An Egg-centric White House Tradition

In 1958 Bunny, Hazel, Fred (Skippy), and Darlene Johansen attend the Eisenhowers' White House Easter Egg Roll. (Eisenhower Library)
In 1958 Bunny, Hazel, Fred (Skippy), and Darlene Johansen attend the Eisenhowers' White House Easter Egg Roll. (Eisenhower Library)

Today’s an eggs-ellent day in Washington, DC, for young people! It’s the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, where hundreds of children gather to roll eggs and play games on the South Lawn of the President’s House.

But the tradition did not start at the White House. It began on the lawns and terraces of the Capitol after the Civil War. Children of all races and backgrounds rolled eggs and played games on the turf around the Capitol.

But in 1878, children who arrived at the Capitol on Easter Monday were turned away.

Congress had passed a law to prevent these young citizens from taking such liberties on the grounds, and it became the “duty of the Capitol police hereafter to prevent any portion of the Capitol grounds and terraces from being used as playgrounds or otherwise.”

It’s not clear how the party was rolled over to the White House, but a newspaper clipping in Rutherford B. Hayes’s personal scrapbook shows he was the first President to officially allow the Executive Mansion to be used for egg rolling. (There were informal egg rollings there as early as Lincoln’s administration.)

The good times and egg rolling continued through the following Presidential administrations with a few brief interruptions. In 1917, during World War I, the egg roll was canceled until 1920 because of concerns of the waste of food.

War took a toll again in 1946, when Harry Truman discouraged the egg roll in the face of the millions left devasted and starving by World War II. The egg roll did not return until President Eisenhower revived it in 1953.

It’s been rolling along ever since! Here’s some fun facts from our favorite egg-centric Prologue article:

    In 1933, Eleanor introduced organized games and greeted the public by radio on a nationwide hookup.
    In 1969, Pat Nixon’s staff introduced the White House Easter Bunny
    In 1974, organized egg-rolling races were introduced.
    In 1981, First Lady Nancy Reagan presided over the festivities. As a little girl, she had attended President Coolidge’s egg roll.
    In 1998, Bill and Hillary Clinton welcomed the world’s children—live—over the Internet.

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