View Full Version : Thursday Trivia: Presidential Gifts

Star lover
December 6th, 2018, 08:07 AM
Choosing the perfect gift for the president of the United States has resulted in some well-meant but weird selections.

Theodore Roosevelt received a Grevy's zebra and a caseload of baboons from King Menelik of Abyssinia. (They were given to the National Zoo.) Richard Nixon received a tapestry portrait of himself from the Shah of Iran. Warren G. Harding received no fewer than 150 cornets. (He blew a mean horn, apparently.) And a thoughtful wigmaker gave John Quincy Adams a toupee.

One of the earliest recorded gifts of state was the mammoth cheese presented to President Jefferson by the Republican Baptists in Cheshire, Massachusetts, in 1802. To celebrate Jefferson's election, town elder John Leland inspired his Baptist congregation to manufacture a 1,235-pound cheese to give to the president. When it was finished, the cheese was filled with milk from the town's cows, save for those owned by the hated Federalists. The cheese was inscribed with the phrase "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God"¯ and presented to Jefferson after a month-long journey to Washington on New Year's Day 1802. Jefferson, who had a policy not to accept free gifts, insisted that he pay $200 for the cheese.

Harry Truman received a gift of two chickens from a French farmer. In 1947 he received a bowling alley as a gift from his home state of Missouri.

What better way to show your president you admire him than by carving his likeness into a peach pit? R.J. McErlean's remarkable ode to JFK features a portrait of Kennedy and the inscription "President John F. Kennedy of the United States."¯


President Reagan, who was gifted 372 belt buckles while in office, received enough tacking equipment during his time in Washington to outfit an entire stable. Of the several dozen saddles presented to Reagan, few were more ornately decorated than this one:


In 2003, Argentina’s then-President Nestor Kirchner presented former President George W. Bush with 300 pounds of lamb meat. In 2006, Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov inexplicably decided to give Bush a puppy. His name was ‘‘Balkan of Gorannadraganov” (Balkan for short). President of Tanzania Jakaya Kikwete gave President Bush a stuffed lion and leopard in 2008. Also in 2008 Bush got a pair of sweet black roller blades from then-Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.

The President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev wanted to go above and beyond when he met President Bill Clinton in 1997. So he commissioned a carpet that depicted Clinton and his wife Hillary.


Former President Barack Obama got a three-foot long sword encrusted with gold and rubies courtesy of the crown prince and deputy prime minister of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. In 2012, British Prime Minister David Cameron gave Obama a “custom Dunlop table tennis table with United States and United Kingdom decals, inscription, and paddles.”

The leader of Indonesia decided the thing President George H.W. Bush needed most was a giant venomous flesh-eating lizard. When Bush Senior received the dragon, named Naga, in 1990, he regifted it to the Cincinnati Zoo.

Unfortunately, presidents can’t keep most of the good swag they get: Government regulations prevent any federal government employees — yes, including the president — from accepting gifts over $390. So there’s an entire diplomatic choreography around it. Most gifts are donated or stored in the National Archives. Many await display in the president’s future library after he retires.

December 6th, 2018, 09:02 AM
Thanks Anita.

December 6th, 2018, 10:32 PM
I am a federal government employee, and we are told that we cannot accept any gift over $10. But presidents are worth at least 39 times as much as me, I guess. ;)

When I saw the carpet that was gifted to President Clinton, my first thought was how much younger he and Hillary looked. But he was president 20 years ago, so yes, they were much younger then. I'm sure I look a lot older than I did in the 90's. Not trying to be political here, but my second thought was that many people would be happy to walk all over Bill and Hill. I hope no one takes offense--it's just a joke, folks!

That peach pit carving is pretty impressive. Talk about working on a miniature scale!