White House Gang

 

The “White House Gang” was a name created by President Theodore Roosevelt to describe an adventuresome group of conspirators led by Quentin Roosevelt, the youngest of TR’s children. Archie Roosevelt, Charlie Taft, the son of William Howard Taft, the Secretary of War, Earle Looker, Dick Chew, Bob Stead, and a few other boys from the Force School on Massachusetts Avenue were also members.

Whenever possible, Gang members conducted their “official business” meetings in the attic of the Executive Mansion. President Roosevelt, an honorary Gang member, would often curtail official business to join the boys for hide-and-go-seek and other spirited activities. TR frequently challenged the lads to obstacle races in the White House’s hallways. On other occasions, the president joined the boys for their attic escapades.

During one particularly energetic “business meeting” President Roosevelt romped about the attic growling ferociously as he scampered after the lads, until Earle Looker decided to make the task harder by turning off the lights, causing the president to slam his head into a wooden beam. When the culprit turned the lights back on, TR discovered that he had nearly slammed his face into a protruding nail. After the incident, Roosevelt informed the frightened boys that they were never to switch the lights off when someone was close to a post. 

Although Roosevelt enjoyed the gang’s youthful exuberance, the boys’ antics could, on occasion, upset him. On one occasion, Quentin decided to carve a baseball diamond into one of the residence’s lawns without his parents’ permission. In 1908, TR caught the boys decorating Andrew Jackson’s official portrait with well-placed spitballs. Eager to teach them a lesson about respecting the property of others, the president conducted a hastily arranged “trial.” After finding the conspirators guilty, TR banished the gang members from the White House for one week. “Portraits,” recalled one gang member, “were henceforth taboo.”

Gang members loved to explore the Executive Mansion’s forgotten rooms, from the attic to the basement. Like other boys their age, they frequently re-enacted famous battles, sometimes brandishing real swords and revolvers and other times using water-pistols. The Gang also launched sneak attacks against neighboring government office buildings or unsuspecting secret service agents. Thanks to Charlie Taft, the White House Gang managed to carry on following the Roosevelt family’s departure in 1909, albeit without Quentin’s rambunctious and adventurous leadership.