Mamie Doud Eisenhower Birthplace
Mamie Geneva Doud, named, in part, after the popular song, Lovely Lake Geneva, was born November 14, 1896 at 718 Carroll Street in Boone, Iowa, the second of four daughters born to Elivera Mathilde Carlson and John Sheldon Doud. She grew up to become the wife of the 34th President of the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower.
The Douds emigrated to the U.S. from England, settling first in Connecticut and later in Rome, New York. Mamie’s paternal grandfather entered the meat packing business in the 1870s and moved his family to Chicago. By the early 1890s, Mamie’s father was managing a subsidiary meat packing enterprise in Boone where he met and, in 1894, married the daughter of Carl and Johanna Maria Carlson.
Mamie’s maternal grandfather, Carl Carlson, a Swedish immigrant, settled in Boone County in 1868. The following year he sent to Sweden for his wife and his oldest son. Mamie’s mother, Elivera, was born in Boone ten years later. Mr. Carlson entered the milling business in 1870, which was later purchased by the Doud family.
When Mamie was nine months old, the Douds moved to Cedar Rapids, where John Doud became a buyer for the T. M. Sinclair Co. By 1905, after making a fortune in the meat-packing industry, John Doud—at age 36—partially retired and moved his family to Colorado, settling first in Pueblo, then in Colorado Springs, and finally in Denver. The Douds spent winter vacations at their second home in San Antonio, Texas.
In October 1915, soon after completing her education at the Wolcott School for Girls, a finishing school in Denver, Colorado, 18-year-old Mamie met 24-year-old Dwight David Eisenhower in San Antonio at the home of friends. Dwight, called “Ike”, was a newly-commissioned Second Lieutenant in the United States Army stationed at nearby Fort Sam Houston. Mutually enamored, the two young people dated and quickly became engaged—on Valentine’s Day—and were married on July 1, 1916 at the Doud home in Denver, when Mamie was 19 and Ike was 25.
Ike’s military service forced the couple to be frequently separated and to move often. Mamie estimated that in 37 years as a military wife, she had set up house at least 27 times, including in other countries! In spite of all those moves, two sons were born to the Eisenhowers. Their first son, Doud Dwight Eisenhower, called “Iky” (little Ike), was born in 1917 but died at the age of three due to complications of scarlet fever. Their second son, John Sheldon Doud Eisenhower, was born in 1922 and lived a long, full life as a United States Army officer, diplomat, and military historian and author. He died in 2013 at age 91 in Trappe, Maryland.
Not until the early 1950s did the Eisenhowers actually buy and live in their own home, located on a farm near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Their time living in this own home was very short, because in 1952 Ike ran for U.S. President on the Republican ticket. After Ike’s very successful campaign and election as the 34th President of the United States, Mamie became America’s First Lady in 1953.
The Eisenhowers entertained an unprecedented number of heads of state and leaders of foreign governments. As First Lady, Mamie was noted for her outgoing manner, her love of pretty clothes, jewelry, and her obvious pride in husband and home. She was named one of the twelve best-dressed women in the country by the New York Dress Institute every year that she was First Lady. The “Mamie Look” involved a full-skirted dress, charm bracelets, pearls, little hats, and bobbed, banged hair that was a modified version of the Dior’s postwar “New Look”. Her style included both high- and low-end items and she symbolized the ideal 1950s wife and mother.
Eisenhower wore a Nettie Rosenstein gown to the 1953 inaugural balls. It was a pink peau de soie gown embroidered with more than 2,000 rhinestones. It is one of the most popular in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s collection of inaugural gowns. Mamie paired the gown with matching gloves, jewelry by Trifari, and carried a beaded purse by Judith Leiber. Her shoes by Delman had her name printed on the left instep.
Mamie’s fondness for a specific shade of pink, often called “First Lady” or “Mamie” pink, kicked off a national trend for pink clothing, housewares, and bathrooms.
As First Lady, Mamie was a gracious hostess but carefully guarded her privacy. A victim of Ménière’s disease, an inner-ear disorder that affects equilibrium, she was uneasy on her feet, which fed rumors that she had a drinking problem; she did not.
Mamie was also known as a penny pincher who clipped coupons for the White House staff. Her recipe for “Mamie’s million-dollar fudge” was reproduced by housewives all over the country after it was printed in many publications. In 1958, Mamie was also reported to be the first person to have Halloween decorations put up in the White House.
Mamie never lost contact with her mother’s Boone family, the Carlsons. Throughout the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, the Eisenhowers regularly visited Boone, especially during Ike’s presidency and after his retirement. Mamie was also quite active with her favorite charities, served on the boards of three colleges, and performed other civic duties.
After eight years in the White House, Mamie and Ike retired to their home in Gettysburg in 1961; they also had a retirement home in Palm Desert, California.
In 1968 David Eisenhower, Mamie’s grandson, married Richard Nixon’s daughter, Julie, bringing the two families closer together. The Nixons regularly invited Mamie to the White House, including her in their Christmas dinners. After her husband’s death in 1969, Mamie continued to live full time on the farm until she took an apartment in Washington, D.C. in the late 1970s. She appeared in a campaign commercial for her husband’s former Vice President, Richard Nixon, in 1972.
After Ike’s death in 1969, Mamie continued to visit Boone, making her last trip in 1977, two years before her death. She suffered a stroke on September 25, 1979 and was rushed to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where her husband had died a decade before. She remained in the hospital, and on October 31st, announced to her granddaughter, Mary Jean, that she would die the next day. She died in her sleep very early the morning of November 1,1979, at the age of 82. Mamie was buried beside her husband on the grounds of the Dwight David Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas.
On June 22, 1980, Mamie’s birthplace in Boone was dedicated as a historic site; Abigail Adams is the only other First Lady to be so honored. The main east–west street in Boone (Fourth Street) is now called Mamie Eisenhower Avenue.
Because of her connection with the city of Denver and the area surrounding, a park in southeast Denver was given Mamie’s name, as well as a public library in Broomfield, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. Mamie was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 1985.
Mamie was only the second First Lady to be born west of the Mississippi River. The first, also an Iowan, was Lou Henry Hoover, born in 1874 in Waterloo, Iowa. Mamie was the last First Lady to be born in the 19th century.
About the Birthplace
Built in the 1880s, Mamie’s birthplace received national attention on November 2, 1954 when the DeShon Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Boone, Iowa, placed a bronze marker on a stone in front of her home. After Mamie received the coveted Iowa Award in Boone in 1970 from Governor Robert D. Ray, local interest in preserving her birthplace grew, and a group of concerned Boone citizens formed the Boone Committee for Preservation of Historic Landmarks, Inc. (Trust Committee) to look into saving the house, and started raising funds for that purpose. This home was the only remaining Iowa birthplace of the wife of a U.S. President; Herbert Hoover’s wife’s birthplace in Waterloo, Iowa was torn down in 1926.
The birthplace had been purchased in 1962 by the adjacent First Baptist Church, for possible future expansion; renovations were then made so it could be a rental property. In 1974 the Church’s plans for an expansion were finalized, and the Church offered the house to the Trust Committee as a gift for preservation, provided it was moved from its original location. A formal acceptance ceremony involving several Boone civic leaders was held on March 17, 1975 in the parlor of the First Presbyterian Church in Boone. During the ceremony, the officers of the Trust Committee accepted the house as a gift from the First Baptist Church. The property across the street, where the home was to be moved, was gifted by Warren Kruck. The additions and renovations made previously to the house were removed and on September 15, 1975, Mamie’s Birthplace was moved across the street to the west, to 709 Carroll Street.
Restoration plans were drawn up by Iowa architect William J. Wagner of Des Moines, who was noted for his work in the preservation of historic Iowa homes and buildings. Five years of extensive restoration were done, including the restoration of a summer kitchen and carriage house. With Mamie’s aid, the Trust Committee arranged with the History Colorado Museum in Denver, Colorado for the loan of the original bedroom furniture from the home, used when Mamie was born. In addition, Mamie and her sister, Mrs. G. Gordon Moore of Washington, D.C., plus their uncle, Joel Carlson of Boone, donated many family heirlooms for the home, including a chair, Bible, piano, and settee owned by Mamie’s parents.
Miss Lois E. Dell of Des Moines chaired the committee that collected books for the library. Rugs, curtains, and wallpaper reflecting the 1890s period were found and purchased for the interior. Many organizations raised funds for, and contributed to, the restoration of the birthplace. The Iowa American Legion contributed $500 to the restoration and passed a resolution (see below) urging all Iowans to assist financially to the project. The Boone County American Legion and Auxiliary contributed a flag pole and flag. The Boone Women’s Club raised money for the landscaping. The two Boone Questors Clubs contributed substantially, and the Boone Soroptomist Club held a tour of homes project in the spring of 1977 to raise money.
Displays about the Eisenhowers can be found in the museum and reference library in the basement, including books, documents, photographs, and artifacts pertaining to the Doud and Eisenhower families, plus local history and information about the restoration project. The carriage house, erected in 1982, contains the Chrysler Windsor Sedan given to the Carlsons by the Eisenhowers in 1948, and Mamie’s 1962 Plymouth Valiant.
Mamie’s Birthplace was dedicated and opened for tours on June 22, 1980, with members of the Eisenhower family and Bob Hope attending. The home is one of only two First Ladies’ birthplaces in the United States to have been restored; the other is the birthplace of Abigail Adams in Massachusetts.
Iowa American Legion Resolution:
WHEREAS, Mamie Doud Eisenhower is one of Iowa’s most noted native citizens born in Boone, Iowa; and
WHEREAS, her birthplace in Boone has been acquired by a proper group to insure its restoration and preservation as a historic site; and
WHEREAS, thousands of Iowa Legionnaires were honored to have served under General Dwight David Eisenhower in the great victory over tyranny 1941-1945; and
WHEREAS, all Iowa Legionnaires are proud of their fellow Iowa, Mamie Doud Eisenhower, who served with such grace and charm as First Lady 1953-1961; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Department Executive Committee, Iowa Department, The American Legion in regular session assembled July 11, 1975, in Sioux City, Iowa, that $500 be contributed to the Boone Committee for Preservation of Historic Landmarks, Inc., and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Department urges all Iowans to assist financially in the preservation of this historic site.