The White House has many traditions. Each spring, one of the most memorable events is the Easter Egg Roll, an event that has been going on the White House grounds since 1878. The White House hosts this fun event the day after Easter. And numerous presidents, including Donald Trump, have participated in the festivities over the years.
Read on to learn which commanders-in-chief have appeared at the Easter Egg Roll. And along the way, learn some of the details of this time-honored tradition.
1. Abraham Lincoln may have held egg-rolling parties
- 16th president of the United States
History reports that in the 1800s, a “peculiar holiday tradition” arose in the capital. “Young revelers rolled hard-boiled eggs down the hills of Washington, D.C., to see which ones traveled the farthest without breaking. And nowhere in the District of Columbia was the egg-rolling any finer than on Capitol Hill.” Historians report that the children of President Abraham Lincoln took part in the festivities and had informal egg-rolling parties, even before the official Easter Egg Roll had been established.
Next: This president also hosted an informal version of the traditional event.
2. Andrew Johnson’s children also held informal egg rolls
- 17th president of the United States
According to History, Andrew Johnson’s grandchildren also enjoyed egg-rolling. And they reportedly held informal egg rolls during Johnson’s time in the White House. Time reports that the Johnson family dyed eggs on Easter Sunday to roll the next day on Capitol grounds. The first lady supervised from the South Portico. “The trend caught on, and in the years that followed, the Easter Monday roll drew families for daylong picnics while ‘children rolled both their hard-boiled eggs and themselves down the lush green hills.'”
Next: This president took a stance against the event.
3. Ulysses S. Grant signed legislation against egg-rolling
- 18th president of the United States
History reports that with all that egg-rolling on Capitol Hill, Washington’s children wore the grass bare on the Capitol grounds. With a big centennial celebration just three months away, congressmen felt outraged at the damage. So Congress passed the Turf Protection Law “to prevent any portion of the Capitol grounds and terraces from being used as play-grounds or otherwise, so far as may be necessary to protect the public property, turf, and grass from destruction and injury.” Just two weeks after Easter, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the measure into law.
Next: This president hosted the first official White House Easter Egg Roll.
4. Rutherford B. Hayes established the official Easter Egg Roll
- 19th president of the United States
While egg-rolling wasn’t a new activity in the capital, History reports that the 1878 event that Rutherford B. Hayes hosted on the South Lawn goes down in history as the first official White House Easter Egg Roll. The White House Historical Association notes that Hayes agreed to open the White House grounds on Easter Monday to children who wanted to roll Easter eggs.
Next: This president hosted the event despite his very short term.
5. James A. Garfield hosted an Easter Egg Roll despite his short presidency
- 20th president of the United States
The National Park Service reports that James A. Garfield participated in the White House Easter Egg Roll in 1881. Garfield didn’t participate in the Washington, D.C., tradition during any other years because he had a very short term in office. He began serving as president in March 1881, but was assassinated in July of that year by Charles J. Guiteau. After Garfield’s untimely death, Vice President Chester A. Arthur ascended to the presidency.
Next: This president welcomed attendees to the White House.
6. Chester A. Arthur welcomed egg rollers to the White House
- 21st president of the United States
The National Archives reports that after Rutherford Hayes welcomed the first egg rollers to the White House, “it fell to each succeeding chief executive to determine the fate of Easter Monday.” Arthur lived in the White House with his second child, Ellen, who was born in 1871 and was around the same age as many of the egg rollers. “Arthur welcomed the energetic egg rollers,” the National Archives notes. “A presidential tradition established, the youngsters confidently focused on obtaining a personal audience with ‘Mr. President.'”
Next: Children at the event charmed this president.
7. Grover Cleveland was charmed by attendees
- 22nd and 24th president of the United States
During Grover Cleveland’s tenure in the White House, attendees at the Easter Egg Roll continued to look forward to meeting the commander in chief. The White House Historical Association reports that in 1885, “young egg rollers marched into the East Room, hoping for a personal audience with President Grover Cleveland. When he came down from his office to greet them, he was charmed, and indoor egg roll receptions became customary.”
Next: This president added music to the event.
8. Benjamin Harrison added music to the Easter Egg Roll
- 23rd president of the United States
According to the White House Historical Association, Benjamin Harrison added music to the Easter Egg Roll in 1889. Harrison ordered the United States Marine Band, known as “The President’s Own,” to play what the association characterizes as “lively tunes” as children played on the South Lawn. The historical association reports that John Philip Sousa, who directed the band, “took delight in treating the Egg Roll guests to rousing marches.”
Next: This president’s Easter Egg Roll drew a diverse crowd.
9. William McKinley hosted a diverse Easter Egg Roll
- 25th president of the United States
Time reports that the Easter Egg Roll “has always drawn a diverse crowd.” An 1898 news report, referring to an Easter Egg Roll held by William McKinley, said that “all sorts and conditions of children find their way to the president’s grounds to enjoy Easter Monday.” The publication explained, “Some of the children are beautifully dressed in silks and laces and have French nurses to watch over them and carry their eggs for them, while other little ones are dressed in very shabby garments with elbows out and toes peeping from their little shoes.”
Next: This president watched the celebrations from the South Portico.
10. Theodore Roosevelt hosted the event but kept his distance
- 26th president of the United States
The White House Historical Association reports that in the early years of the Easter Egg Roll, “first families had to decide whether they were going to join the throng of celebrants or just organize and play host to it.” During Theodore Roosevelt’s tenure in the Oval Office, the Roosevelt clan “studied the action from the South Portico,” according to the historical association. The Easter Egg Roll under Roosevelt was quite inclusive. As Time notes, a 1902 report explained, “The white and the negro leave questions of race domination rest for the day and mingle democratically.”
Next: This president hosted the last egg roll before wartime restrictions stopped them.
11. Woodrow Wilson hosted the last Easter Egg Roll for 5 years
- 28th president of the United States
The White House Historical Association reports that in 1916, Woodrow and Edith Wilson hosted what would be the last Easter Egg Roll for five years. The highlight of the day was the appearance of 11-month-old Ellen Wilson “Baby” McAdoo, daughter of the president’s daughter Eleanor. Because of wartime restrictions on food consumption, D.C.’s food administrator wouldn’t allow the destruction of perfectly good eggs as part of the Easter Egg Roll. So the 1918 event was canceled.
Next: This president revived the tradition of the Marine Band playing at the egg roll.
12. Warren G. Harding revived the tradition of the Marine Band playing at the event
- 29th president of the United States
According to the White House Historical Association, the 1921 event was the first Easter Egg Roll since 1916. Somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 children attended. The 1921 Easter Egg Roll also revived the tradition of featuring music from the Marine Band. Warren G. Harding, along with First Lady Florence Harding and presidential dog Laddie Boy, hosted the event. Also on hand were characters from the children’s play “Alice and the White Rabbit.”
Next: This president had a pet raccoon who attended the event.
13. Calvin Coolidge’s pet raccoon attended the Easter Egg Roll
- 30th president of the United States
Calvin Coolidge also participated in the tradition of the Easter Egg Roll. History reports that in 1926, President Coolidge pardoned a live animal, but not a turkey. Instead, he pardoned a raccoon, and the creature became a White House pet. The raccoon, named Rebecca, made an appearance at the Easter Egg Roll the following spring. She was the star of the show, but was “hardly at ease around 30,000 shrieking children and the incessant clicking of swarming photographers,” History reports.
Next: This president broadcast the event on the radio for the first time.
14. Herbert Hoover’s Easter Egg Roll was broadcast on the radio
- 31st president of the United States
In 1929 under president Herbert Hoover, the White House Easter Egg Roll was broadcast on radio for the first time. (Station WRC in Washington, D.C., did the honors, according to the White House Historical Association.) The station broadcast the Marine Band’s music, but Hoover and the first lady didn’t speak on the radio. Another interesting touch? A space in the center of the South Lawn was roped off, enabling Girl Scouts to perform a maypole dance. In 1930, the maypole dances appeared again, performed by the Girl Reserves of the YWCA.
Next: This president moved the event to accommodate wartime restrictions.
15. Franklin D. Roosevelt hosted the event despite wartime restrictions
- 32nd president of the United States
The White House Historical Association reports that wartime restrictions closed the White House grounds in 1942. But that didn’t mean that the Easter Egg Roll had to be canceled in 1942. That year, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Easter Egg Roll took place on the Capitol’s West Lawn. But Roosevelt couldn’t save the event during the final years of his presidency. World War II completely stopped the annual Easter Egg Roll festivities between 1943 and 1945, also during Roosevelt’s tenure in the Oval Office.
Next: This president had to cancel the event.
16. Harry S. Truman reluctantly canceled the event
- 33rd president of the United States
According to the White House Historical Association, food conservation efforts caused Harry S. Truman to “reluctantly” cancel the 1946 and 1947 Easter Egg Rolls at the White House. And from 1948 to 1952, the Truman renovation of the White House made the South Lawn a construction zone. So the Easter Egg Roll had to be canceled during those years, too.
Next: This president brought the tradition back.
17. Dwight D. Eisenhower revived the tradition
- 34th president of the United States
Time reports that in 1953, Dwight D. Eisenhower revived the tradition of the Easter Egg Roll 12 years after it stopped for World War II. Time reported in 1953, “The Eisenhowers really didn’t know what to expect, but the gardeners began a week in advance preparing for the worst, installing storm fences, comfort stations, and drinking fountains.” The publication added, “By noon, the grounds were a dreadful mass of mashed eggs, gooey chocolate marshmallow, melting jelly beans and picnic midden.” The White House Historical Association reports that Eisenhower’s attendance at the 1960 Easter Egg Roll constituted the last presidential appearance at an Easter Egg Roll for 16 years.
Next: This president didn’t attend the event.
18. John F. Kennedy’s administration continued the Easter Egg Roll, even though the president didn’t attend
- 35th president of the United States
According to the White House Historical Association, the Kennedy White House announced in 1961 that the Easter Egg Roll tradition would continue under Kennedy. (But the president didn’t attend.) In 1962, the biggest attraction at the event was Caroline Kennedy’s fenced-in playground. White House guards had to explain to the children in attendance that Caroline couldn’t play, as she was with her family in Palm Beach, Florida.
Next: This president seems to have attended one Easter Egg Roll.
19. Lyndon B. Johnson seems to have attended 1 Easter Egg Roll
- 36th president of the United States
Though the White House Historical Association reports that Eisenhower’s appearance at the 1960 Easter Egg Roll was the last presidential appearance at the event for 16 years, The Washington Post unearthed conflicting information. “Marilynn Eaton, whose husband William Eaton covered the White House during the Johnson years for UPI, sent us a signed March 30, 1964 photo of Johnson and some kids, including her daughters Susan and Sally” at an Easter event at the White House.
Next: This president began a new tradition at the Easter Egg Roll.
20. Richard Nixon didn’t attend the Easter Egg Roll, but he did start a new tradition
- 37th president of the United States
Time reports that Pat Nixon introduced what today is the Easter Egg Roll’s most popular event: the egg race. Additionally, the White House Historical Association reports that in 1969, “the tradition of an official White House Easter Bunny was born when one of First Lady Pat Nixon’s staff members put on a white jumpsuit and Peter Rabbit mask and shook children’s hands along the South Lawn’s circular driveway.” And in 1974, the Nixons were in Florida, but volunteers organized the first recorded Egg Roll races.
Next: This president actually went to the event.
21. Gerald Ford actually attended the Easter Egg Roll
- 38th president of the United States
Gerald Ford was the commander in chief who finally put to an end the years of Easter Egg Rolls without a sitting president in attendance. White House Historical Association reports that in 1976, Gerald and Betty Ford became the first presidential couple to attend the Easter Egg Roll since the Eisenhowers hosted the event in 1960. An invitation from the 1976 event (PDF) indicated that entertainment included performances by “bands and marching units of the Armed Services,” plus acts by Toto the Clown, magician Wayne Alan, the Bob Brown Marionettes, and the MarVaTeens gymnastic team.
Next: This president added a circus and a petting zoo.
22. Jimmy Carter made the event more elaborate
- 39th president of the United States
Jimmy Carter continued the tradition of the White House Easter Egg Roll. History explains, “Since its inception, the Easter egg roll has grown increasingly elaborate. In 1977, President Carter added a circus and petting zoo to the day’s entertainment.” Further, ABC reports that in 1978, the president and first lady were leaving the White House for a weekend at Camp David while the Easter Egg Roll was going on. The Easter bunny in attendance at the event jumped out of the bushes on the South Lawn to greet them.
Next: This president added more entertainment options, plus wooden eggs.
23. Ronald Reagan began the tradition of offering wooden eggs as keepsakes
- 40th president of the United States
The White House Historical Association reports that in 1981, Ronald and Nancy Reagan hosted a hunt for wooden eggs that had the signatures of famous people. “Wooden eggs soon became the official White House Easter Egg Roll keepsakes.” Also in 1981, attendees at the event “could attend an entire Broadway show or climb into the basket of a hot-air balloon tethered to the ground,” according to History.
Next: This president had his staff dye 5,000 real eggs.
24. George H.W. Bush presided over the Easter Egg Roll
- 41st president of the United States
In 1989, George H.W. and Laura Bush presided over the Easter Egg Roll. They were accompanied by several of their children and grandchildren. Also in attendance was first pet Millie. The historical association reports that the White House kitchen staff hard-boiled and colored 5,000 real eggs. And the administration ordered 23,000 wooden eggs to use for egg hunts. In 1991, vice president Dan Quayle and his wife filled in for the Bushes, hosting an event where the performers on hand included Babar the Elephant, puppeteer Shari Lewis, Smokey Bear, and walking six-foot-tall eggs.
Next: This president broadcast the Easter Egg Roll online for the first time.
25. Bill Clinton broadcast the event on the internet for the first time
- 42nd president of the United States
In 1998, under Bill Clinton, the White House Easter Egg Roll festivities were broadcast live on the internet for the first time, according to the White House Historical Association. The association also reports that in 2003, the Easter Egg Roll was closed to the public. Instead of the public event, the Clinton White House held a smaller event for children of active duty and reserve military personnel serving in Iraq. And History reports that during the Clinton administration, organizers began the tradition of inviting individual states to send an egg decorated by a local artist for display at the White House. And as Today reports, the Clintons attended every egg roll of their eight years in the White House.
Next: This president had Donald Trump’s press secretary dress up as the Easter Bunny.
26. George W. Bush had Sean Spicer dress up as the Easter Bunny
- 43rd president of the United States
Southern Living reports that Ursula Meese, wife of Reagan’s Attorney General Edwin Meese III, may have been the most famous White House Easter Bunny. But another notable bunny attended the Easter Egg Rolls during George W. Bush’s tenure in the White House. Sean Spicer, who later served as Donald Trump’s White House press secretary, donned the fleecy costume. CNN notes that Spicer served as assistant United States trade representative for media and public affairs in the Bush administration.
Next: This president began the online lottery for tickets.
27. Barack Obama started the lottery for Easter Egg Roll tickets
- 44th president of the United States
According to the White House Historical Association, tickets to the Easter Egg Roll were distributed online for the first time in 2009 under Barack Obama, giving children nationwide the opportunity to attend. The president and first lady — along with daughters Malia and Sasha and Mrs. Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson — helped with the egg roll races. White House chefs and guest chefs presided over a kids’ kitchen, where the children in attendance at the event learned how to make healthy snacks. At the 2010 Easter Egg Roll, the president played basketball with the children and read aloud from Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham.
Next: Donald Trump hosted his first Easter Egg Roll in 2017.
28. Donald Trump presided over his first Easter Egg Roll in 2017
- 45th president of the United States
In 2017, Donald Trump presided over his first Easter Egg Roll. As The New York Times reports, the Trump administration got a late start on planning the event. So it was a little less complex than it had been in previous years. Nonetheless, the Times reported, “girls in frilly dresses and boys in pastels rolled and hunted eggs on the White House grounds, mingling with a life-size Elmo and the bespectacled bunny, and seeming not to notice the pared-back nature of the celebration.”
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