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When John and Abigail Adams became the first residents of the unfinished White House, which in 1800 had six habitable rooms, they brought only four servants with them. Currently, the 132-room Executive Mansion requires approximately 90 employees to complete myriad daily tasks.

1790s: No Slaves on the Adams' White House Staff

By the time John and Abigail Adams became the first residents of the White House in November 1800, they had employed a steward, John Briesler, for nearly two decades. As the 1790s gave way to the 1800s, Briesler and his wife, Esther, formed the core staff of the White House. Read More

1800s: Dumbwaiters in Place of Servants

When Thomas Jefferson entertained informally, he ordered five small serving stands to be placed at strategic points around the room. These "dumbwaiters" were small tables, equipped with shelves placed at varying heights. Read More

1810s: Benjamin Latrobe Expresses Indignation About Dolley Madison's Servants

Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Architect of the Capitol and Surveyor of Public Buildings under Jefferson, had advised the Madisons about changes to the White House even before they arrived in 1809. Read More

1820s: The President and His Steward Meet with a Calamity

John Quincy Adams hired Antoine Michel Giusta as his valet after they met in Belgium in 1814. Giusta was a deserter from Napoleon's army. During the time John Quincy Adams and Louisa Catherine Adams were living in London, Giusta married Mrs. Adams's maid. Read More

1830s: A British Traveler's Observations

Martin Van Buren was sometimes criticized for his kingly airs, but during his administration the White House was sparsely staffed. The 1840 census of Washington, D.C., indicates that only two or three white servants, and about five free “colored persons,” resided in the Executive Mansion, although others may have lived elsewhere. Read More

1840s: Mrs. Polk receives unwelcome advice about her servants

[Mrs. Polk] said that the servants knew their duties, and she did not undertake the needless task of directing them. Read More

1850s: Plumbing in the White House is Not for the Servants

In 1853, a permanent bath tub, with hot and cold running water, replaced the portable painted tin tubs in the President's quarters. But there were no toilets, showers, or tubs for the servants. Read More

1860s: An uneasy reaction to a White House memoir

One of the most important 19th-century accounts of life in the White House was Behind the Scenes, or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House. Behind the Scenes was the memoir of Elizabeth Keckley, dressmaker to Mary Todd Lincoln. Read More

1870s: Orphan Becomes White House Steward

The frigate United States left Port Mahone, Minorca, arriving in New York City on December 25, 1834. On board was an orphan boy about seven years of age, Valentino Melah, a native of Messina, Sicily. Read More

1880s: Three Ushers Foil an Assassin

Thomas F. Pendel was a White House doorman from the Abraham Lincoln administration to the turn of the 20th century. By the time Chester A. Arthur succeeded James A. Garfield in September 1881, Pendel had experienced the assassinations of both Lincoln and Garfield. Read more

1890s: The Electric Career of Ike Hoover

Ike Hoover spent 42 years working at the White House, advancing from electrician into the ushers' ranks. During the Taft administration he was appointed Chief Usher, and he held this job until he died in 1933. Read More

1900s: Mrs. Jaffray Makes Some Changes

Elizabeth Jaffray joined the White House staff in 1909 under the Tafts. Hiring Mrs. Jaffray represented a major change in White House management: substituting a female housekeeper for a male steward. Read More

1910s: A White House Worker Remembers President Wilson

White House staff in the Woodrow Wilson administration experienced both the death of Wilson's first wife, Ellen Axson Wilson, on August 6, 1914; and Wilson's second marriage, sixteen months later. Read More

1920s: A White House Maid Remembers a Moment of Panic

Maggie Rogers, who served as Grace Coolidge's maid, regularly ensured that the First Lady's costume was in order before the Coolidges greeted their guests. Read More

1930s: The Butler's Role at a State Dinner with Royal Visitors

Prior to the 1939 visit of the queen and king of England, Eleanor Roosevelt received a State Department memorandum, listing various rules of protocol. Mrs. Roosevelt became concerned about the order in which the Roosevelts, and the queen and king, should be served at the state dinner honoring the royal couple. Read More

1940s: A White House Usher Remembers Winston Churchill

After the United States entered World War II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a frequent guest in the Roosevelt White House. Read More

1950s: The White House Usher on the Role of Television

Largely through television, notes historian William Seale, the White House "is the best known house in the world, the instantly familiar symbol of the Presidency, flashed daily on millions and millions of TV screens everywhere." Read More

1960s: A White House Worker Remembers President Kennedy's Assassination

President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy had developed a bond with White House doorman Preston Bruce. The slain President's brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, invited Bruce to walk with members of the Kennedy family to JFK's memorial service at St. Matthew's Cathedral. Read More

1970s: The White House Chefs and the Nixon-Cox Wedding Cake

In March 1971, President Richard M. Nixon announced the engagement of his daughter Patricia to Edward Cox. The details of the wedding preparations soon appeared in newspapers. Read More

1980s: A White House Staff Reunion

A reunion picnic on June 24, 1983, was the scene of hugging, kissing, and backslapping, as former White House domestic staff greeted one another with laughter, emotion, and plenty of memories. Read More

1990s: Smithsonian Festival Honors White House Workers

Coinciding with the 200th anniversary of the White House, the Festival of American Folklife featured a program entitled "Workers at the White House" on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Read More

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