Presidential Gifts Through the Years

  • It’s Good to be President

    Being the leader of the free world has its perks. Like, say, getting showered with gifts by visiting heads of state. Every year the president plays host to prime ministers and presidents from around the world, and receives in exchange for his hospitality some pretty sweet gifts. And we’re not talking about a bottle of wine or a lovely fruit basket – the president and his family get hand-woven rugs, priceless art and ancient artifacts. Of course, federal employees receiving gifts from foreign entities raises some tricky ethical issues, so the State Department’s Office of the Chief of Protocol diligently catalogs every gift received by the first family, along with its estimated value. It also notes the “circumstances justifying acceptance” of the gift, which in the president’s case is always the same: “Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. Government.” And so the president continues to rack up mountains of gifts from foreign governments, as every president since Washington has. Here are some of the best – and a few of the weirdest – gifts that presidents have accepted over the years. Photo Credit: National Archives and Records Administration
    A Bowl of Shamrocks for… Everyone
  • A Bowl of Shamrocks for… Everyone

    This one has become something of a presidential tradition: Every year on St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland’s prime minister gets an audience with the American president. And every year, he brings the same gift: a Waterford crystal bowl filled with shamrocks. A great gift, but one that raises some important questions: Who’s the poor intern in the prime minister’s office who has to gather the shamrocks every year? How long does the White House wait before throwing out the shamrocks and putting the bowl in storage? And why doesn’t Ireland switch things up once in a while and bring some Guinness? Photo Credit: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
    Trout for Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • Trout for Franklin Delano Roosevelt

    Not every gift comes from a foreign head of state. According to the Library of Congress, Sportsman Erdorn W. Wood caught 29 trout at a pond in New Hampshire in May 1937, then decided that instead of grilling them he would fly them down to Washington for FDR to enjoy. These days it’s doubtful you could gain access to the White House by showing up with a crate of fish, but Wood and his fish were received by Roosevelt’s secretary. It’s unclear how the president prepared them. Photo Credit: Library of Congress
    Water/Wine Vessel for Gerald Ford
  • Water/Wine Vessel for Gerald Ford

    This nearly 2,000-year-old water or wine vessel was apparently left behind during Rome’s occupation of present-day Israel. It was presented to President Ford by Shimon Peres, then Israel’s defense minister. Peres is now the country’s president, and under his watchful eye the country has not been re-occupied by the Roman Empire. Photo Credit: National Archives and Records Administration
    A Saddle for Ronald Reagan
  • A Saddle for Ronald Reagan

    With Reagan’s numerous starring turns in Western films, we suppose it was inevitable that he would get some cowboy paraphernalia. Malcolm Fraser, Australia’s prime minister, gave the Gipper this fine looking leather saddle in 1981. This was one of only dozens of saddles received by Reagan in his two terms in office, according to the National Archives. Photo Credit: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
    Commemorative Plate for the Clintons
  • Commemorative Plate for the Clintons

    Five days after the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty was signed in October 1994, Jordan’s Queen Noor presented this silver and gold plate commemorating the occasion to first lady Hillary Clinton. At the time, the Office of the Chief of Protocol appraised it at $600; we’re guessing it has appreciated in value a bit since then. It now resides in the Clinton Presidential Library in Arkansas. Photo Credit: William J. Clinton Presidential Library
    1,001 Reasons to Love America for George W. Bush
  • 1,001 Reasons to Love America for George W. Bush

    When Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei, paid President George W. Bush a visit in early 2007, he brought with him a bounty of gifts: a silver set worth $400, $481 worth of chocolate and candy and a nice crystal bowl. And then he decided to throw in this patriotic tome, which according to Amazon.com is written by the authors of 1,001 Reasons to Love Golf. We’re sure Bush, a famously voracious reader, will get around to reading it now that he’s retired. Photo Credit: Amazon.com
    A Wooden Pen Holder for Barack Obama
  • A Wooden Pen Holder for Barack Obama

    On March 3, 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Brown arrived from England with a black and gold pen, along with a pen holder carved from the wood of the HMS Gannett (left), a British anti-slavery ship commissioned in 1878. Presented along with a set of books about Winston Churchill, the total haul was valued at more than $16,000 by the Protocol Office. In return, Obama presented Brown with a set of DVDs of classic American movies. Don’t you hate it when you’re out-gifted? Photo Credit: Paul Englefield
    Various Gifts from Hosni Mubarak, for Multiple Presidents
  • Various Gifts from Hosni Mubarak, for Multiple Presidents

    The Egyptian revolution brought into focus the close relationship between the United States and Egypt during Hosni Mubarak’s nearly 30 years of rule. Over the course of his presidency, the U.S. sent billions of dollars in aid to Egypt, and in exchange Mubarak provided us with a reliable ally in the region. He also provided American presidents and their families with plenty of nice gifts. There was the gold-plated vase worth $650 he gave to Bill Clinton in 1993, the $1,500 rug given to George W. Bush in April 2001 and a yellow alabaster bowl and silver chains given to first lady Michelle Obama by President Mubarak’s wife, Suzanne. The silver metal bowl at left was given to the Clintons by Suzanne Mubarak as well. Anyway, we’re guessing the Mubaraks won’t be sending any more gifts to America’s presidents. Photo Credit: William J. Clinton Presidential Library
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