A Gift for the President . . . Garden Gnomes
Spring 2017, Vol. 49, No. 1 | Pieces of History
The practice of giving gifts to U.S. Presidents dates back to the Washington administration. Since those early days, Presidents have received fine arts and homemade crafts, produce and livestock, cheeses, furniture, jewelry, and more. The gifts come from heads of state and private citizens of the United States and other lands.
Among the many gifts received by President John F. Kennedy is this set of six garden gnomes, made in the likenesses of JFK and five European leaders. The gnomes were the gift of ceramicist Willy Langenhan of the Heissner ceramic company in West Germany. Langenhan was well known as a maker of garden ceramics, especially gnomes.
The six gnomes are 10 inches tall and made of plaster. Five of the statues hold objects that identify the public figure. Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor of West Germany and an amateur gardener and rose enthusiast, holds roses and gardening shears. Charles De Gaulle, president of France, holds a rooster, one of the national emblems of France. Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Soviet Union, holds up his shoe, referring to the time he brandished his shoe in the United Nations. Ludwig Erhard, Vice Chancellor of West Germany, holds his trademark cigar. And Willy Brandt, mayor of West Berlin, is accompanied by a small bear, the symbol of Berlin.