Historical Pets Who Were Great at Working from Home

By Stacey Flores Chandler, Reference Archivist

When you work where you live – as both President John F. Kennedy and writer Ernest Hemingway often did – pets tend to show up whenever they like and remain unbothered by workplace behavior rules. In the hope of adding some joy (and historical knowledge!) to your day, here’s a selection of photographs from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library’s archival collections that involve cute animals living their best lives.

Cats

The first of many pets to move into the Kennedy White House was Tom Kitten, whom the Associated Press described as “a cat of undetermined age and dubious background.” Tom Kitten’s arrival caught the attention of press photographers, and he tolerated their interest long enough for a photo shoot in January 1961.

JFKWHP-AR6292-A. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s Press Secretary Pamela Turnure holds Caroline Kennedy’s cat Tom Kitten during a visit with press at the White House, 24 January 1961.

But the majority of the cats in our archives come courtesy of writer and cat aficionado Ernest Hemingway. In addition to Hemingway’s papers, the Library has several photograph collections that document the writer’s life and career – and his many, many cats doing cat activities, including sitting on various objects, interrupting people who are trying to work, and putting their faces into things.

EHPH-03384. Ernest Hemingway’s cat Big Boy Peterson sits among papers in front of a window with a view of Bald Mountain at Hemingway’s home in Ketchum, Idaho, undated. Copyright unknown.
EHPH-01192. Good Will, Hemingway’s Angora tiger cat, lounges in a chair at Hemingway’s home in Cuba, the Finca Vigia, undated. Copyright unknown.
EHPH-03157. Ernest Hemingway holds his cat Cristobal while typing at his desk in his home in Cuba, the Finca Vigia. This image was captured during a shoot for a 1953 LOOK Magazine story. Photograph by Earl Theisen, copyright Roxann Livingston / Earl Theisen Archives [used here with thanks to Roxann Livingston].
EHPH-08505. Ernest Hemingway watches as his cat Cristobal investigates a glass of water on a table in his home in Cuba, the Finca Vigia, circa 1960. Copyright unknown.

Dogs

John F. Kennedy seemed to be more of a dog fan himself; despite a documented allergy, he had dogs around for most of his life. He and Jacqueline Kennedy already had one dog in the family when they moved into the White House – a Welsh terrier named Charlie – and they would add Clipper, Wolf, Shannon, Pushinka (a gift from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev), and Charlie and Pushinka’s four puppies over the course of the administration. Luckily, White House photographers were always ready to capture the contributions of these and other very good dogs in the Kennedy orbit.

In his oral history interview, unofficial White House “dog wrangler” Traphes Bryant describes teaching Pushkina how to play on Caroline Kennedy’s slide: “President Kennedy asked me how I taught Pushinka to climb the ladder and slide down the chute. I told President Kennedy I moved a peanut up step by step. He laughed when I showed him the pictures.”

Other First Dogs are pictured in the White House Photographs collection enjoying such favorite dog hobbies as sitting on human furniture, eating treats, following people around, and getting pets.

KN-C29659-B. Kennedy family dog, Shannon, sits in a chair in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, 13 August 1963.
ST-C363-2-63. John F. Kennedy, Jr. feeds Clipper on the walkway outside the Oval Office. Family dogs Shannon (center) and Wolf (right) stand nearby as the President’s Personal Secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, looks on, 24 October 1963.
KN-27613. President John F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy, Jr. (holding his father’s hand), walk along a path at Camp David in Frederick County, Maryland. They’re followed by Kennedy family dog Charlie; Under Secretary of the Navy Paul “Red” Fay with his daughter Sally; White House motion picture photographer Lieutenant Thomas M. Atkins; and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, 31 March 1963.
ST-C267-7-63. President John F. Kennedy speaks on the phone while First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and their children, Caroline Kennedy and John F. Kennedy, Jr., sit with their dogs, White Tips (with John Jr.), Wolf (on Caroline’s lap), and Clipper (at right), at Brambletyde house on Squaw Island, Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, 14 August 1963.

ponies

The Kennedys also had a number of ponies and horses, including one of the most famous Presidential pets: Caroline Kennedy’s pony, Macaroni. Macaroni and his fellow ponies Tex (a gift from Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson) and Leprechaun (a gift from President Éamon de Valera of Ireland) were most often found exploring the grounds at the White House and other Kennedy homes. The ponies can also be seen taking the time to ignore meetings between world leaders and topple the President of the United States onto the ground.

KN-22363. President John F. Kennedy walks along the walkway from the South Lawn to the West Wing Colonnade outside the Oval Office at the White House. Caroline Kennedy follows on her pony Macaroni, 22 June 1962.
AR7185-M. President John F. Kennedy, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan of Great Britain, Ambassador of Great Britain Sir David Ormsby-Gore; First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy; and the Ambassador’s wife, Sylvia Thomas Ormsby-Gore stand on the South Lawn at the White House as Kennedy family ponies Macaroni (in front) and Tex stand at right, 29 April 1962.

Happily, these photographs represent only a small selection of the fun animal content in our archives. You can check out more archives animals on our website, and keep an eye on our blog for future animal-related posts. Meanwhile, remember to wash your hands often – even if you haven’t just fed a deer!

ST-C305-1-63. President John F. Kennedy feeds bread to a deer at Lassen Volcanic National Park in California, 27 September 1963.

4 comments

  1. Love the content great job
    One thing to correct, it’s not spelt Atoka it’s Avoca after a place here in Co Wicklow Ireland
    Thanks!

Leave a Reply