Strange Presidential Gifts

Presidents receive a lot of gifts, from other politicians, world leaders, well-wishers, etc. All gifts from overseas, are accepted on behalf of the nation, and passed along to the General Services Administration. Most non-perishable gifts of state end up in presidential libraries or the National Archives. You have to imagine that some of those gifts are going to be pretty strange, and they are. Mental Floss lists some pretty strange ones from previous presidents.

1. George W. Bush:
President Bush and his family received about 1,000 gifts per month during his two terms in office. Some of those gifts include:
An iPod from U2 lead singer, Bono. A Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook and vocabulary-building game from the Sultan of Brunei. An electric harp with a speakerphone from Vietnam.
300 pounds of raw lamb meat from the president of Argentina in 2003.

2. Bill Clinton:
The president of Azerbaijan gave Bill Clinton a carpet portrait. The design featured the First Couple inside a heart-shaped medallion

3. George H.W. Bush:
The president of Indonesia presented a Komodo dragon to President Bush.

4. Ronald Reagan:
President Reagan was gifted 372 belt buckles while in office, and enough tacking equipment to outfit an entire stable.

5. Jimmy Carter:
Mexican president Jose Lopez Portillo commissioned Octavio Ocampo to paint a portrait of President Carter. Carter’s image in the portrait was created out of national symbols, including buildings, flags, sailing ships, and truck convoys.

6. Richard Nixon:
A Pakistani man’s gift to President Nixon was a magnifying glass inside a plush blue velvet box, along with two snapshots of himself and two grains of rice. One grain of rice featured a portrait of Nixon as president; the other featured a portrait of a young Nixon in the Navy.

7. John F. Kennedy:
R.J. McErlean’s remarkable ode to JFK features a portrait of Kennedy and the inscription “President John F. Kennedy of the United States,” carved onto a peach pit. An eagle on a shield is carved on the left side of the pit, above a depiction of St. Christopher.

8. Harry Truman:
A two-lane bowling alley was installed in the White House in 1947 as a birthday gift to President Truman.

9. Franklin D. Roosevelt:
The birthday cake presented to FDR on the occasion of his 59th birthday was 5 feet high and weighed 300 pounds. The cake was a gift of the Bakery and Confectionery Workers International Union of America.

10. Rutherford B. Hayes:
A lemon carved to look like a pig was presented to President Hayes and later featured in an exhibit at the Herbert Hoover presidential library titled, “Weird and Wonderful: Gifts Fit For a President.”

11. Abraham Lincoln:
He was inaugurated in a suit donated by Titsworth and Brothers of Chicago, and, according to Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer, is reported to have told his wife, “There is one thing to come out of this scrape anyhow. We are going to have some new clothes!”

12. Thomas Jefferson:
One of the earliest recorded gifts of state was the mammoth cheese presented to President Jefferson by the Republican Baptists in Cheshire, Massachusetts, in 1802. It weighed in at 1,235-pounds. The cheese was inscribed with the phrase “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” Jefferson, who had a policy not to accept free gifts, insisted that he pay $200 for the cheese.

Read the rest at Mental Floss!


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