Christmas on the Potomac 2017

Nixon christmas card

Richard and Pat Nixon’s card for Christmas 1971; it depicts Washington and architect James Hoban discussing progress on the first White House, 1798.

For years, SCPC has mounted an annual holiday exhibit to showcase cards from its holdings.  It all began when, in processing the papers of former congressman Bryan Dorn in the 1980s, we discovered three cartons of Christmas cards sent to Dorn while he was in Congress — hundreds of cards sent by luminaries like presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, governors Don Russell and Bob McNair, foreign dignitaries, other leaders in Congress, businesses and organizations across South Carolina and the nation, and many constituents.  They were fascinating and we felt our public would enjoy seeing them as much as we did.

A holiday tradition was born and we now actively seek cards sent and received by our donors.  My final holiday exhibit will go up Dec. 1.  In it, I am sharing some of my favorite cards from across the years. 

Clinton card

Bill and Hillary Clinton’s 12″ x 13″ card, North Portico of the White House, 1999

Presidential cards are always fun and you’ll see one of the mammoth cards sent to members of Congress by President Clinton along with four other favorite presidential cards.  USC presidents also take great care in designing their cards.  Picking favorites was difficult, but I persevered and you’ll see several favorite USC cards. 

Early on, we noticed that cards sent by members of Congress seemed to feature either scenes of the Capitol in winter or family photos.  The latter often included family pets.  Years later, in processing the papers of Butler Derrick, we learned that this was a formal recommendation.  We came across, if memory serves, a 1975 note from the House Stationery Office which suggested those exact options to freshman members.  Over the years, we have shown in the exhibit beautiful scenes of the Capitol as well as fun family photos sent by members of the South Carolina delegation and other leaders in Congress.  Fritz Hollings usually sent a Thanksgiving card with original art by a nephew.   Two of these will be exhibited.

Tim Scott card

Senator Tim Scott’s 2014 Christmas card featuring his family

Businesses and organizations often show great creativity in their cards.  Michelin’s usually feature the iconic “Michelin Man.”  

We hope you will visit and that our exhibit, located on the main floor at the front of Thomas Cooper Library, might help put you in the holiday spirit.

By Herb Hartsook

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