February 14, 2023

A Brief History of Presidential Pets and Other Pet Squirrels

Black and white photo of person feeding a nut to a squirrel

Maybe we're biased, but we think the squirrel is the most distinguished pet to have ever lived in the White House. Did you know the oversized role that this undersized animal has played in Washington, D.C. history? In honor of Presidents’ Day, we’ve gathered some thoughts on the topic for you — prepare to be amazed!

For an exhaustive, and frankly exhausting but fascinating read on this topic, please enjoy this article in White House History!
(click on "read digital edition" and scroll to pages 20-31 for the article)

Don’t have all day? Here’s a quick piece that hits hard, including a poem by Benjamin Franklin about Mungo, the squirrel he loved so dearly:
 The Surprising Link Between Squirrels and the Founding Fathers

Person feeding a squirrel from their hand

This (above) is President Warren Harding's pet squirrel Pete, being fed by Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby in 1922. Fancy fellow!

President Reagan holding a large plastic bag full of pecans


Ronald Reagan fed the squirrels right outside the Oval Office with acorns that the gardening staff gathered for him. What a guy!

Old time renaissance painting of kid and a squirrel

Above is young Wall Street titan and champion indoor kid Daniel Verplanck, painted in 1771, in the height of the pet squirrel craze, by John Singleton Copley. Daniel was nine years old and posed with his pet squirrel on its delicate gold leash, a common pet and accessory of the day. This is a detail view, the painting can be seen in its entirety at the Met Museum's website.

Hank the Fortune Favors squirrel with a pecan in its mouth
This is Hank, an eastern grey squirrel, enjoying a piece of Fortune Favors candied pecan that was hand-fed to him by a staff member behind the shop. We do not condone this activity, nor do we condone giving Hank rides in personal vehicles (Eric).