Gerald and Betty Ford

A Patchwork Theme, 1974

Patchwork Tree
click image for enlarged view

In the 1970's, the old-fashioned Christmas--turkey dinner, pumpkin pie, popcorn strings, and patchwork ornaments--was at odds with changes taking place in America. The topic of Christmas at the White House didn't even get discussed until November because the Fords didn't take office until late summer. Both the Kennedys and the Johnsons took their Christmas ornaments with them when they left the White House and the Nixon ornaments were not Mrs. Ford's style. She preferred homemade or sentimental ornaments. Mrs. Ford's idea for a Christmas tree was that it should be warm and personal. In 1974, she asked specific groups to make the tree ornaments using a patchwork theme. The homemade patchwork tree emphasized thrift and simplicity in this time of recession. Mrs. Ford encouraged Americans everywhere to make their ornaments in order to save money. She even offered a White House pamphlet on how to make patchwork Christmas tree ornaments.

In 1975, to honor America's upcoming bicentennial celebration, the National Christmas Tree was decorated with 4,600 red, white, and blue ornaments and 12,000 lights. On the top of the 45-foot blue spruce sat a 4-foot gold and green replica of the Liberty Bell, donated by General Electric. There were also 13 smaller trees representing the 13 colonies and 44 other trees placed in a row representing states and territories. About 7,500 people attended the tree-lighting ceremony that year.


F. Roosevelt

Return to main exhibits page

Return to Hoover main page