R is for Rabbit, Rooster and Raccoon
Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865), Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909), and Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)
In 1862 President Abraham Lincoln was sent a pair of white rabbits (for his boys most likely); they were described as having “pink eyes and quivering noses.” (representative vintage photo)
While a lot of presidents may have had roosters on the grounds during their term of office, President Theodore Roosevelt had a one-legged rooster! (Photo of the one-legged rooster. I wonder if his name was Foghorn Leghorn?)
President Theodore Roosevelt also had a raccoon in his menagerie (and there are still more pets to come!). (Vintage representative photo.)
In 1926, a raccoon was sent from Mississippi to President Calvin Coolidge to be part of the Thanksgiving feast. (Mom is from Mississippi and she never heard of eating raccoon for Thanksgiving!!) However First Lady Grace Coolidge found the raccoon to be docile and friendly and decided to keep her as a pet. The President made the announcement of the raccoon during a press conference and asked the public for helping to name the new pet. By that Christmas, the raccoon was named Rebecca and she soon made her presence known by making an appearance at WH events including the Easter Egg Roll.
She was kept on a chain when outdoors – she had her own tree house – but when she was inside the WH she moved about freely. President Coolidge would walk around with Rebecca draped over his shoulders while First Lady Grace would cradle her like a baby.
Not all WH staff liked the raccoon because she had a penchant for ripping up clothing, stockings and upholstery. In 1928 a male raccoon was brought into keep Rebecca company but they didn’t get along. One source says the male was named Reuben, another says it was Horace.
Rebecca ended up escaping the WH grounds several times and the last time she was returned the Coolidges’ decided to donate her to the Rock Creek Zoo (now the Washington Zoo).