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No. 8 AUGUST 2002


President Rutherford B. Hayes and First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes asked secretary Octavius L. Pruden to document the White House social functions held during the Hayes administration. Pruden, a talented calligrapher who came to the White House during the Ulysses S. Grant administration, served as a private secretary to the Hayes family.

Using pen, pencil, watercolors, and gilding, Pruden created an individual record for each event, giving the date of the occasion, its location within the White House, the names of guests, seating arrangement, menu, and entertainment. Each record in the 108-page, leather-bound album reflects elements specific to the occasion.

The beauty and artistry of Pruden's creation attracted the attention of the press. At the close of the Hayes administration, a National Republican reporter who leafed through its pages claimed it the "best and most elaborate thing of the kind ever seen. The lettering contained in the album is simply marvelous, the variously styles selected for the work harmonizing in effect with the occasion for which they are used."

Although Pruden intended to present the record to the First Lady as a parting gift, he had not completed his work. In fact, Pruden explained in a letter to President Hayes, ill health and the burdens of a new administration prevented him from completing his work. To the delight of the Hayeses, the album finally arrived at Spiegel Grove in late fall 1882.