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State dinner to Prince Henry. East Room of White House, Washington D.C., 1902. Theodore Roosevelt, President.
State dinner to Prince Henry of Prussia. East Room of White House, Washington D.C., 1902. Theodore Roosevelt, President.New York Public Library
State dinner to Prince Henry. East Room of White House, Washington D.C., 1902. Theodore Roosevelt, President.
Franlin Roosevelt with Bolivian President Penaranda 1943
Harry Truman and The Shah of Iran at a State Dinner
Politics, Personalities, USA, pic: 17th October 1957, President Dwight D, Eisenhower and Mamie Eisenhower, centre, with HM,Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip before a state dinner in the White House, Washington D,C, Dwight D,Eisenhower (1890-1969) became t
John F. Kennedy with Mrs. Kennedy and Guests
President Johnson Posing with Guests at State Dinner
President and Mrs. Richard Nixon greet Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau at the North protico of the White House for a white tie state dinner; the first of the Nixon administration. March 25, 1969.
State Dinner Honoring Emperor Hirohito And Empress Nagako
The Carters and the Royal Couple of Iran 1977
President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan welcome USSR General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, to the White House for a State Dinner in their honor. December 8, 1987.
President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush greet Queen Margrethe II of Denmark
Clintons with Nelson Mandela at State Dinner
State Dinner for Vicente Fox at White House
President Barack Obama and the The First Lady Michelle Obama welcomes Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Mrs. Gursharan Kaur to the first White House State Dinner.
State dinner to Prince Henry of Prussia. East Room of White House, Washington D.C., 1902. Theodore Roosevelt, President.
New York Public Library
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See How White House State Dinners Evolved Over a Century

When President Obama welcomes Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the White House on Thursday, the pomp-filled State Dinner will be a far cry from the early days of those affairs.

In the 18th century, when Washington was still a relatively small town with few frills, any dinner honoring someone related to the government might be called a state dinner, as the White House Historical Association explains. State dinners became more formal in the 19th century, as D.C. society expanded, but it wasn't until 1874 that President Grant became the first to use one to celebrate a foreign monarch. (The guest was, in retrospect, an appropriate one for a state dinner: King David Kalakaua of Hawaii.) After the White House was restored and expanded in 1902, under Teddy Roosevelt, the tradition of hosting foreign dignitaries began in earnest.

As these photos show, more than a century of state dinners has meant changing fashions and changing administrations—but the sense of tradition endures.

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