October 2 - John Adams on Samuel Adams
(& not the Beer) 

​January 1 - ​First New Year's Day
at the White House

​Journals of the Continental Congress, ​​November ​7, ​1777

​​Imagine having to host a housewarming - where the house is not warm, or even completely a house. Welcome to John and Abigail Adams' New Year's Day party at the Executive Mansion in Washington, D.C. - also not yet called the White House.

More from John Adams:


​Reproduction of Invitation. Not an original.    

When John Adams first moved to the nation's new capital, Washington D.C., in June of 1800, ​the city itself was a work in progress. Roads and buildings more unfinished, including the executive mansion, or the President's House. (It was not yet officially titled the White House.) In fact, Adams had to stay in a hotel near the Capitol for a while before the House could even be considered livable. 

I like the Seat of Government very well and shall Sleep, or lie awake next Winter in the Presidents house.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, June 13, 1800.

 ​When Abigail joined her husband since November, she had different views of her new house.

​This House is twice as large as our meeting House. I believe the great Hall is as Bigg—I am Sure tis twice as long—cut your coat according to your Cloth—but this House is built for ages to come. The establishment necessary is a tax which cannot be born by the present Sallery—no body can form an Idea of it but those who come into it—I had much rather live in the house at Philadelphia—not one room or Chamber is finished of the whole. It is habitable by fires in every part, thirteen of which we are obliged to keep daily or sleep in wet and damp places—

​Abigail Adams to ​Mary ​Cranch, ​November ​21, 1800.

​John and Abigail had less than 2 months before hosting their first New Year's party at the mansion. And four servants to care for the place, including their personal man servant John Breisler, who had been employed by the Adamses since Ambassador Adams' days in Europe.

President Washington had levees and other parties throughout his Presidency in New York and Philadelphia, but of course he also had a staff of nine - slaves. And while Adams received a similar salary to Washington, a more than amiable one for the time, there was no budget for additional things like furniture for the mansion, and other expenditures ​needed, say, for expected entertaining. And the Adams' finances could not match the independent fortune of the Washingtons.

​​Yet the second "first family" carried on. The mansion was prepared​ - at least the modicum of rooms used for business, entertaining, and sleeping. And on January 1, 1801, guests of the Adamses were welcomed into the oval room on the second floor which had the "crimson furniture in it," according to Abigail. 

​Guests ate dinner, and were entertained by music from the somewhat recently formed Marine Corps musicians, approximately ten of them. This was their first appearance in the White House, and would mark the beginning of a long tradition of their performing at the White House, becoming, duly named, "the President's Own."

​John and Abigail served their post as Presidential host and hostess well, but it was to be their only such D.C. function. Within four months, they would both be back in Quincy, Massachusetts, delighting (for the most part) to be "private citizens."

John ​Adams

​to Abigail Adams, June 13, 1800

​Oh! that I could have a home! But this felicity has never been permitted me. Rolling rolling rolling, till I am very near rolling into the bosom of mother Earth.

About the Author

The "founding father" of Historic Experience. Peyton is an actor-historian with over 15 years experience as a John Adams and Theodore Roosevelt interpreter, impersonator, speaker, or whatever descriptor speaks to you. Peyton Dixon is based in central New Jersey and travels across the country bringing American history to life.