The Time Rutherford B. Hayes Saved Easter

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The Hayes Administration had just one highlight: The time the president saved Easter.

The White House Easter Egg Roll is an annual tradition, but without President Rutherford B. Hayes, it might not exist. Back in the early 19th century, kids started rolling Easter eggs down the lawn of the Capitol Building, and by the 1870s, the event had become a spring tradition. But in 1876, sick of noisy kids ripping up its lawn, Congress passed the Turf Protection Law. The measure banned “any portion of the Capitol grounds and terraces from being used as playgrounds.” In other words, keep off the grass!

The crisis turned D.C. kids into pint-size lobbyists. When President Hayes was out for a walk in 1878, a group of would-be egg rollers approached him to complain about the turf war. Hayes generously invited the children over to the White House lawn for an egg roll, and the tradition returned from the brink of extinction.

This story originally appeared in an issue of mental_floss magazine. Subscribe here.

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April 16, 2014 - 1:00pm
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