Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The first ever photograph of the White House

Washingtonian Magazine just published in its online edition what the White House Historical Association believes is the first photograph of the Executive Mansion.
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.  Accessed on Washingtonian Magazine's website on 13 Jan. 2016.
The photograph was taken in 1846 when James K. Polk was the occupant.  The photographer was likely standing on Pennsylvania Avenue somewhere near 15th Street.  The camera is pointing southwest so it shows the south side of the White House.
Image result for security map around white house
Today, of course, the mansion is surrounded by a security gate, ... 
Image result for white house south side

... and President Truman added a balcony outside the upper level.
truman looks at his balcony in 1949 with the committee to renovate the white house
Source:, accessed 13 Jan. 2016
Classroom Connection: These materials, and other photographs and maps that you could find, would be a nice way to introduce the impact that threats (external and internal) have had on the lives of our most public Americans.  Ask your students to address this question: How did the president's formal residence reflect the growing power of the office and the growing safety risk to people who lived and worked there?  Some useful starting points of reference could be:
  • the large public crowds that came through the White House during the inaugurations of Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison
  • closing off the White House grounds during World War II
  • the assassination attempt on President Truman across the street from the White House
  • placing concrete barriers outside the perimeter after terrorist attacks in the 1980s
  • the increasingly stricter use of perimeter fencing after 9/11
Students could also compare the increasing security at the White House with corresponding security measures used to protect employees and visitors in other public buildings.

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