Away from the White House: Presidential Escapes, Retreats, and Vacations

(Washington, D.C., August 5, 2014) — The White House Historical Association has released Away from the White House: Presidential Escapes, Retreats, and Vacations. Author Lawrence L. Knutson presents an in-depth history of the presidential time spent “away from the White House.” Through 37 chapters profusely illustrated with hundreds of period images and photographs, we witness the president escaping by horseback, steamboat, railroad, automobile, and ultimately Air Force One, to explore America and enjoy precious moments of fishing, golfing, sailing, skiing, and private family time.

away-from-the-white-houseLong years have passed since an American president, taking his cue from the congressional recess, abandoned the White House for most of the summer to go home and take care of his personal business. In that era, home was nearly always a plantation or farm, such as Jefferson’s Monticello, Adams’s Peacefield or Madison’s Montpelier.

Our modern notion of a vacation emerged in the 19th century, when together, with the desire to escape summertime in Washington, presidents left to enjoy the outdoors, train travel, and the presidential yacht. In the 20th century presidential vacations evolved along with improvements in transportation and communications. That meant presidents could get away farther and faster even as their responsibilities followed them. So did reporters who wanted to keep the public informed on what presidents did, almost all the time.

Today the presidency is year-round. Time away from the White House must be fitted into the great puzzle of chief executive’s overall responsibilities. The daily briefings go with him, as do key advisors, a working staff, a press secretary, communications specialists, a detachment of Secret Service agents, and the others essential to the well being of a president. Still, on vacation he is officially on his own and finds time for leisure. Away from the White House: Presidential Escapes, Retreats, and Vacations presents a lively and interesting slice of the presidency that most of us know little about: How the president relaxes away from the White House.

The book’s foreword was written by Brian Williams, the former Chief White House Correspondent of NBC News and Anchor and Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News. Once Larry Knuston’s colleague in Bill Clinton’s White House press room, Williams writes: “ . . . the intrinsic, intellectual curiosity, and sense of history that Larry brings to his work will make this book come to life for all readers…. We ask a lot of our chief executives…That means the burdens and hopes and dreams of the nation reside in that one individual, and given the pressures of office, we voters have always been interested in where they choose to go to relax. Larry Knutson takes us there—to each place and in great detail—in this first book of its kind. . . . You are in for a great treat, and a wonderful journey.”

“We are honored to publish this important and insightful historical book on how and when our presidents vacationed. Larry Knutson’s deeply researched and thoughtful narrative, along with hundreds of beautiful photos, make this a must have book to culminate your summer reading” stated White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin. 

Lawrence L. Knutson is a journalist and writer. During his 37-years with the Associated Press, he covered the White House, Congress, and national political campaigns. He witnessed every presidential administration from Lyndon B. Johnson to George W. Bush and frequently observed presidents on vacation. Knutson’s interest in the historical background of the news led to a regular column centered on the history of Washington, D.C. It touched on a wide range of historical events, figures, and places, including the presidency and the White House.

Please contact Amy Weiss at Amy@weisspublicaffairs.com to interview author Lawrence Knutson.

Away from the White House: Presidential Escapes, Retreats, and Vacations can be ordered from the White House Historical Association gift shops and website at Shop.WhiteHouseHistory.org

Hardcover 440 pages
More than 500 photographs
ISBN 978-1-931917-40-7
$39.95

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Contact: Amy Weiss
Amy@weisspublicaffairs.com
202-203-0448