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11 Strange Things Presidents Have Banned from the White House

Updated: Feb. 14, 2023

Current and former Commanders in Chief have been picky about what's allowed on the property.

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Personal cell phones

During the Trump administration, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly forbade “both guests and staff” from having their personal phones with them in the West Wing. West Wing employees haven’t been allowed to use their personal cell phones at work since January 2018 and are only allowed to take their government-issued phones that don’t have texting capabilities. Aides say this rule is for security reasons and trying to cut the number of devices connected to the White House Wi-Fi, while other insider sources say limiting leaks to the press is the driving force. Either way, staffers were unhappy that they wouldn’t be able to contact their families while at work. Check out the 23 surprising presidential firsts you never learned about.

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Countless children have declared that if they were President of the United States, they’d ban broccoli and eat ice cream for dinner—but only one has grown up to keep their word (or at least part of it). In 1990, George H. W. Bush declared he wouldn’t allow the vegetable to be served at the White House or on Air Force One. “I do not like broccoli,” Bush explained at the time. “And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!” Talk about presidential power. Check out these other 50 things you won’t believe are banned in the United States. Oh and, if you’ve ever wondered, here’s why you won’t ever find canned broccoli.

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When the White House announced it would be opening its doors to visitors in October 2017, it had a couple caveats. Among other items, visitors were told to leave the standard guns, fireworks, knives, and aerosols at home—along with balloons. It’s unclear whether the wayward party balloons that caused a security scare in 2016 has anything to do with the new rule. Nonetheless, the White House decorations are still incredibly festive—even without balloons. Here are 6 things former presidents aren’t allowed to do after leaving office.

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In 1993, Bill and Hillary Clinton banned smoking at White House dinners, keeping ashtrays off the tables. Four years later, the president made an executive order banning smoking in all federal government buildings—dinnertime or otherwise. Check out these other 52 astonishing facts you never knew about U.S. presidents.

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In 1955, Dwight D. Eisenhower had a putting green installed in the White House, but his clean lawn was soon torn apart by squirrels. Ike was not amused. “The next time you see one of those squirrels go near my putting green, take a gun and shoot it!” he told his valet. In an act of grace, his staff caught and released the critters instead—which still put the president under fire from animal activists. Find out these 20 rules every First Family is supposed to follow.

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When George W. Bush became president, one of his first orders was to bring back the White House dress code of his father’s days. Bush Jr. banned jeans in the Oval Office, plus required men to wear neckties and women to wear “appropriate business attire” as a sign of respect. Can you answer these U.S. president trivia questions everyone gets wrong?

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A first daughter

Alice Roosevelt, the notoriously outspoken oldest daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, made sure her father’s administration ended with a bang. She reportedly buried a voodoo doll of Nellie Taft—wife of her father’s successor, William Howard Taft—in the White House lawn. Between her hex and insults (such as calling Woodrow Wilson a “whey-blooded schoolmaster”), Alice Roosevelt was banned from the White House for the two administrations after her father’s. Don’t miss these 45 fascinating facts about America’s first ladies.

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Until Michelle Obama announced the end of the ban in 2015, cameras weren’t allowed during White House tours for more than 40 years. Visitors weren’t allowed to snap pictures starting in the 1970s partially because the flash could damage artwork (unlike today’s cameras, which can get a great shot without the flash), but also because tourists would stray from their groups when they paid more attention to their photos than the tour. Here are 18 more bizarre things banned around the world.

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For 90 years starting around 1842, the White House lawn hosted the Marine Band for an outdoor concert every Saturday in the summer. Ulysses Grant and his wife would even go out and mingle with the public during the concerts in the 1870s. In 1862, though, the concert series went on hold. Abraham Lincoln’s 11-year-old son had just died, and his wife banned the concerts that summer. The next year, they moved to Lafayette Square, and in 1864 the concerts were back at the White House. By the 1930s, though, the tradition ended for good. Find out 9 things that happen as soon as a new president takes office.

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Christmas trees

Theodore Roosevelt was a serious conservationist—he established 150 national forests as president—and saw the Christmas tree tradition as contributing to deforestation, so he refused to have a live tree in the White House. Unfortunately for the president, his sneaky kids weren’t fans of the house rules. Eight-year-old Archibald enlisted White House staff to help him sneak a little tree into a closet that he revealed on Christmas Day in 1902, complete with presents for the family. The stories behind these White House ornaments are a piece of history.

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Rutherford B. Hayes’ wife, so-called “Lemonade Lucy,” went down in history for keeping hard drinks out of the White House between 1877 and 1881. Some say President Hayes was the real buzz kill, though, using the ban to win over the Republican Party’s temperance advocates. Hayes wasn’t the only president to keep the White House sober without the help of Prohibition, though. Eleanor Roosevelt allowed wine but no hard liquor in the White House during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s term. Plus, Jimmy Carter kept the building “dry” during his presidency, and only took a tiny glass of wine to toast with during a Soviet arms summit. Even today, these are 10 everyday things no U.S. president is allowed to do in office.