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Jason English
22 Great Photos Found in Presidential Libraries
by Jason English - December 12, 2009 - 10:50 PM

Travolta-Diana

A few weeks ago, after stumbling across this photo of John Travolta and Princess Diana dancing at the White House, I sent our readers on a Presidential Library scavenger hunt. You found some fantastic photos—here are 22 of our favorites.

1. Gatorade Bath

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After winning their first Super Bowl in early 1987, the Giants celebrated by dumping a Gatorade jug full of popcorn on Ronald Reagan. That’s Harry Carson doing the honors.

2. Chef Eisenhower

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Here’s Dwight Eisenhower cooking up a storm at Secretary of the Treasury George Humphrey’s Georgia plantation in 1956. As reader Rachael put it, “He appears to be pushing the head of a miniature woman into his frying basket.”

3. Truman’s Summer Wardrobe

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If you happened to be in Key West in 1951, you could have run into President Truman in some really short shorts.

4. Out on the Town

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We absolutely could have limited this post to photos from the Reagan Library. Here, Christie Brinkley, Cheryl Tiegs and Brooke Shields take a moment to pose with the Reagans at a 1983 Kennedy Center tribute to Bob Hope’s 80th birthday.

5. The White House Lanes

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From the January 2009 article “5 Famous Bowling Alleys”:

The history of bowling in the White House dates back to 1947, when a two-lane alley was installed in the West Wing as a birthday gift to President Truman. While Truman wasn’t much of a bowler, a league of White House staffers soon formed. The two-lane alley was moved to the Old Executive Office Building to clear space for a mimeograph room in 1955, but Nixon had a single-lane alley built below the driveway leading to the North Portico shortly after he came into office in 1969.

6. Awkward Family Photo #1

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Gerald and Betty Ford on their wedding day. The mother of the groom does not look thrilled.

7. Lincoln’s Hog

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Chris Sparks, Director of Marketing for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, sent over this photo. A Lincoln fan from Springfield had a custom Harley built to commemorate Lincoln’s 200th birthday.

8. Awkward Family Photo #2

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Bill and Hillary in simpler times.

9. Harrison & Ford

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President Ford with George Harrison and Billy Preston in the Oval Office in 1974.

10. Duet

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Here’s a singalong with Lyndon Johnson and one of his dogs.

11. Now Hear This…

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…I know a lot of dogs who wouldn’t put up with this kind of nonsense, even from the Commander in Chief.

12. Clearin’ Brush

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George W. Bush wasn’t the first president to spend his down time clearing brush. Ronald Reagan doesn’t look nearly as happy about doing it, though.

13. Awkward Family Photo #3

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It’s like a “Where’s Waldo?” of future politicians. From reader Jennifer: “Eighties fashion and style on full display here. The big hair, the bright, clashing colors, gigantic eye glass frames…and for that added touch of class: President Bush’s cowboy boots adorned with the Texas flag.”

14. Morning Zbigniew

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Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski—father of Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski—posing in the Oval Office. With a tennis racket.

15. Ike’s Yearbook

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I had no idea how snarky yearbook editors were back in the aughts.

16. Reagan’s Beauties

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Ronald Reagan greets 1981 Miss Universe Shawn Weatherly and 1981 Miss USA Kim Seel Brede in the Oval Office.

17. Nancy’s Bunnies

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Nancy Reagan and two creepy Easter Bunnies waving to the people.

18. Cat Attack

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Not sure what’s going on with Bill Clinton and Socks here.

19. Harry Truman & Lauren Bacall

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Two months before he became President, here’s Harry Truman playing piano for Lauren Bacall.

20. Crisis Averted

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George H.W. Bush saves the day by preventing a runaway golf cart situation.

21. White House: The Musical!

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Here’s a tradition the Obama administration should revive.

22. Undercover Elvis

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And finally, we come to Federal Agent at Large Elvis. From a 2007 issue of mental_floss magazine:

While you probably recognize the iconic photo of Elvis meeting Nixon in 1970, you might not know the exact reason for the visit. Elvis desperately wanted to become an undercover agent. Concerned about increased drug use in America, he petitioned Nixon in a handwritten letter proposing he be named a “Federal Agent at Large.” Elvis wrote, “I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and Communist brainwashing techniques and I am right in the middle of the whole thing, where I can and will do the most good.”

Elvis then showed up at the White House unannounced, packing two handguns—one for protection, the other as a gift for the president. After some thinking, officials let him inside with both guns in tote. At the extensively photographed meeting, Elvis showed Nixon his family photos and a collection of law enforcement badges. Later, Nixon awarded him a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge, which listed Elvis’ position as “Special Assistant.”

We promised free mental_floss t-shirts to the three people who sent in the best photos. This is an impossible task, so I polled a few co-workers. We decided our favorites were Reagan and the popcorn shower, Eisenhower’s camera tricks, and the Reagans with Tiegs, Shields and Brinkley. So Matthew, Rachael & Derrick, you win! I’ll be in touch about your shirts. Thanks to everyone who submitted pictures. We’ll have to do this again.

More from mental_floss

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Presidential Siblings and the Headaches They Caused

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