Presidential Fiber Animals

Louisa Adams
Louisa Adams: first lady, 
accomplished harpist, and 
sericulturist.
Sheep on the South Lawn
Some of Wilson's flock grazing
on the South Lawn.

The White House has been home to many presidential pets throughout the years, from dogs and cats of all varieties to more exotic choices such as James Buchanan’s elephants and Benjamin Harrison’s opossums. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that various fiber animals have also made their homes at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It's well known that Louisa Adams, wife of John Quincy Adams, did not enjoy her time in the White House. To pass the time and make life more enjoyable, she had a number of hobbies including sericulture (she also wrote thinly veiled satirical plays criticizing her husband, but that’s another matter).

 

During her tenure as first lady, Mrs. Adams raised several hundred silkworms. The worms fed on the mulberry trees around the White House property, and she would harvest and reel and spin the silk herself. The finished product would then be used for her own personal sewing.


Years later Woodrow and EdithWilson actually kept a flock of sheep on the White House lawn during World War I. Theherd of eighteen sheep (which included a ram named Ike who was known to chew tobacco) was allowed to roam the yard freely and their grazing eliminated the need for any lawn mowing (unlike some other grazing animals, sheep eat grass to a uniform height rather than eating the entire plant). This saved both money and labor, making it a very symbolic gesture during a time of war. The wool from the sheep was then auctioned off and the money raised from it was donated to the Red Cross. 

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