In Emanuel Leutze’s mural, a group of pioneers and their train of covered wagons are pictured at the continental divide, looking towards the sunset and the Pacific Ocean. The border depicts vignettes of exploration and frontier mythology. Beneath the central composition is a panoramic view of their destination “Golden Gate,” in San Francisco Bay.
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Painted portrait of Dr. William Thornton
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Capitol Christmas Tree

The regular practice of displaying a Christmas tree on the Capitol Grounds is relatively recent. Records at the Architect of the Capitol show correspondence from 1919 indicate that a Christmas tree was purchased that year. However, it was not until 1964 that a definite procedure was initiated and a tree-lighting ceremony established.

In 1964, House Speaker John W. McCormack suggested to J. George Stewart, Architect of the Capitol, that a Christmas tree be placed on the Capitol Grounds. A live 24-foot Douglas fir was purchased for $700 from Buddies Nurseries of Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, and was planted on the West Front lawn. Each year through 1967 this tree was decorated and a tree-lighting ceremony was held.

Unfortunately, a combination of factors, including a severe wind storm in the spring of 1967 and root damage, caused the tree to die in 1968; it was removed in the same year. The 1968 Christmas tree was made from two white pines from Finksburg, Maryland, and was 30 feet tall; the 1969 tree was a 40-foot white pine from Westminster, Maryland.

The United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service has provided the trees since 1970. Information about individual trees is listed below. Height is provided as measured in the forest by the National Forest Service.

Read more about the other trees on the Capitol Grounds.

Year Tree Height Source State
2014 White Spruce 88 feet Chippewa National Forest Minnesota
2013 Engelmann Spruce 88 feet Colville National Forest Washington
2012 Engelmann Spruce 73 feet White River National Forest Colorado
2011 Sierra White Fir 65 feet Stanislaus National Forest California
2010 Engelmann Spruce 67 feet Bridger-Teton National Forest Wyoming
2009 Blue Spruce 85 feet Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest Arizona
2008 Subalpine Fir 78 feet Bitterroot National Forest Montana
2007 Balsam Fir 55 feet Green Mountain National Forest Vermont
2006 Pacific Silver Fir 65 feet Olympic National Forest Washington
2005 Engelmann Spruce 60 feet Santa Fe National Forest New Mexico
2004 Red Spruce 70 feet George Washington and Jefferson National Forest Virginia
2003 Engelmann Spruce 65 feet Boise National Forest Idaho
2002 Douglas Fir 70 feet Umpqua National Forest Oregon
2001 White Spruce 74 feet Ottawa National Forest Michigan
2000 Colorado Blue Spruce 65 feet Pike National Forest Colorado
1999 White Spruce 70 feet Nicolet National Forest Wisconsin
1998 Fraser Fir 50 feet Pisgah National Forest North Carolina
1997 Black Hills Spruce 63 feet Black Hills National Forest South Dakota
1996 Engelmann Spruce 75 feet Manti-LaSal National Forest Utah
1995 Douglas Fir 60 feet Plumas National Forest California
1994 Balsam Fir 58 feet Green Mountain National Forest Vermont
1993 White Fir 65 feet San Bernardino National Forest California
1992 White Spruce 62 feet Chippewa National Forest Minnesota
1991 Blue Spruce (live) 60 feet Carson National Forest New Mexico
1990 Engelmann Spruce 65 feet Routt National Forest Colorado
1989 Engelmann Spruce 60 feet Kootenai National Forest Montana
1988 Balsam Fir 50 feet Manistee National Forest Michigan
1987 Norway Spruce 60 feet Wayne-Hoosier National Forest Ohio
1986 Shasta Red Fir 54 feet Klamath National Forest California
1985 White Spruce 56 feet Ottawa National Forest Michigan
1984 White Spruce 58 feet Superior National Forest Minnesota
1983 White Spruce 52 feet Chequamegon National Forest Wisconsin
1982 Balsam Fir 50 feet Riley Bostwich Wildlife Management Area Vermont
1981 White Spruce 50 feet Hiawatha National Forest Michigan
1980 White Spruce 48 feet Green Mountain National Forest Vermont
1979 White Spruce 52 feet Nicolet National Forest Wisconsin
1978 Norway Spruce 60 feet Savage River State Forest Maryland
1977 White Spruce 52 feet Nemadji State Forest Minnesota
1976 Red Spruce 41 feet Monongahela National Forest West Virginia
1975 Balsam Fir 41 feet Ottawa National Forest Michigan
1974 Fraser Fir 41 feet Pisgah National Forest North Carolina
1973 White Spruce 51 feet Allegheny National Forest Pennsylvania
1972 Balsam Fir 50 feet Tennessee National Forest Pennsylvania
1971 Black Spruce 45 feet White Mountain National Forest New Hampshire
1970 Norway Spruce 40 feet Monongahela National Forest West Virginia
1969 White Pine 40 feet Westminister Maryland 
1968 White Pine 30 feet Finxburg Maryland
1967 Douglas Fir 24 feet Buddies Nurseries Pennsylvania 
1966 Douglas Fir 24 feet Buddies Nurseries Pennsylvania 
1965 Douglas Fir 24 feet Buddies Nurseries Pennsylvania 
1964 Douglas Fir 24 feet Buddies Nurseries Pennsylvania