What’s for Dinner?

Part of the Pets at the White House series

It was the custom to send gifts of food for the president’s Thanksgiving meal. President Calvin Coolidge (whose pet was Blacky the elevator-riding cat), asked that no one to send him any because he didn’t want to be wasteful. So he received two 30-pound turkeys, quail, wild ducks, wild geese, more than a dozen rabbits, a deer, and a racoon! A live one at that! 

President Coolidge didn’t fancy roasted racoon, so he named her Rebecca and built a pen around a tree in the White House lawn 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; instead 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 to 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. 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, and then 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