Few American houses enjoy as lavish a holiday season as the White House. This beautifully illustrated talk explores the traditions that bring Christmas alive inside America’s most famous address: the gingerbread house tradition, the National Christmas Tree, and the thousands of ornaments created by artists around the country over the years. Did you know Dwight Eisenhower and Jackie Kennedy used their own paintings on Christmas cards?  Or that Andrew Jackson once hosted an indoor snowball fight? Take an insider’s view of one of the most historic homes in the world during the most magical time of the year.

Also Available:


available for 2016

American Beauty: A History of the Inventions that Made Us Beautiful

Travel through more than a century of magazine ads, patent illustrations and artifacts to learn the fascinating stories behind such feminine enhancements as the push-up bra, the rubber girdle, chip-proof nail polish, dusky mascara, and kiss-proof lipstick.

Remembering Marshall Field's
  • Screen or white wall on which to project slides
  • Projector and laptop, unless arrangements have been made for me to bring mine
  • Table for approx. 20-25 artifacts
  • Microphone (lapel preferred), if needed or desired by presenting organization

For more than 150 years, Marshall Field and Co. reigned as Chicago's leading department store. This talk traces the store's history from its beginnings in 1852 to its demise in 2006. Photographs, ads, postcards, and memorabilia trace the store's cherished traditions - the Walnut Room Christmas tree, the legendary window displays, and, of course, Frango Mints. [Based on Goddard's book, Remembering Marshall Field's, Arcadia Publishing, 2011.]

For many Chicagoans, no Christmas season was complete without a visit to Marshall Field and Co., the city's grande dame of department stores. This illustrated talk traces the store's beloved holiday traditions, including the Walnut Room Christmas tree, the holiday window displays, the toy department, and the Christmas catalogs. Ever have your photo taken with Santa in Cozy Cloud Cottage? Remember Uncle Mistletoe and Aunt Holly? This is a fun and fascinating look at one of Chicago's most beloved holiday traditions.

From Martha Washington on, the wives of America’s presidents have campaigned, influenced domestic policy, and shaped presidential legacies. Some have used their influence to promote causes. Some have shied from the spotlight. Others have taken bribes and abused their power. Using the Siena Research Institute's survey of First Ladies and John B. Roberts’ 2004 book Rating the First Ladies as a starting point, this illustrated book discussion explores the lives and impact of the presidential spouses.

Christmas at Marshall Field's
Christmas Traditions at the White House

Seventy-five years after its blockbuster premiere in 1939, the film Gone with the Wind continues to inspire passionate devotion. This illustrated talk uses photographs and short clips from the movie to explore how the film was made. Learn about the casting of the movie, the special effects used, and the incredible public reaction. How can we account for this movie's remarkably enduring popularity? And does Gone With the Wind still matter in how we understand the American South and the Civil War?  

Gone With the Wind: The Making of a Legend
Chicago's Sweet Candy History

For most its history, Chicago  produced one-third of the nation's candy.  You probably know some of the candies made or invented here -- Brach's caramels, Mars Snickers bars, Wrigley's gum, Cracker Jack, Curtiss Baby Ruth bars, Tootsie Rolls, Frango Mints, Dove chocolates. Learn some of the history behind these tasty treats and explore what made Chicago such a powerful location for candymakers. Delicious! [Based on Goddard's book, Chicago's Sweet Candy History, published by Arcadia Publishing in 2012.]

Requirements for most lectures:

Rating the First Ladies

Leslie Goddard