The History of the White House Correspondent’s Dinner

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner (often referred to simply as WHCD) is an annual dinner organized by White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA).

This annual gathering is regarded as one of the most prominent events in Washington since 1921. The first White House Correspondents’ Dinner was held soon after Warren Harding took office.

Formation of White House Correspondents’ Association

Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the USA, was unhappy about how he was being quoted during White House press conferences. As a result of this displeasure, he warned that he would discontinue regular press conferences. The WHCA was formed in February 25, 1914, in order to convince President Woodrow Wilson to continue holding the White House’s press conferences. However, WHCA couldn’t convince the president and he officially quit holding them in 1915. His decision remained unchanged until 1921 (when Warren Harding took office).

First ever White House Correspondents’ Dinner

It was 1920 when the WHCA held their first dinner. The first ever President to attend this event is Calvin Coolidge, but that wasn’t until 1924. The venue was the Old Arlington Hotel and the it was limited to 50 members only. Since 1924, all presidents have appeared at least once during their tenure.

The evolution of White House Correspondents’ Dinner

While the first ever WHCD was limited to a small number of invitees, the gathering has evolved into a gala event. During the early years, reporters and politicians were the only invitees. The invitation list has grown to include many other people — most notably, celebrities. Recent WHCD events were held with the participation of 3,000 invitees including politicians, celebrities, reporters and elites. The regular venue in recent years has been Washington Hilton’s Ballroom.

The invitees of this event have the pleasure of listening to songs, watching movies and enjoying exciting variety shows by popular performers. During WWII the event was held with a much more somber note.

After the WWII, the event got back to its evolutionary groove; in fact, it got better as a result of the participation of celebrity artists (such as Frank Sinatra). Interestingly, until 1962, women were not allowed to attend this event. However, with the influence of President John F Kennedy, this ban was lifted in 1962. In fact, President Kennedy boycotted WHCD until females were allowed in. Reports say that JFK lifted this ban due to the request of Helen Thomas, the first ever female White House correspondent. Later on, in 1975, Thomas Helen was named WHCA’s first president.