White House sheep roamed the famous lawn during WW1, mowing the grass and raising $52,823 for the Red Cross.
A Baaaad Business
President and Mrs. Wilson observed the war effort conscientiously. They followed “wheatless Mondays” and “meatless Tuesdays.” Some days they even rode in a carriage instead of an automobile to save fuel.
All did not go wool, however.
A 1918 Washington Post article reported: “President Wilson is having no end of trouble with the flock of sheep he purchased recently to graze on the White House lawn.”
The problem: The White House sheep were terrified of cars.
“Two of the sheep developed serious illness yesterday and are under the care of specialists from the Department of Agriculture,” the Post continued.
Who wouldn’t want official White House wool?
Whether worn over you eyes or not, people paid more for wool from the presidential fleece.
Wool from the flock was sheared and two pounds given to each state. With governor’s acting as auctioneers, the wool was sold to the highest bidders and the proceeds donated to the Red Cross War Fund.
The highest price was paid for the ram Old Ike’s fleece, an amazing $10,000 per pound! (The price of raw wool today ranges from about $10 to $20 per pound.)
A 1920 newspaper account describes Ike as “forceful and strategic,” routinely charging the White House staff. Despite that, Ike’s real claim to fame was his tobacco eating. Men were advised to keep a tight grip on their cigars or Ike would chew on them, and he was regularly fed cigar stubs.
By 1920, the White House sheep had grown to 48, had “eaten up nearly all the grass in the rear” of the White House, and were ready to start on the front!
With the ramming, tobacco chewing, and lawn guzzling, President Wilson was probably relieved to retire from the sheep business. In 1920, the flock were pensioned off to a farm in Maryland.
Ike’s death of old age in 1927 was national news. One story goes that Ike was offered a last chew of “eatin’ tobaccy” on his deathbed. It was still in his mouth as he died.
If you liked this, you might enjoy the history of weird presidential pets.