3 people found this helpful
Thank you for submitting your question to History Hub. To the best of our knowledge there is not a single, unified list of all gifts given by the US to foreign nations or the heads of foreign nations.
US laws and regulations complicate the diplomatic gift-giving process. Officials can only keep gifts valued under a certain dollar amount but even then they must pay the government back for their appraised value. The President, Vice President, and Secretary of State are also limited on how much they can spend on gifts to foreign dignitaries.
The State Department’s Protocol Gift Unit, which is part of the Office of the Chief of Protocol, accepts and records incoming gifts from visiting dignitaries and but also helps select the gifts presented to them. The Protocol Gift Unit’s website extensively lists gifts received by Executive Branch officials from 2002 to 2015. If you are looking for contemporary records of gifts they recommended or selected, you should contact them but also be prepared to submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request.
A search for the “Protocol Gift Unit” in the National Archives Catalog shows several leads for further gifts research. From this search and a second one for “White House Gift Unit” it appears that modern presidential administrations maintained reports, correspondence, and other records relating to gifts. At least in the cases of Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon this explicitly includes records of gifts sent to foreign dignitaries. If you are looking for gifts from a particular administration, we suggest contacting the appropriate presidential library. A list of them is available here.
We wish you the best of success in your endeavor. Let us know what you discover!
Dear Mr. Chapman,
Thank you so much for your thorough response and many suggestions. In this research, I'm afraid I won't be concentrating on the gifts given to the US but instead on those given by the US to other foreign dignitaries. As you've so rightly pointed out, several presidential libraries contain examples of such gifts (I've seen them at the Johnson library, as you've referred to)! But I'm curious about more historical examples, from the first presidencies in the 18th century and throughout the nineteenth. Unfortunately, presidential libraries don't exist for these presidents. Would you have any other advice for me on where I could find records of these earlier gifts?
Thanks for considering,
1 person found this helpful
Since you are looking for older records, we suggest submitting your question to the Archives II reference branch. They are reachable at email@example.com.