What’s for Dinner?

Part of the Pets at the White House series

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

A raccoon dinner

Imagine being the cook at the White House preparing the Thanksgiving meal and the back door continually rings interrupting your preparations with deliveries of packages from the American people for the president’s Thanksgiving dinner. Mostly turkeys, some even fattened on chocolates. Such generosity to make the president’s Thanksgiving a delight. Americans have sent food even in the toughest of times.

During his presidency, President Calvin Coolidge (the president who owned Blacky the cat) asked no one to send him any food because he didn’t want to be wasteful. Instead of listening, the cook at the back door was even busier: Americans sent President Coolidge two 30-pound turkeys, quail, wild ducks, wild geese, more than a dozen rabbits, and a deer. 

Among the food arriving at the backdoor was a raccoon intended as their main course. Coolidge didn’t fancy roasted racoon, so he named her Rebecca and built a pen around a tree for her home.

When Rebecca was let out of her cage, she followed President Coolidge on his walks around the White House on a leash. Rebecca wasn’t fed any of the Thanksgiving feast, she was fed persimmons and shrimp. She wore a collar embroidered with her name, Rebecca, and White House Raccoon.

President Coolidge’s wife Grace with Rebecca at the White House Easter Egg Roll

Rebecca could be a troublemaker. She’d unscrew light bulbs, open cabinets, and dig up potted plants. Rebecca liked play in the bathtub with the soap for hours.

When President College left Rebecca behind when the White House was being repaired, he missed her so much he sent the presidential limousine and chauffeur to pick her up.

Fun Fact: During the 1920s, wearing coats made out of racoon skin was all the rage and President Coolidge’s son John received one the same year that the family adopted Rebecca.

Grace Coolidge and her son John

Rebecca lived with President Coolidge’s family until they left the White House, when she was sent to live in a zoo. Her cage at the White House was soon occupied by her successor, Billy the opossum.

Fun Fact: President Coolidge also received a pair of lion cubs but not for Thanksgiving dinner. He named them Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau.

Author: Kathleen Vincenz