White House Gift Unit, White House Central Files, 1969-1974
Title: White House Gift Unit, White House Central Files, 1969-1974
Collection Number: 6219826
White House Gift Unit
Extent: 22 linear feet, 9 linear inches; 52 boxes
Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum
Abstract: The White House Gift Unit was responsible for sending and receiving White House Gifts and Cards. The series contains correspondence,
subject files, Gift lists and cards and form letters.
Language of Material: English
Collection is open for research. Some materials may be unavailable based upon categories of materials exempt from public release
established in the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act of 1974.
Most government records are in the public domain; however, this series includes commercial materials, such as newspaper clippings,
that may be subject to copyright restrictions. Researchers should contact the copyright holder for information.
White House Gift Unit, White House Central Files, 1969-1974. Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum
These materials are in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration under the provisions of Title I of
the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-526, 88 Stat. 1695) and implementing regulations.
The White House Gift Unit (WHGU) was established during the Eisenhower administration to deal with the increasing number of
items presented to the Chief Executive and his family by foreign officials and U.S. citizens. Under the direction of Lucy
Ferguson (1969-1972) and Marge Wicklein (1973-1974), the White House Gift Unit during the Nixon years grew in size and responsibility.
The unit's primary task continued to be the documenting of gifts or gift-like items presented to the First Family. These items
were received by the WHGU in one of several ways: directly from the White House Mail Room as they arrived and were unpacked;
from the Congressional Liaison Office and members of the White House staff who accepted them on behalf of the President; from
the Office of Protocol in the Department of State; and from the First Family.
When the items were in the unit's physical custody, its first job was to fill out a special printed 3" x 5" card that was
designed to give the WHGU some measure of control over the gift collection. During the Nixon administration, the WHGU used
four color-coded cards to indicate either the type of gift or the recipient. Four basic colors signified the following: white
(the President), yellow (First Lady and daughters), pink (foreign gifts, including head of state and individuals), and green
(WHGU office copy of all domestic gifts). After a gift was properly logged in, WHGU personnel drafted a suitable but routine
acknowledgment letter. Once it was typed, the letter was sent to the appropriate official or family member for signature.
If a particular item required a special reply, Rose Mary Woods, Roland L. Elliott, or Michael B. Smith drafted the letter
for the President and Lucy A. Winchester, Social Secretary, did likewise for Mrs. Nixon
Additional responsibilities were assigned to the expanded White House Gift Unit of the Nixon administration. They included
packing and inventorying incoming gifts and then making the necessary arrangements to transport them to the National Archives
for courtesy storage; photographing most of the head of state gifts received; and, at the direction of the First Family, ordering
items for presentation to foreign dignitaries and other select visitors.
Scope and Content of Collection
The White House Gift Unit materials are a part of the White House Central Files, Staff Member and Office Files. They are divided
into five series: Correspondence, Alpha Subject Files, Gift Lists and Cards, Drafts and form letters and Duplicate Gift Lists.
The Correspondence series reflects the unit's role in drafting letters of acknowledgment for all gifts sent to the First Family.
The President, his personal secretary Rose Mary Woods, and Special Assistant to the President Roland L. Elliott are the principal
correspondents of these responses to both domestic and foreign gift donors. The file also contains correspondence by or on
behalf of Mrs. Nixon, Tricia Nixon Cox, and Julie Nixon Eisenhower. Much of Mrs. Nixon's correspondence is signed by her social
secretary Lucy A. Winchester. In addition to this general correspondence file, there are several folders containing memoranda
from the WHGU to the Protocol Office of the State Department concerning the disposition of foreign gifts. There are folders
for every year of the Nixon administration, except for 1972.
The Alpha Subject Files document the unit's responsibility for purchasing some of the gifts presented to certain White House
visitors by members of the First Family. For this obvious reason, therefore, much of the material in the series consists of
manufacturers' brochures, invoices, and other correspondence with specific companies. This series also includes some interesting
correspondence. There is, for example, correspondence relating to the 6-month, 12-city American tour of gifts from the Government
of the People's Republic of China as well as Chinese artifacts purchased by the Nixons during their 1972 China trip. This
traveling exhibit was entitled "Journey for Peace." Also present in this series are lists of countries to which Secretary
of State William P. Rogers, the Vice President, or the astronauts presented samples of moon rocks. In addition, the file contains
activity schedules and calendars for Mrs. Nixon, Tricia Cox, and Julie Eisenhower for the period 1970-1973.
The Gift Lists and Cards is composed of three subseries: gifts received, gifts sent, and gift cards. The first subseries includes
lists and records of all gifts presented to or received on behalf of the President and his family. The WHGU arranged these
lists according to archives box number and type of gift. According to policy and practice of the WHGU, all gifts and gift-like
items belonged to one of four general types: domestic, head of state, archives special, or Pre-Presidential. Only a small
portion of the material, however, was classified as "archives special." The following criteria was used by the WHGU in determining
whether or not a particular gift or item was of this type. If an item had been personally used by the President or a member
of his family, or was so closely associated with the First Family, it was designated as "archives special." Some examples
of items designated as "archives special" are the Nixon family Bibles, the naval uniform worn by the President, Julie and
Tricia Nixon's wedding dresses, and a black leather chair used by the President in the Oval Office. Such items seemed suitable
for purposes of exhibition.
The archivists determined that all items designated as "archives special" were the personal and private property of former
President Nixon and his family. These items were shipped in February 1978 to California and placed in courtesy storage at
the Federal Archives and Records Center, Laguna Niguel. On December 28, 1979, former President Nixon signed a deed of gift
presenting these items to the U.S. Government to be administered by the National Archives. These items remain in the records
center in Laguna Niguel, California.
The WHGU staff further arranged the same lists by category of gift and by recipient. This arrangement of the various gifts
under a fixed category scheme became a useful tool in the staff's processing, especially since it provided further intellectual
control. According to the scheme, which had been developed during the Eisenhower administration, there are 33 major categories
of gifts with numerous subdivisions. A list of the various category headings and subheadings used by the Nixon WHGU is included
in the appendix.
The second subseries of gift binders, inventories, and registers were created by the WHGU to aid the staff in maintaining
proper documentation of all gifts and gift-like items purchased on behalf of the President or members of his family, and sent
to various individuals. The gift binders present a master list of all gifts and gift-like items, with a brief description,
that were presented to official representatives of foreign governments as well as other individuals during selected foreign
travels of the President and Mrs. Nixon.
The third subseries are separate sets of 3" x 5" cards arranged according to either gift category or donor. The cards are
the result of a cataloguing system developed by the WHGU and the White House Mail Room. These gift cards contain such information
as: name and address of the donor, description of the item, category, recipient, date and manner received, date acknowledged,
and disposition. Not all of the cards, however, including all of the above information.
The Drafts and Form Letters series and Duplicate Gift Lists series contain material similar to those found in the Correspondence
series and the Gifts Received subseries respectively. Both of the former series, however, are incomplete.
The Subject Files of the White House Central Files, under the subject category "GI", includes approximately 40 cubic feet
of material which should be used in conjunction with the WHGU working files. There is an additional 15 cubic feet of material
in the White House Social Office Files relating to gifts received by Mrs. Nixon, Tricia and Edward Cox, and Julie and David
Eisenhower. Several commercial photographs, provided by certain manufacturers to illustrate some of their products for consideration
by the White House, have been removed from the files and transferred to the audiovisual collection (PA 79-6-290). Electrostatic
copies have been substituted for these photographs in the files. In addition to these commercial photographs, there is an
incomplete set of photographs, taken by the WHGU staff, of individual head of state gifts. This set is located in head of
state gift box numbered 118-C. Although the photographs are either in color or in black and white, a majority of them are
in color. The WHGU staff did not, however, photograph every head of state gift item. All paintings, rugs, and books were not
routinely photographed unless the item was considered by the staff as unusual.