The Easter Monday Egg Roll on the White House lawn is a tradition that traces back more than 140 years. Beginning with the Nixons, The President and The First Lady would always give the children in attendance a keepsake from the day. For some it was a certificate, for others, a plastic egg full of sweet treats. But when the Reagans came on the scene, the commemorative wooden Easter egg was introduced. For the past eight years, the company that churned out thousands of colorful wooden Easter Eggs for the festivities was Wells Woodturning, located in Buckfield, Maine. This year, the Summer White House, Congress Hall, enlisted the help of Wells to create our own commemorative Easter Eggs for our festivities.
The first wooden Easter Eggs at the White House began in 1981 with Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Wooden eggs were mailed to celebrities such as Bob Hope and Clint Eastwood and they were signed and sent back to the White House for the special event. One hundred and thirty eggs were sent to foreign embassies in Washington to be decorated by in their own unique style. The Royal Thai Embassy, for instance, made a jet black egg with gold relief seal. An additional one hundred eggs were sent to notable visual artists across the country to paint a special design on the egg. These were made for the purposes of an exhibit that was housed at the Smithsonian. The President and First with Lady, along with several Senators signed eggs as well. On Easter Monday kids were not only on a hunt for a special egg, but for their favorite celebrity’s signature.
The tradition of the wooden Easter egg stuck, but was altered a bit by the administrations that followed. “Each administration choses its own colors, which change every year, and has its own theme and designs, ” says Simon Varney, Vice President at Wells. “Colors can be vivid and bold or soft and more pastel. The designs typically originate from the Office of the First Lady, and we work with that office on egg and ink color, as well as with artwork tweaks to match the requirements of printing on the curved surface of an egg.” Varney acquired Wells along with his business partner Chris Chandler in November of 2016. Prior to the acquisition, Wells provided the Easter eggs for the Monday celebrations curated by George W. Bush and Obama. When Varney and Chandler took the reins, Wells was there for the Trump administration in last year’s celebration.
“Each administration seems to have its own style. The Obama White House, for example, created playful designs with jump-roping and swinging bunnies. The designs tied into Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, with the goal of reducing childhood obesity. The Trump White House, in contrast, has so far created designs that focus on icons or symbols of the United States government. In 2017, for example, the Trump eggs featured an image of the White House printed on pastel colors, with a gold egg printed with the Presidential seal,” according to Varney.
But what does a wood mill do fifty miles north of Portland, Maine when they are not making wooden eggs for the leader of the free world? Better yet…what exactly is a wood mill? A wood turning mill by definition makes things that are round; items are made on a series of lathes that turn a square dowel into the profile required. Wells make products like rolling pins, tool handles, craft parts, furniture components, baseball bats, and wooden eggs. “The eggs are made on what we call a spool lathe. After turning, they are tumble sanded to make them smooth, and then sent to our paint shop for finishing. The final production step is pad printing, where we use clichés etched with the customer image to make the impressions on the eggs. I find it amazing how much joy a little wooden egg can bring!”
A sentiment shared by generations of kids who’ve enjoyed The Monday Easter Egg Roll at The White House. Can’t make it to Washington? Come to Congress Hall’s First Annual Easter Egg Roll- featuring Easter Eggs made by Wells Woodturning in Buckfield, ME!
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