We discussed the origins of the National Christmas Tree in our podcast Monday, and I learned that Jeremy has much more experience with the tree lighting ceremonies and the Pathways of Peace. Our discussion inspired me to look into the National Christmas Tree Association. It is their tradition, begun in 1966, that the grand-champion grower would present his/her tree to the President and First Lady for display in the Blue Room. The first was a grower in Wisconsin, but Dan and Bryan Trees (formerly Sundback Trees) of West Virginia, have been selected a record four times! I hope to talk Roger into a field trip to their farm sometime this year.
According to the National Christmas Association, in 1901, the first Christmas tree farm was established in New Jersey by W. V. MacGalliard. When the trees reached maturity eight years later, trees were sold for $1.00 each. (I wonder how much money this is in 2012?) Strangely, in 1901 President Theodore Roosevelt, tried to discourage Americans from choosing live trees because of the potential threat to American forests. Conservationist Gifford Pinchot persuaded the president that, done properly, raising Christmas trees was not harmful.
Teddy Roosevelt’s distant cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, started a Christmas Tree farm on his estate in Hyde Park, New York in the 1930’s. He even listed his occupation as “tree farmer.” Some skeptics claim that this was a strategy to create the aura that Roosevelt was gentleman farmer, and, therefore, more electable; however, Christmas tree profits are listed on Roosevelt Library documents, and he planned to continue tree farming in his retirement after the presidency. According to the National Park Service, Roosevelt was “so proud of his Christmas trees that he once sent one to the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.”