Season’s Greetings: Christmas from the White House

Oct 24, 2003

Season's Greetings: Christmas from the White House brings together rare Presidential Christmas messages, greetings, cards and gifts. The exhibit runs from October 18, 2003 through February 16, 2004.

The exhibit contains rare "thank you" notes from presidents dating back to James Madison. The collection of White House Christmas cards spans from President Coolidge, who gave the first holiday speech at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, to President George W. Bush.

The rarest artifact of the collection is a Christmas card that was never sent out. It's the 1963 Christmas card signed by John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy shortly before leaving on their fateful trip to Dallas. The messages and artwork reflect each President's thinking at his moment in history and are preserved for comparison and personal enjoyment.

After twice being featured at the White House, the Presidential Christmas collection of Ronald and Mary Seeley can be seen at the Lyndon Baines Library and Museum from October 18, 2003 through February 16, 2004. Contained in the exhibition are more than 200 White House greeting cards, illustrations, gifts, and other holiday memorabilia spanning much of American History, particularly the 20th Century.

Dr. Ronald Seeley and his wife Mary began acquiring a museum-quality collection of Presidential greeting cards and gifts almost by accident in the early 1980's when Dr. Seeley bought a red velour presentation folder containing a print of George Washington (a gift from President and Mrs. Nixon to a White House employee).That single purchase launched the Seeleys on a campaign to collect Presidential memorabilia, and in particular, memorabilia associated with Christmas and holiday traditions at the White House. Gradually the collection grew into a vast array of greeting cards, gift prints, sterling silver, and other memorabilia known as the Seeley Collection of Presidential Christmas Memorabilia.

Eventually, word of the Seeley Collection reached then-White House Curator Rex Scouten, who encouraged Mary Seeley to "write a book to set the record straight" about Presidential gift-giving and holiday traditions. Taking up the challenge, Mary Seeley met and interviewed many members of First Families, talked with the creators of Presidential Christmas art, and collected details about White House holiday traditions. The result of her work was a book that became the companion piece of the exhibition. The book is available in the LBJ Museum Store throughout the run of the exhibition.