The White House: Inside Stories from the Reagan Presidential Library Part II

Today’s post comes from Reagan Library Education Department staffer Brett Robert and continues our series on items and installations from the White House on display or in our collections.  Click here for Part I and click here to see the website for the PBS documentary The White House: Inside Story.

White House tissue dispenser
A citizen made this tissue cozy and sent it to the White House as a gift during Mr. Reagan’s presidency.   Recently he visited from Michigan and was able to see his gift, carefully preserved here at the Reagan Presidential Library.

The Executive Mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. serves not only as the First Family’s residence, but also as the working space for the President, Vice President, their staff, and high-level executive office officials.  The White House also serves as a center of international diplomacy where heads-of-state, trade officials, business leaders, military heroes, and other dignitaries are received.  Often these visiting luminaries bring with them gifts for the President.

In fact, according to Registrar Jennifer Torres, gifts received during his tenure in office make up the largest portion of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museums 62,317 items in our collections.  Ms. Torres took some time to show us some objects from the collections that relate to the White House and date to President Reagan’s years as its resident.

 Listen to the interview with Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Registrar Jennifer Torres to find out what’s inside the White House egg and more.

White House faberge-style egg in blue and gold
This Faberge-style egg was a gift to President Reagan from a business leader and has secrets inside of it.

White House non-secure telephone

Known as “The White House Egg” this Faberge-style egg features 13 gold and silver stars punctuating its brilliant blue enamel.  It opens along the red and white stripes to reveal more surprises nested inside.  It was presented to President Reagan in 1987 by the president of the company which made the egg and was on display in the White House throughout the final year of his second term.



This telephone from the White House was used by White House staff to call each other.  Two warnings on the phone, in bold red text, let users know that this phone is not secure and cannot be used for discussing classified information.  A separate system existed for secure conversations.  During Reagan’s Presidency the White House had a switchboard operator, but a more modern system has since replaced that.

White House original beam wood burning framed and presented to President and Nancy Reagan with plaque

White House everyday dining plate

In 1950 the White House was renovated and care was taken to preserve many of the materials which were replaced.  This piece of a floor beam dates to the original White House.  Construction of the White House was first completed in the early days of the nineteenth century.  John Adams was the first President to occupy the White House, moving in November 1, 1800.  From Adams to Eisenhower thirty-three Presidents walked over this floor in the White House before the 1950 renovation.  This piece of the floor was framed and presented to President Reagan in 1988 after an image of the White House was burned on to it by an unknown artist.

This plate from the White House mess was added to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in 2009 courtesy of the White House mess.  The entire collection is several hundred pieces and arrived at the Library in 3 boxes.  Created in 1983, this set was for everyday dining.  Another set with red trim existed for state dinners with international diplomats and heads of state.  The White House kitchen is able to serve meals to over 100 people and hors d’oeuvres for 1000 or more.  The Chief Executive’s diplomatic and public relations duties often mean that White House staff must be prepared to feed groups large and small.

We hope you’ve enjoyed exploring some of the objects and spaces from the White House in our collection at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.  Feel free to share your personal experiences with the Executive Mansion with us in the comments.

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