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1941-1953 National Christmas Trees

History | 1941 | 1942 | 1943 | 1944 | 1945 | 1946 | 1947 | 1948 | 1949 | 1950 | 1951 | 1952 | 1953

 

 

1941-1953
White House South Lawn
Written by Laura Schiavo

 

 

History

This was the first time that the lighting of the National Christmas Community Tree occurred within the White House grounds. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," "National Community Christmas Tree - 1941".] The move from the Ellipse to the south lawn of the White House was the direct result of President Roosevelt's idea that the "proper place for the tree is right next to the fence at the south end of the White House grounds." [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," memo from Roosevelt to Colonel Starling, May 21, 1941.] The President did not like the 1939 and 1940 location on the Ellipse, and at the lighting of the tree in 1940, he invited the public to "Come into my yard" the following year, thus making for a more "homey" celebration. [Evening Star, December 25, 1940.] According to the President's directions, "the crowd would come in from through the East Gate and the West Gate but would be roped off from the White House.... The Chairman, the two clergymen and I will speak from the South Portico and I will press the button from there." [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," memo from Roosevelt to Starling, May 21, 1941.] The public was admitted to the grounds until the 1950 celebration. During the Truman and first year of the Eisenhower administrations the President spoke from the stands on the south lawn.

Two live, 25-foot Oriental spruces to be used in alternate years were moved from another location within the White House grounds and were planted within the iron fence south of the fountain in the grounds, each about twenty-five feet off the White House-Jefferson Memorial Axis. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," memo from Gillen to Starling, June 19, 1941.]

The trees were planted 100 feet from the south fence [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," "National Community Christmas Tree 1941.], about 1,000 feet from the South Portico. [Washington Post, December 24, 1941.]

Stands for invited guests were erected 200 feet south of the South Portico, facing different directions in different years. These stands were for seating invited guests and members of the chorus. The remainder of the public stood along a cable barricade to the east, west, and south of the stands. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," "National Community Christmas Tree 1941.]

All traffic was suspended in the Ellipse while the southeast and southwest gates of the White House grounds were open. [Washington Post, December 24, 1941.]

The National Community Christmas Tree ceremony remained at this location until the move to the Ellipse in 1954 with the creation of the Christmas Pageant of Peace. The east tree is still extant (1998).

 


 

1941
December 24
Roosevelt

President and Participants: From the South Portico of the White House, President Roosevelt addressed the crowd and lit the tree shortly after 5:00 p.m. As the lighting of the National Community Christmas Tree in 1941 occurred only weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was in Washington to discuss wartime strategy with the President. The Prime Minister attended the event and after the President's greeting, gave another Christmas address. District of Columbia Commissioner Guy Mason presided at the ceremony and gave introductory remarks. [Washington Post, December 21, 1941.]

The Tree: Living, 30-foot Oriental spruce (1941). President Roosevelt lit the east tree of the two spruces that had been moved from elsewhere on the White House grounds and placed 100 feet from the south fence of the grounds. [Evening Star, December 25, 1941; NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," "National Community Christmas Tree -- 1941".]

The tree was decorated in red, white and blue by the Electric Institute of America, assisted by Community Center Department, D.C. Public Schools and National Capital Parks, National Park Service. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," "National Community Christmas Tree -- 1941".]

Noteworthy Ceremony Elements: The White House grounds were not open to the public until 4:30 p.m. for security reasons. In order to enter the grounds, the public was required to "check all packages with soldiers outside the Executive Mansion grounds" and pass through an "electric searcher." [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," "National Community Christmas Tree -- 1941"; Washington Post, December 24 and 25, 1941.]

A local Boy Scout and Girl Scout delivered the greetings of the people of Washington, and Christmas carols were led by choristers from eight different churches.

As part of the program, the Women's Council of the Washington Federation of Churches erected over 200 Christmas trees in the inhabited alleys of Washington.

The Washington Post distributed thousands of leaflets containing the words to the carols to be sung at the lighting of the tree. [Washington Post, December 24, 1941.]

Organization/Committees: Community Center Department, D.C. Public Schools; Municipal Playgrounds Department, D.C. Public Schools; National Capital Parks, National Park Service; American Forestry Association; and Greater National Capital Committee of the Washington Board of Trade. For the first time, the Washington Board of Trade was listed as one of the main sponsors of the event.

 


 

1942
December 24
Roosevelt

President and Participants: President Roosevelt addressed the crowd from the South Portico of the White House shortly after 4:00 p.m. Although the tree was not lit in the interests of security, the President did turn the switch (see below). Colonel Charles Kutz, District of Columbia Commissioner, introduced the President. [Evening Star, December 24, 1942.]

The Tree: Living, 30-foot Oriental spruce tree (1941). The west tree was used. [Washington Times, December 25, 1942.] Due to security concerns, the tree was not lit. Because of wartime restrictions, no new ornaments were purchased for the National Community Christmas Tree. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," letter from Bartlett to Kelly, December 14, 1942; Evening Star, December 13, 1942.] However, ornaments (excluding lights) from previous years were reused. In addition, Washington school children donated old ornaments, a program that provided a new way for children to participate in the celebration. [Evening Star, December 13, 1942.] American-made, large, ball-type ornaments were preferred by those in charge of decoration. [D.C. Public Library, Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Community Archives, Collection 37, National Christmas Tree.]

Noteworthy Ceremony Elements: While no lights were used in the interests of security, under the suggestion of the Electric Institute of Washington, for the sake of providing continuity in the use of the engraved switchbox, the President used the switchbox symbolically. The only result of his turning the switch was the sounding of the chimes heard by those present and the radio audience. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," letter from Bartlett to Kelly, December 12, 1942; Evening Star, December 25, 1942.]

The ceremony was held at its earliest time, beginning at 3:30 p.m. with the U.S. Marine Band concert.

As a part of the National Community Christmas Tree program, the Women's Council of the Washington Federation of Churches erected over 200 Christmas trees in the inhabited alleys of Washington.

No reserved parking was made available. Dignitaries were encouraged to arrive by foot or other transportation. [Evening Star, December 13, 1942.]

Organization/Committees: D.C. Recreation Board; National Capital Parks, National Park Service; and American Forestry Association. The lighting committee was changed to the trimming committee.

 


 

1943
December 24
Roosevelt

President and Participants: President Roosevelt broadcast a Christmas message to the Armed Forces from his home in Hyde Park, New York.

The Tree: Living, 30-foot Oriental spruce (1941). The west tree was used. As in 1942, the tree was not lit for security reasons during wartime.

By decision of the executive committee, Washington school children again contributed decoration for the tree. Ornaments were collected through the schools by D.C. Recreation Department. Each of the roughly 1,500 ornaments collected honored a relative or friend serving in the Armed Forces. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," letter from Gartside, December 31, 1943; Evening Star, December 19, 1943; Evening Star, December 22, 1943.] The decorations were removed from the tree earlier than usual, on December 29.

Noteworthy Ceremony Elements: The ceremony occurred even earlier than in 1942, beginning at 2:15 p.m. The southeast and southwest gates at the White House were open to the public at 1:45 p.m. The grounds were to be cleared by 4:00 p.m. Cameras were barred from the grounds. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," "Timed Program, National Community Christmas Tree - 1943"; Evening Star, December 19, 1943; Evening Star, December 23, 1943.]

A chorus from the U. S. Navy School of Music and a chorus of WAVES, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, sung Christmas carols. [Evening Star, December 19, 1943.]

Miscellaneous: In early December, District of Columbia Commissioners suggested that the community Christmas tree celebration be canceled due to war restrictions. [Evening Star, December 6, 1943.] They cited lighting restrictions and the scarcity of decorations, and said that such a celebration would be "inconsistent with requests to commercial establishments and others to conserve electricity and would add to overcrowding of streetcars and streets." [Washington Post, December 7, 1943.] One newspaper reported prematurely that the White House had announced the cancellation of the event to conserve transportation and energy. [Evening Star, December 9, 1943.] Mrs. Roosevelt is thought to have insisted on the event occurring.[D.C. Public Library, Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Community Archives, Collection 37, National Christmas Tree, year-by-year notes, undated.]

Outstanding Weather Conditions: Sub-freezing weather [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," memo for file, January 1, 1944.]

Organization/Committees: D.C. Recreation Board; National Capital Parks, National Park Service; and American Forestry Association.

 


 

1944
December 24
Roosevelt

President and Participants: President Roosevelt delivered his Christmas message from Hyde Park, New York. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," January 17, 1945.]. The message was also transmitted by short wave radio to Americans fighting overseas. The President assured both civilians and soldiers that "the tide of battle has turned slowly but inexorably against those who sought to destroy civilization." [Washington Post, December 25, 1944.] Guy Mason, District of Columbia Commissioner and National Community Christmas Tree Committee chairman, presided over the event.

Standing on the White House South Portico were fifty wounded veterans from Walter Reed Hospital and ten Red Cross workers, honored guests at the Christmas tree lighting. [NPS -WPP, "Christmas Pageant of Peace Binders," unidentified and undated newspaper article, ca. December 1944.]

The Tree: Living, 30-foot Oriental spruce (1941). The east tree was used, but remained dark due to wartime restrictions in place since 1942. It was decorated by 1,800 ornaments contributed by schoolchildren and dedicated to servicemen. [NPS-WESF, Box 19, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," December 13, 1944.]

The Electric Institute, with cooperation from D.C. Recreation Department and National Capital Parks Office, National Park Service, decorated the tree.

Noteworthy Ceremony Elements: Music was provided by the U.S. Marine Band. A chorus of WAVES, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, and seamen from the U.S. Navy School of Music sang carols.

Boy and Girl Scouts and Campfire Girls took part in the ceremony. [NPS-WESF, Box 19, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," December 13, 1944.]

Miscellaneous: Questions arose in early December among the White House and National Capital Parks, National Park Service staff about the advisability of lighting the tree or holding a ceremony during wartime. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," December 6, 1944; NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," December 12, 1944; NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 1o, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," "N.C.P. staff meeting minutes, December 6, 1944.]

Organization/Committees: D.C. Recreation Board; National Capital Parks, National Park Service; and American Forestry Association.

 


 

1945
December 24
Truman

President and Participants: President Truman lit the tree, which had not been lit since 1941, at 5:15 p.m. and delivered a Christmas message. Standing on the bandstand on the south lawn, he said, "This is the Christmas that a war-weary world has prayed for through long and awful years. With peace come joy and gladness. The gloom of the war years fades as once more we light the National Community Christmas Tree." [Public Papers of the Presidents, December 24, 1945.]

The Tree: Living, 30-foot Oriental spruce (1941). New lights and ornaments were donated by the Electric Institute of Washington. The Electric Institute, along with cooperation of D.C. Recreation Department and National Capital Parks, National Park Service decorated the tree.

The west tree was used. [New York Times, December 25, 1945 (photographic documentation).]

Noteworthy Ceremony Elements: The lighting of the National Community Christmas Tree was considered the signal for lighting thousands of trees in communities across the country.

The public was admitted by the south gates at 3:30, and the U.S. Marine Band performed between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. before the arrival of the President. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," "Recreation Board Press Release," December 10, 1945.]

As a part of the National Community Christmas Tree program, the Women's Council of the Washington Federation of Churches erected over 200 Christmas trees in the inhabited alleys of Washington. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," program, National Community Christmas Tree, 1945.]

Miscellaneous: Complaints about the echo from the loudspeakers bouncing off the White House and returning to the audience and the inconvenience of the President having to push his way through the crowds spurred the committee to rearrange the bandstand the following year. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," NCP staff meeting minutes, January 2, 1946.]

Outstanding Weather Conditions: Snow blanketed the White House grounds.

Organization/Committees: Greater National Capital Committee of Washington Board of Trade; D.C. Recreation Department; National Capital Parks, National Park Service; American Forestry Association; and the Electric Institute of Washington. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," Recreation Board Press Release, December 10, 1945.]

 


 

1946
December 24
Truman

President and Participants: President Truman lit the tree at 5:15 p.m. and gave a radio Christmas greeting. Again standing on the bandstand on the south lawn, he asked that the American people "strive with undaunted faith and courage to achieve in the present some measure of that unity with which the Nation's sons and the sons of our allies went forth to win the war." [Public Papers of the Presidents, December 24, 1946] Chief Justice Bolitha J. Laws of the District of Columbia, chairman of the national committee, presided. The vice-chairman was Guy Mason, District of Columbia Commissioner. [Evening Star, December 25, 1946.]

In a prominent position near the President was a special platform for a group of convalescent veterans from Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospitals, with an accompanying motorcycle escort and ramp access for the veterans. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," Memo, December 17, 1946.]

The Tree: Living, 30-foot Oriental spruce (1941). The east tree was decorated and illuminated as the Christmas tree. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," letter from Sibyl Baker, December 10, 1946] The Electric Institute, along with the cooperation of D.C. Recreation Department and National Capital Parks, National Park Service, decorated the tree.

Since the trees planted in 1941 had become damaged by use, there was a suggestion that artificial trees be substituted for the live Oriental spruces planted in 1941. The American Forestry Association opposed the plan.

Noteworthy Ceremony Elements: This was the first year that the ceremony was televised. However, the telecast was not widespread. In addition to the existing committees for the National Community Christmas Tree, a television and broadcasting committee was formed. [Evening Star, December 25, 1946.] Large decorative candles were placed on the side of the bandstand. [Evening Star, December 25, 1946.]

A local Eagle Scout and Girl Scout delivered greetings from the people of Washington. [Evening Star, December 25, 1946.]

Organization/Committees: D.C. Recreation Department (Sibyl Baker); National Capital Parks, National Park Service (Edward Kelly); American Forestry Association; Electric Institute of Washington; and Greater National Committee of the Washington Board of Trade. [Evening Star, December 25, 1946] A radio and television broadcasting committee was formed, joining the executive committee, the national committee, and the lighting committee.

 


 

1947
December 24
Truman

President and Participants: President Truman delivered a Christmas greeting to the nation and lit the National Community Christmas Tree shortly at 5:15 p.m. The President spoke about those in Europe who found themselves homeless at Christmas and asked that American extend aid "to our less fortunate brothers." [Public Papers of the Presidents, December 24, 1947.]

The Tree: Living, 30-foot Oriental spruce tree (1941). The west tree was decorated and lit. [Washington Post, December 25, 1947.]

The Electric Institute, along with the cooperation of D.C. Recreation Department and National Capital Parks, National Park Service, decorated the tree.

Noteworthy Ceremony Elements: The ceremony was televised by the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) and De Monte Television Co. [Evening Star, December 10, 1947.]

A concert of carols by the U.S. Marine Band from 4:30 until 5:00 p.m. preceded the arrival of the President and Mrs. Truman.

A Girl Scout and an Eagle Scout delivered the greetings of the people of Washington to the President and the First Lady.

The singing of carols, led by the Central High School Glee Club of Washington, D.C., followed the President's address and the lighting of the tree. [D.C. Public Library, Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Community Archives, Collection 37, National Christmas Tree, program, National Community Christmas Tree, 1947.]

The American Forestry Association donated the printing of the programs.

Organization/Committees: D.C. Recreation Department; National Capital Parks, National Park Service; American Forestry Association; Electric Institute of Washington; and Greater National Capital Committee of the Washington Board of Trade.

 


 
1948 National Christmas Tree (Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division)

1948 National Christmas Tree (Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division)

1948
December 24
Truman

President and Participants: With President Truman at his home in Independence, Missouri, a rebroadcast of an audio address taped earlier was delivered to those gathered on the south lawn at 5:15 p.m. President Truman signaled for the lighting of the tree by remote control. [Public Papers of the Presidents, December 24, 1948.]

The Tree: Living, 30-foot Oriental spruce (1941). The Electric Institute, with cooperation of D.C. Recreation Department and National Capital Parks, National Park Service, decorated the east tree. [Washington Post, December 25, 1925.] The tree was decorated with red and green lights and featured a white light as every third light in order that it would televise well. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," executive committee meeting notes, January 9, 1949.]

Noteworthy Ceremony Elements: The ceremony was based on successful traditional programs of previous years, with the only change being the use of more white lights which were chosen for how well they would televise. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," executive committee meeting notes, January 9, 1949.]

"Mammoth Christmas ornaments," good for daytime viewing, were made especially for the decoration of the National Community Christmas Tree site. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," executive committee meeting notes, January 9, 1949.]

The "Singing Tree" was reintroduced. [Washington Post, December 25, 1948.]

Although the President and Mrs. Truman were absent, greetings of the people of Washington to the President and the First Lady were delivered by a boy and a girl named outstanding by recipients of the Recreation Department 1948 Youth Award.

Miscellaneous: The television broadcast was further expanded in 1948. [D.C. Public Library, Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Community Archives, Collection 37, National Christmas Tree, year-by-year notes, undated.] Decisions about decorations were made with the television audience in mind.

Organization/Committees: D.C. Recreation Department; National Capital Parks, National Park Service; American Forestry Association; Electric Institute of Washington; and Greater National Capital Committee of the Washington Board of Trade.

 


 

1949
December 24
Truman

President and Participants: President Truman delivered greetings by radio and television and lit the tree by remote control from his home in Independence, Missouri at 5:15 p.m. [Evening Star, December 25, 1949.] In Washington, the switch was thrown by Billie Hills, the son of W.G. Hills, managing director of the Electric Institute of Washington. [Evening Star, December 25, 1949.] Likely having in mind his bill to let another 134,000 displaced persons into the country, the President spoke of the fate of the homeless in Europe and pleaded for the acceptance of the United States as a haven for war refugees. "We must not forget that there are thousands and thousands of families homeless, hopeless, destitute, and torn with despair on this Christmas Eve. For them as for the Holy Family on the first Christmas, there is no room in the inn." [Evening Star, December 25, 1949; Public Papers of the Presidents, December 24, 1948.]

Secretary of the Interior Oscar Chapman presided over the event. He suggested that American children donate toys to needy European children at Christmas time. [Evening Star, December 25, 1949.]

The Tree: Living, 30-foot Oriental spruce (1941). The east tree was used. [Washington Post, December 25, 1949 (photographic documentation).]

Noteworthy Ceremony Elements: A group of thirty patients from the Kabat-Kiser Institute and others from veterans' hospitals were scheduled to be guests at the event of the tree lighting. It is unclear as to whether they attended. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," December 16, 1949.]

Ten men dressed in Santa Claus costumes, representing the Committee for Amnesty, War Resisters League, Peacemakers, and the Central Committee of Conscientious Objectors, picketed the White House seeking amnesty for conscientious objectors. [Washington Post, December 25, 1949.]

The "Singing Tree" was included again. [Evening Star, December 25, 1949.]

Organization/Committees: D.C. Recreation Board; National Capital Parks, National Park Service; American Forestry Association; Electric Institute of Washington; and Greater National Capital Committee of the Washington Board of Trade.

 


 

1950
December 24
Truma
n

President and Participants: At approximately 5:15 p.m. President Truman lit the National Community Christmas Tree from Independence, Missouri, for the third year in a row. In his pre-recorded address the President called "for a peace which is the fruit of righteousness." Thinking of the war in Asia, President Truman asked that the nation think of the "thousands of our boys…on the cold and dreary battlefields of Korea." The President said, "We are all joined in the fight against the tyranny of communism. Communism is godless. Democracy is the harvest of faith -- faith in one's self, faith in one's neighbors, faith in God." [Public Papers of the Presidents, December 24, 1950.]

The Tree: Living, 30-foot Oriental spruce (1941). The west tree was used. [D.C. Public Library, Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Community Archives, Collection 37, National Christmas Tree, notes on 1950 program; Evening Star, December 25, 1950.]

Noteworthy Ceremony Elements: Beginning in 1950, the public was not admitted to the White House grounds due to the renovations of the White House. [Evening Star, December 25, 1950.] The audience for the lighting of the National Community Christmas Tree was kept outside the fence that surrounds the south lawn of the White House. [D.C. Public Library, Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Community Archives, Collection 37, National Christmas Tree, undated notes.] A newspaper reported, "The public will not be admitted to the grounds, but the guest stand and bandstand and choristers will be visible from roped-off enclosures immediately outside the fence." [D.C. Public Library, Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Community Archives, Collection 37, National Christmas Tree, unidentified and undated newspaper article, ca. 1950.]

Although the President and Mrs. Truman were absent, Christmas greetings from the people of Washington were presented to the President and Mrs. Truman by a local Eagle Scout and Girl Scout.

The "Singing Tree" was set up, with loudspeakers concealed in the tree.

Organization/Committees: National Capital Parks, National Park Service; D.C. Recreation Board, with approval from the White House [NARA, RG- 351, Entry 21, Box 72, letter from White House to DC Board of Recreation, November 14, 1950]; Greater National Capital Committee of the Board of Trade; American Forestry Association; Electric Institute of Washington; and National Capital Sesquicentennial Commission.

 


 

1951
December 24
Truman

President and Participants: Pressing a telegraph key, President Truman lit the National Community Christmas Tree at 5:15 p.m. from his home in Independence, Missouri for the fourth year in a row. [Public Papers of the Presidents, December 24, 1951.] President Truman expressed his sadness about the suffering and the sacrifice of the American soldiers fighting in Korea. The President spoke of the need to avoid the kind of total world war that was the reality ten years earlier in 1941, and to achieve a real peace - "a peace that shall be a positive reality and not an empty hope; a just and lasting peace." [Evening Star, December 25, 1951; Public Papers of the Presidents, December 24, 1951.]

John A. Remon, chairman of the National Capital Park Planning Commission, made introductory remarks. [Evening Star, December 25, 1951.]

President Truman's fourth year in a row in Missouri prompted a fear by the committee for the National Community Christmas Tree "that the custom of having the President light the tree has about disappeared." Wary of the negative effect on attendance caused by the repeated absence of the President, Sibyl Baker, chairman of the executive committee, expressed the need to "rehabilitate" the National Community Christmas Tree. [Washington Post, January 9, 1952.]

The Tree: Living, 30-foot Oriental spruce (1941). The east tree was decorated with 900 lights and 1,200 ornaments. [Evening Star, December 25, 1951.]

Noteworthy Ceremony Elements: The ceremony began with a concert by the U.S. Marine Band.

Although the President and Mrs. Truman were absent, Christmas greetings from the people of Washington were presented to the President and Mrs. Truman by a local Eagle Scout and Camp Fire Girl. [Evening Star, December 25, 1951.]

The McKinley High School chorus performed Christmas carols.

The "Star Spangled Banner" closed the ceremony.

Organization/Committees: D.C. Recreation Board, with approval from the White House [NARA, RG- 351, Entry 21, Box 72, letter from White House to DC Board of Recreation, October 30, 1951]; Electric Institute of Washington; National Capital Parks, National Park Service; Greater National Capital Committee of the Washington Board of Trade; and American Forestry Association.

 


 

1952
December 24
Truman

President and Participants: President Truman addressed the crowd at the lighting of the National Community Christmas Tree, and lit the tree in person on the south lawn for the first time since 1947. As in 1950 and 1951, the President spoke of the men and women fighting in Korea, saying, "Tonight, our hearts turn first of all to our brave men and women in Korea…." The President made a plea for world peace and prayed for the nation's enemies. About the war, the President said, "Our efforts to establish law and order in the world are not directed against any nation or any people. We seek only a universal peace, where all nations shall be free and all peoples shall enjoy their inalienable human rights." [Evening Star, December 25, 1952; Public Papers of the Presidents, December 24, 1952.]

The Tree: Living, 30-foot Oriental spruce (1941). The east tree was decorated with 900 green and red hand-dipped bulbs, and 1,400 ornaments. [Evening Star, December 25, 1952; Abbie Rowe, National Park Service photographer, #1827-N, National Archives and Records Administration (photographic documentation).]

Noteworthy Ceremony Elements: A letter from the Sodality Union of Washington, D.C. to Edward J. Kelly, chairman of the national committee, suggested that a nativity scene be incorporated into the yearly display at the National Community Christmas Tree. Kelly responded that the suggestion would be considered for 1953, and inquired into whether the Sodality Union might be able to provide the nativity scene. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," letter from McGuire to Kelly, December 13, 1952.]

The bandstand was erected facing the Ellipse, as in 1950 and 1951, to decrease the echo bouncing off the White House. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," memo, December 9, 1952.]

Organization/Committees: D.C. Recreation Board, with permission from the White House [NARA, RG- 351, Entry 21, Box 72, letters, November 8 and 13, 1952 from White House to D.C. Board of Recreation.]; National Capital Parks, National Park Service; American Forestry Association; and Greater National Capital Committee of the Washington Board of Trade.

 


 

1953
December 24
Truman

President and Participants: President Eisenhower lit the National Community Christmas Tree for the first time at roughly 5:00 p.m. In his Christmas address the President gave thanks for the peaceful season, the "first peaceful one since 1949." [Evening Star, December 25, 1953.] The President spoke of the hopefulness of the season, "even though the world still stands divided into two antagonistic parts." [Public Papers of the Presidents, December 24, 1953.]

The Tree: Living, 30-foot Oriental spruce (1941). The tree was decorated with 1,500 red and green 10-watt bulbs and was illuminated by mercury vapor floodlights. [Evening Star, December 25, 1953.]

Noteworthy Ceremony Elements: The radio broadcast and the telecast of this program was the most comprehensive in the history of the event. [D.C. Public Library, Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Community Archives, Collection 37, National Christmas Tree, notes on 1953 program.] The lighting of the tree was watched on television "by millions," and the President's address was broadcast through the Voice of America in thirty-four languages. [Evening Star, December 25, 1953.]

The National Press Club and the U.S. Marine Band gave a concert prior to the arrival of the President.

Greetings to the President and Mrs. Truman from the people of Washington were extended by a local Camp Fire Girl and Boy Scout.

The Sodality Union wrote to the executive committee again, expressing their conviction that the inclusion of a nativity scene would be met with widespread approval. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 10, File 1115-30-10, "Executive Mansion Grounds," August 15, 1953.]

Organization/Committees: D.C. Recreation Department; National Capital Parks, National Park Service; American Forestry Association; and Greater National Capital Committee of the Washington Board of Trade.

The committee on radio and television included representatives from the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), DuMont Television Network, Mutilate Broadcasting System, National Broadcasting Company (NBC), and local radio stations.

Did You Know?

In 1951, “The Day The Earth Stood Still” was filmed in President's Park. The story was about an alien emissary and his massive robot land a spaceship on the Ellipse and search for governmental and scientific leaders who will accept the warning he has brought from space.