falls, New York, was illuminated by 9,000 red and white lights. Speaking over 200 rowdy anti-war protestors, the President discussed a new era of peace in his first official Christmas greeting to the American people. He said, “…as we light this nation’s Christmas tree, our wish, our prayer, is for peace, the kind of peace that exists not just of now but that gives a chance for our children also to live in peace….” As he spoke over the chants of protestors, his words were carried across the globe via satellite.
Not since Jacqueline Kennedy had the White House been renovated, and so throughout his time as President, Mr. and Mrs. Nixon had several rooms of the White House restored and updated. With all the work being done to the executive mansion, Nixon wanted to make it truly an American monument. So on one evening in November of 1970, with some funds left over from the Republic Inaugural Committee, Nixon illuminated the White House exterior to be seen clearly at night for the first time by all passers-by and to maintain the mansion’s integrity as a symbol of America.
For that year’s Presidential portrait, the Nixons chose a French Neoclassical-style painting of Thomas Jefferson done by Rembrandt Peale. Hallmark reproduced 4,000 gift prints, which were to be given as Christmas gifts to the White House staff. Each print was enclosed in a green velour folder and complemented by a parchment page explaining the significance of the portrait. The page also contained the greeting, “With our best wishes, the President and Mrs. Nixon at Christmas 1970.”
The official Presidential Christmas cards, a Hallmark original design, featured a gold embossed engraving of the North Portico of the White House surrounded by a green embossed foil wreath with a green silk-screen background. Hallmark printed 45,000 White House Christmas cards to be delivered to government officials as well as friends and associates of the Nixons.
In the corridor of the East Wing, Mrs. Nixon had two cases assembled to display Presidential Christmas cards of past and present as well as other Christmas-related memorabilia. Some of the items on display included Eisenhower’s Presidential Christmas cards, Christmas cards received by Rutherford B. Hayes, a red fire engine from the Hoover era, and a doll house made for Hayes’ daughter, Fanny.
On a cold and rainy December 16, President Nixon lit the 78-foot spruce from the Black Hills of South Dakota. He chose a young boy from the audience to help him light up the 6,000 blue, green, and yellow bulbs. Unlike the ceremony from the year prior, there were no shouts and chants coming from anti-war protestors. Instead, the President said to the American people in his annual Christmas greeting that, “We can look forward with assurance to the end of the war.”
For Christmas of 1971, the Nixons gave reproductions of George Healy’s portrait of Abraham Lincoln to their White House staff members. Each gift print was protected by a royal blue velour cover that included a message about the historic painting. Each keepsake was also imprinted with the greeting, “With our best wishes, The President and Mrs. Nixon at Christmas 1971.”
The design of the Presidential Christmas cards featured a painting done by N.C. Wyeth entitled Building the First White House. The painting was actually a poster that Wyeth was commissioned to create for the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1930. It featured George Washington standing next to architect James Hoban with the White House under construction in the background. President and Mrs. Nixon ordered 50,000 White House Christmas cards to be sent to government officials, diplomatic associates, business partners, friends, and family members.
While Nixon was in Key Biscayne, Florida, Vice President Agnew lit the National Community Christmas Tree on a warm December 16. The 63-foot Fraser fir from North Carolina was decorated with red and white lights and topped with a snowflake. A special tree was also lit to remember the prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action in Southeast Asia. Over the shouting of anti-war demonstrators, Vice President Agnew orated the Christmas greeting to the America people. In speaking of the families whose sons were still fighting overseas, he said, “This is the eighth Christmas – the longest period of any war in our nation’s history – that some of us have observed without their loved ones.”
President Nixon ran for re-election in 1972. In keeping his promise to reduce troop levels in Vietnam and create the Equal Education Opportunities bill, he was very much liked by the American people. With 60% of the popular vote and carrying 49 states, Nixon was victorious in his second consecutive Presidential election.
In keeping with the theme of past Presidents’ portraits, the Nixons gave a reproduction of a 1903 Theodore Roosevelt portrait done by John Singer Sargent. Nixon had profound respect for Roosevelt, and in his White House renovation plans, he had the Roosevelt Room created to honor the 26th President of the United States.
Hallmark produced 5,000 Christmas gift prints for the Nixons to give to their White House staff members. Additionally, the President and First Lady also gave each staff member a marble paperweight with a red, white, and blue brass Presidential Seal and an inscribed plate marking the year. Mrs. Nixon also gave to her female staff members a chatelaine pin and cuff links to the men.
The 1972 Presidential Christmas cards featured a reproduction of William Henry Bartlett’s etching, View from the Tiber. The etching depicted Washington D.C.’s no-longer-present Tiber Creek in the foreground with the White House and the South Lawn in the background. President Nixon ordered 60,000 White House Christmas cards from Hallmark. Each card was framed with a green and gold foil border.
On December 16, for the second year in a row, the Vice President lit the National Community Christmas Tree. While President Nixon was elected for a second term, it would be Vice President Agnew’s last executive Christmas as he resigned the following year because of bribery, tax evasion, and money laundering charges from his stint as Governor of Maryland. The Christmas tree, a 75-foot Engelmann spruce from Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming, was decorated with 9,000 green lights, 1,000 clear twinkling lights, and 250 large globe lamps.
Another President whom Nixon greatly admired was James Monroe, and for his 1973 Christmas gift print, Mr. and Mrs. Nixon gave reproductions of Samuel F. B. Morse’s Monroe portrait from 1820. Hallmark placed each gift print in a white velour folder with an accompanying description sheet. Each reproduction was imprinted with the greeting, “With our best wishes, the President and Mrs. Nixon at Christmas 1973.”
For his Presidential Christmas cards, Nixon selected a reproduction of August Kollner’s painting, President’s House. The 1848 painting featured horseback riding on the White House grounds with the executive mansion in the background. Hallmark embellished the design with a red and gold foil border. The White House ordered 60,000 Christmas cards, each containing an embossed Presidential Seal and the imprint, “With our best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, The President and Mrs. Nixon.”
In celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National Community Christmas Tree-lighting ceremony, President Nixon lit the tree on December 14 with the help of a Boy Scout and a Girl Scout. For the first time since 1954, a live tree was planted on the Ellipse. The 42-foot Colorado blue spruce from Pennsylvania was donated by the National Arborist Association. With a major energy crisis taking place, the White House reduced the energy consumption of lighting the tree by almost 82%. Instead of using thousands of lights, the tree was decorated primarily with garlands and balls.
In his Christmas greeting to the American people, President Nixon talked about the impending energy crisis. He said, “This year we will drive a little slower. This year the thermostats will be a little lower. This year every American perhaps will sacrifice a little, but no one will suffer.” Unfortunately for Nixon, he wouldn’t stay President for much longer to make sure no one would suffer. Due to the Watergate scandal, which resulted in Nixon’s loss of political support and near certainty of impeachment, he resigned on the evening of August 8, 1974.
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