From everything I read, TR was a wonderful father, but in 1902 he made a decision that was unpopular with his six kids. He banned Christmas trees in the White House. He probably felt chopping down a perfectly good tree merely to use it as a decoration for a few weeks wasn’t right.
Two people dared to disobey the most powerful man in the country. His sons 8-year-old Archie and 6-year old Quentin were the culprits. Unbeknownst to their father, they cut down a little conifer that was growing on the White House property, snuck it into the White House, and set it up in a rarely used room. They decorated the tree with lots of homemade ornaments and possibly electric lights with the help of the house electrician.
On December 25tth, the boys proudly led their family to their little Christmas tree. One can only imagine TR’s response to this unexpected development. Possibly he was proud of his spunky sons, or possibly he was angry. The story continues that TR called in Forest Service Chief Gifford Pinchot to explain to the boys why cutting down the tree was a bad idea. To his surprise, Pinchot told them there are benefits to selection cutting as a way to manage forests. The following Christmas, a large, beautifully decorated tree graced the White House with TR’s blessing.
Wishing you all Happy Holidays!