In the words of Lila Graham Alliger Woolfall
We recently happened upon a collection of essays by Lila Graham Alliger Woolfall, first published in 1898 under the title “A Pocket History of the Ladies of the White House,” and five years later as “Presiding Ladies of the White House,” with a section at the end entitled ‘Official Etiquette.’
Dolley is credited with being young, gay, and brilliant; Woolfall argues that by the sheer force of her personality Dolley broke down “much of the severity and conventionality which preceded her time.”
What is startling, when compared to modern standards, is Woolfall’s description of the protocols governing a sitting president at the turn of the 20th century. Here we quote Woolfall’s paragraph in its entirety.
“The President is the leader of social as well as official life. While he is accessible to all to the extent that all may call upon him, he is not expected to return any visits. He, of course, has the privilege of calling upon a friend. The same is equally true of the wife of the President. He is always addressed as “Mr. President.” He can not leave the country, and in this respect is under greater restrictions than are any of the crowned heads of Europe. Under this “unwritten law” a foreign legation in Washington is construed as being foreign ground and may not be entered by the President. Neither can he set foot upon a foreign vessel. The only formal calls that he can make are those upon a President elect, an ex-President, a President or reigning monarch of a foreign state visiting Washington. It is regarded as an impropriety for him to accept an invitation to dinner at any time or to receive other than very intimate friends on Sunday. He carries no personal card but one reading simply “The President.” He can not accept valuable gifts and if such are tendered they are usually placed in the National Museum. It is not expected that he should allow himself to be interviewed.”