Ike Initiates a New Tradition
The Eisenhower’s sent Season’s Greetings to about 2000 American Ambassadors abroad, heads of state, government officials, members of the Cabinet and Congress.
How did I choose the title for my book? The idea came to me after my first interview with Mary Jane McCaffree, social secretary to Mamie Eisenhower. When we met, Mrs. McCaffree handed me an envelope with 38 different Christmas cards, including prototypes, from the Eisenhower’s eight years in the White House. Do the math – that’s more than 4 cards each Christmas, in addition to six gift prints, the President painted for his staff, which we will discuss later.
In the envelope were eight formal, presidential, Christmas cards and a few samples of prototypes that didn’t make the cut. Similar in style were seven smaller official gift enclosures that were given with a reproduction of the President’s painting. All 20 of these official cards were designed with the traditional embossed gold foil Presidential Seal; most identified the year, and all bore the words “Season’s Greetings.”
The Eisenhower’s of Abilene, Kansas became good friends with J. C. Hall, President of Hallmark cards headquartered in Kansas City, MO. Each year, Hallmark artists designed unique personal Christmas cards for Ike and Mamie to give to their family and friends. In 1954, it was discovered at the last minute that the card featuring a white embossed wreath with red berries would smear onto the next . On short notice, a team of Hallmark employees arrived armed with clear finger nail polish, to render the cards smudge proof. Mrs. Eisenhower adored them “Thank the artist for his originality,” she told Mrs. McCaffree.
Mamie Eisenhower was a thoughtful First Lady. She remembered employees with a cake and a card on their birthday, and gave gifts and cards to them at Christmas. Hallmark artists created a series of “Mamie Bangs” enclosure gift cards. Each small vertical card was designed with a version of Mrs. Eisenhower’s signature hair style. In 1957, Hallmark designed a gift enclosure depicting Ike, an avid golfer, and Mamie in a golf cart loaded down with packages and a Christmas tree.
Joyce C. Hall and Dwight Eisenhower had a unique working relationship. In eight years, Hallmark produced 38 different Christmas cards and gifts for the President and First Lady. No previous administration, nor none since, has sent such a variety of holiday greetings from the White House.
President and Mrs. Eisenhower have been credited for starting the tradition of Official White House Christmas cards as we know them today. I followed their lead in choosing for the title of my book, Season’s Greetings from the White House.
Visit the collection to see the contemporary card Hallmark designed for Ike and Mamie.