The History of the White House Easter Egg Roll

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On April 6, most of us will be filling our lunch bags with egg salad sandwiches and wondering if Cadbury eggs count as a healthy breakfast. The folks who call the White House home, however, will still be celebrating Easter with 35,000 of their closest friends.

Unofficially, kids have been rolling eggs on government grounds since Abraham Lincoln’s children were running around Washington. But in 1876, fun-hating curmudgeons who were concerned about the landscaping at the Capitol introduced a law, signed by Ulysses S. Grant, that banned all egg-rolling activities on the grounds.

By 1878, a group of children had discovered that the low hills of the White House’s South Lawn would be perfect for egg-rolling activities, and wandered up to the gates to inquire about the possibility. President Rutherford B. Hayes told his guards to let them in. By 1889, the event was so popular that John Philip Sousa himself showed up to direct the band. He later wrote “Easter Monday on the White House Lawn” to commemorate the occasion.

Some notable Easter Egg Roll moments:

- In 1885, some of the children made their way from the South Lawn into the East Room, hoping to encounter President Cleveland [PDF].

- First Lady and animal lover Grace Coolidge brought a special guest to the egg roll in 1927: her pet raccoon, Rebecca.

- Grover and Frances Cleveland liked to let Hector, the First Dog, roam freely amongst the guests. Hector’s gleeful romp ended when the many eggs that revelers had given him came back up on the South Lawn.

- The Reagan years introduced “Egg Hunt Pits,” an activity where kids would search giant straw pits for autographed wooden eggs.

- During the Ford administration, Betty Ford thought that the children’s face painting station looked like fun—so she allowed a clown makeup artist to give her a little touch up.

- The Easter Bunny has made an appearance every year since Pat Nixon introduced the idea in 1969. The identity of the White House staffer inside is usually kept secret, with at least one notable exception: Ursula Meese, the wife of Reagan’s Attorney General, Edwin Meese III. Ursula enjoyed the tradition so much that she kept it up for six years, earning the title “The Meester Bunny.”

- An avid supporter of the Girl Scouts, Florence Harding showed up one year donning full Scout regalia.

Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Utility Workers May Have Found One of Rome’s First Churches
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

The remains of what may have been one of Rome’s earliest Christian churches were accidentally discovered along the Tiber River during construction, The Local reports. The four-room structure, which could have been built as early as the 1st century CE, was unearthed by electrical technicians who were laying cables along the Ponte Milvio.

The newly discovered structure next to the river
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

No one is sure what to make of this “archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery,” in the words of Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency. Although there’s no definitive theory as of yet, experts have a few ideas.

The use of colorful African marble for the floors and walls has led archaeologists to believe that the building probably served a prestigious—or perhaps holy—function as the villa of a noble family or as a Christian place of worship. Its proximity to an early cemetery spawned the latter theory, since it's common for churches to have mausoleums attached to them. Several tombs were found in that cemetery, including one containing the intact skeleton of a Roman man.

Marble flooring
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

A tomb
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma1

The walls are made of brick, and the red, green, and beige marble had been imported from Sparta (Greece), Egypt, and present-day Tunisia, The Telegraph reports.

As The Local points out, it’s not all that unusual in Rome for archaeological discoveries to be made by unsuspecting people going about their day. Rome’s oldest aqueduct was found by Metro workers, and an ancient bath house and tombs were found during construction on a new church.

[h/t The Local]

Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen
Scientists Just Found the Oldest Known Piece of Bread
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen

An old, charred piece of long-forgotten flatbread has captured the interest of archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians around the world. Found in a stone fireplace in Jordan’s Black Desert, this proto-pita dates back 14,400 years, making it the oldest known example of bread, Reuters reports.

To put the significance of this discovery in context: the flatbread predates the advent of agriculture by 4000 years, leading researchers to theorize that the laborious process of making the bread from wild cereals may have inspired early hunter-gatherers to cultivate grain and save themselves a whole lot of trouble.

“We now have to assess whether there was a relationship between bread production and the origins of agriculture,” Amaia Arranz-Otaegui, a researcher with the University of Copenhagen, told Reuters. “It is possible that bread may have provided an incentive for people to take up plant cultivation and farming, if it became a desirable or much-sought-after food.”

A report on these findings—written by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, University College London, and University of Cambridge—was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It was once thought that bread was an invention of early farming civilizations. A 9100-year-old piece of bread from Turkey was previously regarded as the oldest of its kind. However, the Jordanian flatbread was made by a group of hunter-gatherers called the Natufians, who lived during a transitional period from nomadic to sedentary ways of life, at which time diets also started to change.

Similar to a pita, this unleavened bread was made from wild cereals akin to barley, einkorn, and oats. These were “ground, sieved, and kneaded prior to cooking,” according to a statement from the University of Copenhagen. The ancient recipe also called for tubers from an aquatic plant, which Arranz-Otaegui described as tasting “gritty and salty."

[h/t Reuters]


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