Rebecca The Raccoon, President Calvin Coolidge's Pet Raccoon

By | January 13, 2020

President Coolidge loved animals

Raccoons are the grimy trash pandas of the west. They roam the streets at night searching for a meal, and as cute as they are, it's obvious that they've got something devious going on in their little brains. Until the middle of the 20th century, raccoons were a staple of the Appalachian diet, but one of these little fellas managed to avoid becoming dinner and instead became an object of national interest. Rebecca the Raccoon was meant to be a meal, but she became a favorite pet of President Calvin Coolidge and his wife, Grace. After receiving the raccoon as a Thanksgiving gift in 1926, the little sweetie became an integral part of the family and a curious presence in the White House.

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Source: Presidential Pet Museum

Coolidge grew up loving animals. His family farm employed several cats to keep its rodent population under control, so he saw animals as his friends. When he received the gift of a raccoon from Peru, Mississippi, he was shocked, for reasons other than the normal ones. The raccoon was presented as a potential addition to the White House Thanksgiving meal, but he felt that the animal was far too friendly to be eaten. He named her Rebecca, although he insisted on referring to her as "he" for unknown reasons, and held a press conference to announce her arrival. When he was asked if the raccoon was edible, he responded:

That depends on your taste. I haven't much of a taste for raccoon meat. Some people like it very much. But I have established him here in the south lot in suitable housing and he seems to be enjoying himself very much ... I don't think he is quite grown yet. He is very playful, very interesting, and seems very well-trained and well-behaved.

Rebecca became a part of daily life at the White House

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Source: Library of Congress

Rebecca the Raccoon wasn't just some forest animal that was trotted out for press junkets. She became a valued part of the Coolidge family. On Christmas, she was given an embroidered collar designating her the official "White House Raccoon," and she even helped out at the annual White House Easter egg roll. She was such an important member of the household that when the White House had to be renovated in 1927, Rebecca went with the family to DuPont Circle for a while before she was temporarily moved to a zoo. Even there, the Coolidge family often picked her up to accompany them to their official obligations.