5 Memorable Presidential Birthdays

3 minute read

Donald Trump celebrates his first birthday as President of the United States on Wednesday. Trump’s family has a history of hosting lavish celebrations for the occasion at his properties — from broadcasting birthday messages from Elton John and Dolly Parton at his 44th birthday party at Trump Castle’s Crystal Ballroom in 1990, to showing off carefully choreographed waterfall features at a champagne-filled 50th bash at Trump Tower in 1996.

Needless to say, his approach to his birthday is vastly different from Thomas Jefferson’s, for the third U.S. President never wanted people to throw him a birthday party and didn’t even want his family to talk about his birthday with other people.

Here’s a brief look at some of the most memorable ways presidents have celebrated the occasion:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (center) at a toga-themed party for his 52nd birthday, which was on Jan. 30, 1934.FDR Presidential Library

Pictured is FDR at a toga-themed party for his Jan. 30, 1934, birthday, which was just the latest in a series of birthday fêtes that were typically organized each year by his inner circle, known as the “Cuff Link Gang.” The group formed during FDR’s unsuccessful campaign as Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate in 1920, and FDR gave each member one cuff link with his initials and the other with his own, according to the FDR library. Male and female members joined the club over the years, and each new member received a set.

John F. Kennedy

When Marilyn Monroe serenaded the President at his 45th birthday bash at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962, it prompted long-running speculation about whether the two were having an affair — including by J. Edgar Hoover, whose FBI undertook an effort to investigate a sex tape that was thought (but never proved) to feature the two of them.

Ronald Reagan

A Surprise For Reagan
President Ronald Reagan stands behind a lectern as First Lady Nancy Reagan stands in a side doorway, planning to surprise the President with a birthday cake, at the White House on Feb. 4, 1983.Ronald Reagan Library—Getty Images

First Lady Nancy’s acting chops came in handy for keeping her cool while staging birthday surprises for the President, including the one pictured above that made a perfect photo op a couple of days before his Feb. 6 birthday in 1983. This Reagan Foundation YouTube clip below shows the moment at around 13:18 when the President is talking to reporters about defense spending, and his wife walks right up to him with a cake.

Richard Nixon

The President sported a maroon sport coat for his surprise birthday on Jan. 9, 1974, organized by his staff at his so-called “Western White House” in San Clemente, Calif., with First Lady Pat Nixon and their daughter Tricia. The family dog, Irish setter King Timahoe, stole the show by taking a first bite out of the cake before the birthday boy could try it, and he even got it on the President’s jacket. Newscasts, like the one above from the NBC News archives, featured the blooper.

Barack Obama

He celebrated his last birthday as America’s 44th president with a star-studded gala at the White House. A-list stars in attendance, according to the New York Times, included Stevie Wonder and Usher — who performed — as well as Paul McCartney, Magic Johnson, George Lucas, Ellen DeGeneres, Nick Jonas and Grant Hill.

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Write to Olivia B. Waxman at olivia.waxman@time.com