Garage Sale: The 1882 White House Public Auction

For more than 200 years the White House had been home to presidents, site of official functions, and of course a center of governmental work of the Executive branch. It comes as no surprise then that the furniture, floors, carpets, windows – nearly everything, in fact – has been replaced a few times. And in 1882, a “fancy” but unexpected president decided to get rid of old furniture the old fashioned way: by selling it at public auction.

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This is original content based on research by The History Guy. Images in the Public Domain are carefully selected and provide illustration. As very few images of the actual event are available in the Public Domain, images of similar objects and events are used for illustration.

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Script by JCG

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  1. You do all that build-up about reformers and Stalwarts, but you never quote the assassin's claim ‘I am a Stalwart of Stalwarts. Arthur is President now!’. (But Arthur supported and signed the 1883 civil-service reform bill anyway.)

  2. It's hard to make comparisons, especially given the monochrome photos. And tastes change. But I'd much sooner visit some of the previous incarnations of the place than that created by more recent inhabitants.

  3. I found this very relevant considering the current issues items being removed from the White House. Also love the clip with the cat being a cat. It's good to know I'm not the only one who deals with cats being the star of videos and zoom interactions. =)

  4. Truman's gutting of the WH should be a story in itself. I have heard that all the walls and floors were kept, boxed up and put in museum. Is this true? Or what happened to everything from that remodel? I also heard that Disney when they wanted to do their amusement park in Virginia wanted to buy these walls and floors to recreate the WH. Is that true? So many rumors. Which are true?

  5. If cats have taught me anything it's that they don't care about YouTube video makers and that they know YouTube was made for their own videos

  6. This Victorian White House sounds mind-blowing. Ivory and gold leaf, holy crap. Everything’s made in Vietnam now and brutalist. I know it sounds posh to talk about Victorian stuff but, aesthetic has REALLY gone down hill when you think about it! The materials too, there’s no comparison. We don’t really have the restoration ability either, that’s all dying off. Even furniture from like 60 years ago is unbelievable compared with new crap, things used to be one-piece, specific to one species of tree, stuff like that. Just check out any antique mall, I find it pretty sad. Our historic theater in town is gorgeous but it’s decrepit. Mass production over craftsmanship. And we’ll never return, it’s much more expensive to have nice things now than it was back then.

  7. That cat must be a pirate.
    (Don't all good stories involve Pirates?!)

    Cats have proven that the Earth is round.
    Otherwise, they would have pushed everything
    over the edge.


  8. When the Clintons left they took so much furniture and items that weren’t theirs the government had to go get back many items from them.
    As a life long Arkansan I was not surprised they thought they were entitled to any and everything they could carry out.

  9. Arthur is a wonderfully underappreciated president. Given his background; he had never stood for elective office before 1880 and had a reputation as a backroom political fixer for Conkling's machine, little was expected of him. But he turned out to be a moderately progressive president for the time. As president he signed the Pendleton Act initiating the first civil service reform, he supported early Federal efforts at wildlife conservation, he vetoed the first Chinese Exclusion Act which he found repugnant, though he later signed a watered-down version fearing another veto would be overridden. He began the first modernization and expansion of the US Navy since the Civil War. The Navy had been allowed to deteriorate to the point where it had become an international laughingstock. And he did all this while secretly suffering from Brights Disease which by the end of his term had left him exhausted and weak. He would die from the disease just two years after leaving office. Sadly, Arthur ordered all his papers destroyed shortly before his death. And yes, he did have a reputation as a man who enjoyed the better things in life. It really is too bad that almost nothing of Arthur's High Victorian decor still survives.

  10. I so enjoyed this episode, my house was built 1860 by a Gentleman from Maine. and married a Lady from The South. The fire places and woodwork still remains .

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