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National Archives

Season's Greetings from the White House

November 25, 1998 to January 31, 1999

Season's Greetings from the White House

Chances are good that you know someone who is a "collector," whether it is stamps, glassware, or perhaps even Presidential memorabilia. You know the type, they have to stop at junk shops and antique stores whenever they travel. They are on a quest to find that perfect missing piece to add to their collection. It was just such a trip to a political memorabilia shop in Washington, D.C. that would start Ron Seeley and his wife Mary down a long path that would eventually lead to the White House itself.

Dr. Seeley, a Tampa-based opthamologist, was already a collector, not your average, run of the mill collector. Whatever he does, he does with a passion and collecting is no different. In 1980, Dr. Seeley acquired a museum quality collection of more than 100 specimens reflecting plant and animal life in the Florissant-Lake George area. Since then, he and his sons Mark and Todd have dug together for crystals on Cameron's Cone in Pike National Forest and now have an "more than adequate" smoky quartz collection.

Several years ago, while attending a medical convention in Washington, D.C., Dr. Seeley's explorations led to a political memorabilia shop. A single purchase that day, a red velour presentation folder containing a print of George Washington, ( a gift from President and Mrs. Nixon to a White House employee,) would lead to an avalanche of questions. How many gifts like this came out of the White House each year? Were they all patriotic like this one? Were gifts other than printed pieces given? How many items actually bore a President's signature? What kind of Christmas cards did the First Families send? That one purchase opened up a whole new world of American history and art. That one purchase was the first step toward what would become the Seeley Collection of Presidential Christmas Memorabilia. The collection eventually would encompass not only card and gift prints, but items made of wood, pewter, sterling silver, glass, leather and even yarn.

Eventually word of the Seeley collection would reach the White House and garner its owners an invitation, from White House curator, Rex Scouten. Lamenting over the many discrepancies in the information circulating about Presidential Christmas memorabilia, Scouten said, "Someone should write a book to set the record straight." That's when Ron Seeley turned to Mary Seeley, holder of a masters degree in American history, and the adventure of a lifetime began. She met and interviewed many members of First Families, including a number of First Ladies; she talked with as many of the creators of Presidential Christmas art as she could find; and she collected details from people at Hallmark and American Greetings, from newspapers, magazines and books. The journey took more than four years-covered thousands of miles and comprised hundreds of conversations, but in the end the book that "set the record straight" was done.

Now after twice being featured at the White House, the Seeley Collection can be seen at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. The exhibit will be on display from November 25, 1998 thru January 31, 1999. Cost of admission to the exhibit is included in the normal museum admission fee of $3.00 for adults, $2.50 for senior citizens and students, children 16 and under are free. For further information please call 979-260-9552.

George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
1000 George Bush Drive West, College Station, Texas 77845
Telephone: (979) 691-4000 | Facsimile: (979) 691-4050 | TTY: (979) 691-4091