Subaru Diane has an interesting story to share. As always!
Editor’s note: Why is she not writing a book?
This is a picture of my mother, Elizabeth Cannon Lowry, standing next to President John F. Kennedy at the White House, in January 1962. Here’s a bit of backstory:
In March 1921, following the inauguration of Warren Gamaliel Harding, the new President was wandering around the White House, unable to sleep and looking for something to read. He found nothing — the Executive Mansion had no books!
Word of this reached the American Booksellers Association and they determined then and there to stock the WH Library with reading material for the President and the First Family. They selected 200 American books that had been published in the past four years, and in early 1922 they presented them to Harding in a low-key White House ceremony.
Every four years from that point on (the year following inauguration year) the ABA made a similar presentation, always focusing on American authors, publishers, and themes in their selections.
Presenters were usually members of the Executive Committee/Board of Directors of the ABA, and it so happened that my mother (who owned and managed our family bookstore) was on the Board in early 1962 and hence part of the WH delegation.
Of course JFK was probably the best-read POTUS since Jefferson or Lincoln and until Obama, and probably already owned most of the books presented! But the point is, the books were not selected with specific presidents in mind, nor to be part of their personal libraries.
Instead, the 200 books every four years were meant for a permanent, cumulative, ever-growing White House library, for the use and pleasure of the President, the First Family, and WH staffers during their four-year stint, then left in place for their successors.
I haven’t heard about the program in years. I hope it’s still operational. A few years ago I emailed the ABA asking about it, but never got an answer. I should try again.