MRS. LINCOLN, WHY DON'T YOU LIGHT THE FIRE?
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Fifty-six years ago today, John F. Kennedy walked into the Oval Office on his first Monday as President of the United States. His personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, said that "he was delighted with the new (off) white wall color."
At the end of the day, with snow still on the ground outside, the President asked Mrs. Lincoln if the fireplace in the Oval Office worked. Apparently she thought it did because he then asked her to start a fire.
She placed crumpled paper under the logs and struck a match and then, "almost immediately the room was filled with smoke."
Suddenly the West Wing was on fire alert. Sam "Mitch" Mitchell, a Presidential assistant in charge of the Oval, shouted "Oh, my land, what has happened?"
The doors and windows were quickly opened in spite of the cold air outside. Mrs. Lincoln admitted that Mitch was visibly upset with her because she had started the fire without making sure the damper was open.
Crytome states that Flickr photographs taken of the Oval Office fireplace and chimney taken over several years show no sign of use although discoloration of the mantle "suggests (a) smoky fire in the past."
"My Twelve Years with John F. Kennedy," by Evelyn Lincoln, Personal Secretary to the President, David McKay Co.,Inc., New York, 1965.
"Oval Office Fireplace and Chimney," Cryptome, August 11, 2014, www.cryptome.org/