Prince George's County, Maryland is rich in history. It surrounds its residents hidden in plain sight and mostly ignored. With hundreds of historic places (nearly 400), Prince George's County tells the story of an unwilling partnership that grew together to build a state and a country. Residential homes now keep open secrets of the men and women who struggled to overcome social and economic barriers to eventually reach the White House and the summit of American political power.
|Henry Pickneys son Roswell Playing with Teddy Rosevelts son Rosevelt Quentin|
Fifty years before Eugene Allen served his country and seven of its Presidents, Henry W. Pinckney of Fairmont Heights, came from New York as the valet to Governor and then Vice President Roosevelt. When Roosevelt became President (1901-1909, Pinckney became the White House steward, and, later, messenger in President Taft's administration (1909-1913). Mr. Pinckney's son, Roswell, the eldest of the four children of Henry and Leonora Pinckney, played with Quentin Roosevelt, youngest son of Theodore Roosevelt, and was one of his "White House Gang" playmates. The 'White House Gang' was "...known for their mischievous childhood pranks. Quentin Roosevelt later joined the Army Air Service and was killed during combat in WWI (Delegado. 2013. History - Never to be Forgotten).
The magazine section of the Breckenridge News describes Mr. Pinckney's day around the Christmas Holiday celebrations:
Such marketing as is necessary to fill out the menu for the President's Christmas dinner is done by Henry Pinckney a colored man who holds the position of White House Steward and draws a salary of 1800 a year [$1800 dollars in 1905 had the same buying power as $46938.62 dollars in 2013] from the government for managing the domestic affairs at the White House A day or two before Christmas Steward Pinckney sets out in the unpretentious vehicle which serves as the President's private market wagon and makes the round of the markets for the White House patronage is not confined to any one merchant In preparation for the Christmas dinner."
Mr. Pinckney travels with the President were reported regularly in the press including his trip with Mr. Roosevelt and others to vote for the Republican ticket in Oyster Bay, New York in the elections of 1902.
Henry Pinckney saw to more than meals. He oversaw travel arrangements attending to the details of packing of personal items and the loading of them onto the Magnet, the President's private train car. Newspaper accounts describe is role in Presidential trips to places like Pine Knot in Albemarle County, Virginia.
Henry Pinckney along with other members of the Roosevelt White House was invited to attend the wedding of Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. in June 1910.
"Invitations to the ceremony have been received by practically all those who were part of the White House establishment at the time Mr. Roosevelt relinquished the presidential chair. The fact that many of the servants were Negroes apparently has
made no difference in the issuing of invitations for the marriage of "Mr. Ted." Charles Boeder, footman on the White House-carriage in the former administration (McKinley), has signified his intention of being present. Wilson Jackson, a household messenger for the family, and Henry Pinckney, also a member" of the Roosevelt establishment, have received invitations and are anxious to go to the wedding."
When questions arose about Roosevelt's "drinks" in Europe, the President was vindicated through Mr. Pinckney's mint juleps recipe was reported by the Chicago Day Book, May 28, 1913: Roosevelt "never drank any mint juleps at all. He [just] bruised the mint. It was the late Henry Pinckney, negro factotum of the Roosevelt's in the White House, who made the T, R. juleps, and the recipe he left behind read: "A. lump of sugar, a teaspoonful of water and some mint leaves stirred in with the liquid."
In 1910 Mr. Pinckney was caught up in the meat packing scandals made famous by Upton Sinclair's novel, The Jungle. Headlines blared FORMER STEWART STEWARD OF THE WHITE HOUSE DENIES CHARGES MADE BY MADE BY MEAT INSPECTOR DODGE.
"WASHINGTON Feb 8 Former President Roosevelt was not fed on half putrid beef to keep him savage according to Henry Pinckney who today denied yesterday's testimony of meat inspector Dodge regarding the meat supplied at the White House. Dodge testified before the special committee of the House which is in investigating the food question. Pikney [sic] the steward at the White House under Roosevelt's administration is highly indignant at the charge."
Mr. Pinckney forcefully "declared that no unfit and unwholesome meat ever gracedthe table of that president." He was answering the charge made before a special committee that was investigating the cost of living in the District of Columbia.
From typical over the top news reporting with which we are so familiar today as to forget our long national history of ad hominem attacks on public figures, we know that Bulbous Bill's White House (President Taft) paid Mr. Pinckney $1300.00 per year as a messenger. This salary in 1910 had the same buying power as $33900.12 current dollars.
Fairmount Heights lost it famous resident in April 2011. The obituary in the Washington Bee spoke of his accomplishments and friendships to a diverse community over the early years of the 20th century.
"The funeral of Mr. Henry W. Pinckney late steward of the White House took place from the First Presbyterian Church on last Sunday. A large crowd attended among whom were Major Brooks and many White House attaches. Rev. T. J. Smith pastor of the church officiated with the assistance of Rev. M. W. Clair of Asbury church. The floral designs were numerous and beautiful among which was a handsome cross of lilies and roses by Mrs. Alice Longworth. (daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt). The deceased was esteemed by all who knew him especially the citizens of this section. Interment was held at Woodlawn Cemetery; funeral director, Mr. J. W. Winslow. Resolutions were read from the Progressive Citizens Association of this section, expressing loss."
Mr. Pinckney's house still stands in Prince George's County, silent sentinel of those who worked so hard to enable the words of Thomas Jefferson to apply to all men of all color and creeds. The Pinckney House was built for Henry Pinckney, "who at the time of the 1910 census, was 48 years of age; he had been born in South Carolina and lived in this house with his wife Leonora and their three children. His dwelling was a large and substantial house; in its original form, it would have been one of the most noticeable early buildings in the community of Fairmount Heights (Patterson, 2009).
|Henry Pickney House|
Fairmount Heights, Prince George's County, Maryland
 Historical Currency Conversions. [accessed August 14, 2013] http://futureboy.us/fsp/dollar.fsp?quantity=1800¤cy=dollars&fromYear=1905
 The Breckenridge News., December 20, 1905, Magazine Section Part Two, Image 8. Library of Congress.
 Evening Star., October 31, 1902, Image 1. Library of Congress.
 The Washington Times., May 17, 1907, Last Edition, Image 1. Library of Congress
 The Broad Ax., June 11, 1910, Image 2. Library of Congress.
 The Day Book., May 28, 1913, Image 6. Library of Congress.
 The Daytona Daily News., February 08, 1910, Page 5, Image 5. Library of Congress.
 The Enterprise., February 16, 1910, Image 6. Library of Congress.
 The Labor World., January 15, 1910, Image 6. Library of Congress.
 Historical Currency Conversions. [accessed August 14, 2013] http://futureboy.us/fsp/dollar.fsp?quantity=1300¤cy=dollars&fromYear=1910
 The Washington Bee., April 15, 1911, Image 5. Library of Congress.