White House Gift Unit, White House Central Files, 1969-1974


Descriptive Summary

Title: White House Gift Unit, White House Central Files, 1969-1974
Dates: 1969-1974
Collection Number: 6219826
Creator/Collector: White House Gift Unit WHGU
Extent: 22 linear feet, 9 linear inches; 52 boxes
Online items available
Repository: 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.

Publication Rights

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.

Preferred Citation

White House Gift Unit, White House Central Files, 1969-1974. Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

Acquisition Information

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.

Biography/Administrative History

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

This series contains the records of the White House Gift Unit maintained as part of the White House Central Files. This series is comprised of the Correspondence subseries, the Alpha Subject Files subseries, the Gift Lists and Cards subseries, the Drafts and Form Letters subseries, and the Duplicate Gift Lists subseries. The Correspondence subseries documents the White House Gift Unit's role in drafting letters of acknowledgement for all gifts sent to the First Family. In addition to this general correspondence, this subseries contains memoranda from the Gift Unit to the Protocol Office of the State Department concerning the disposition of foreign gifts. The Alpha Subject Files subseries contains letters, memoranda, invoices, and receipts, among others, documenting the purchase of some of the gifts presented to certain White House visitors by the members of the First Family. Also included in this subseries is correspondence related to the "Journey of Peace" traveling exhibit. This exhibit displayed the gifts received from the government of the People's Republic of China and items purchased by President and Mrs. Richard M. Nixon during their 1972 trip to China. The Gifts Lists and Cards subseries includes lists and records of all gifts presented to, or received on behalf of, the President and the First Family. The Drafts and Form Letters subseries contains materials similar to those found in the Correspondence subseries. The Duplicate Gift Lists subseries contains copies of lists found in the Gift Lists and Cards subseries. 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.