Fifty years ago, in the simpler days of television, all three networks aired a tour of the White House led by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. As WNYC’s Sara Fishko tells us, a stunning number of Americans tuned in and took notice. Here is the next Fishko Files.
A clip from Jacqueline Kennedy's Tour of the White House.
Publicity photo with Kennedy and CBS' Charles Collingwood.
To take a look at what other items First Ladies have added to the White House, read “50 Years of Decorating the White House” at WNYC Culture.
When JFK requested a re-take of his address at the end of The White House Tour, the CBS cameras were about to leave for the 13th annual Pillsbury Bake-Off in Ohio. The Pillsbury Bake-Off is a much-hyped, annual contest run by Pillsbury that started in 1949, and continues to be popular today. By the way, the grand prize-winning dessert in 1962 was Apple Pie '63 by Julia Smogor.
Much attention was paid to Jacqueline Kennedy’s distinct voice throughout the White House Tour broadcast.
Vaughn Meader, comedian and JFK impersonator, made light of Jackie’s delivery in “The First Family” (1962), a comedic album lampooning The Kennedys and current events at the time.
With the release of Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy this past fall, Jackie’s voice is still on people’s minds, and on the airwaves.
Voices of the First Ladies
We took a listen to the voices of Mamie (Eisenhower), Jackie (Kennedy) and Lady Bird (Johnson).
Few recordings of Mamie Eisenhower are available. Courtesy of the Eisenhower Library, here is Mamie on her 61st birthday, blowing out candles and thanking guests for attending the celebration.
“I wanted to tell you how happy you’ve made me today and I appreciate this birthday party to no end. Good start for 61…”
This is a selection from Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy. Jacqueline Kennedy talks about her first tour of the White House, while in recovery after a caesarian section. Mrs. Eisenhower did not provide a wheel chair.
“I’d read in the paper that it was customary for the first lady to show the new one around…We were to leave at 2:30 for Florida. I didn’t want to go. After a caesarean it’s hard to walk after that. Like a fool I said I’d go. I wish I hadn’t. They said they’d have a wheel chair and everything. You were dragged around every floor and not even asked to sit down. And when I got back I really had a weeping fit. And I couldn’t stop crying for about two days. …so that wasn’t very nice of Mrs. Eisenhower.”
Lady Bird Johnson
Lady Bird Johnson was more willing to enter the spotlight than Mrs. Kennedy. In fact, Mrs. Johnson accepted Mrs. Kennedy’s honorary Emmy for The White House Tour on Mrs. Kennedy’s behalf. Although there isn’t a recording from this acceptance speech, Mrs. Johnson took to television to promote causes such as the Women’s Movement throughout her time as First Lady.
“I once thought the women’s movement belonged more to my daughters than to me. But I’ve come to known that it belongs to women of all ages.”
WNYC Production Credits
Executive Producer: Sara Fishko
Assistant Producer: Laura Mayer
Mix Engineer: Wayne Shulmister
WNYC Newsroom Editor: Karen Frillmann