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The Cowboy and Adolf Hitler

cowboy_and_hitler.jpgWorld leaders regularly receive gifts from a variety of people, including their own citizens and visiting heads of state. Managing these gifts is a bit of a headache; in the U.S., the State Department logs all gifts received from foreign officials, while the White House Gift Unit keeps track of all other gifts. How many presents are we talking about here? In a typical year, the president and first lady can receive as many as 15,000 gifts!

This gift-giving tradition goes back a long way: even honest Abe Lincoln accepted gifts, including the suit in which he was inaugurated. As he tried on a hat sent from Brooklyn, he is reported to have said, "Well, wife, there is one thing likely to come out of this scrape, anyhow, we are going to have some new clothes!"

Some of the more unusual gifts over the years have included a pair of tiger cubs (given to Jacqueline Kennedy), a wooden cowboy figure with a lasso around the neck of Adolf Hitler (given to Franklin Roosevelt), and a 1,400 lb. wheel of cheddar cheese (given to Andrew Jackson, and consumed in two hours at his post-inauguration open house). The National Archives has an exhibition titled Tokens & Treasures that records the gifts given to twelve presidents.

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