A Raccoon Was Sent To Thanksgiving Dinner At The White House In 1926

As you may imagine, White House Thanksgivings are the crème de la crème. In 2021, President Biden's fairly healthy-looking Thanksgiving dinner included thyme-roasted turkey, sweet potatoes, kale, and mushrooms, according to Fox29. But don't worry, he made up for it with the dessert menu, which featured three different types of pie (apple, pumpkin, and coconut cream) and chocolate chip ice cream.

Historically, White House Thanksgivings have extended far beyond the meal, and many have come with a variety of unique occurrences. For example, Abraham Lincoln's 1863 celebration is believed to mark the beginning of turkey pardoning, while Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to hold Thanksgiving outside the country in 1936, according to The White House Historical Association. Back in the day, John Adams even tried to make Thanksgiving a two-day affair in May, which he later said was the reason he wasn't re-elected, reports History Daily. While this seems a little surprising, we have to admit it would be weird feasting on turkey and mashed potatoes in the spring.

However, one Thanksgiving tradition that has lasted throughout the years is presidents being gifted various foods. According to The White House archives, the Executive Mansion has received turkeys in a variety of costumes, quails, ducks, and even deer. One of the strangest presents, however, dates all the way back to 1926.

A raccoon named Rebecca

Move over, turkeys: In 1926, a raccoon was the talk of the Thanksgiving table. This may sound out of the left field, but it wasn't quite as strange to think of raccoons as food back in the day; according to Smithsonian Magazine, they were commonly seen in-game markets and on restaurant menus in the early 1900s. In fact, someone in the South loved raccoons so much that he sent one to President Calvin Coolidge for his Thanksgiving dinner, raving about its "toothsome" flavor (via The Ringer).

And how did the president react? Not only did Coolidge refuse to eat the animal, but he kept the raccoon as a pet, gave her a collar, and named her Rebecca, according to Atlas Obscura. Rebecca settled into the White House quite nicely, taking a liking to corn muffins and wandering around the apartments there, notes The Washington Post. White House housekeeper Ellen Riley was particularly fond of Rebecca; according to The Ringer, she wrote, "We all loved Rebecca. Her chief joy was to get into my bathtub with a cake of soap — she loved the suds and would splash around in the water for an hour."

Although the raccoon was perhaps the most beloved Coolidge animal, she wasn't the only one the president acquired. While reflecting on his years in office, History reports that Coolidge also received a black-haired bear, a hippo, and lion cubs, although understandably, none of them ever became members of the household like Rebecca.