Column calls out White House for calligraphers

11:14 AM, Mar 13, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, D.C.  -- Can you tell the difference between White House invitations crafted by a quarter-million dollar calligraphy staff and the fake one our sister station, WUSA, made using a computer and printer for pocket change? called out the $277,050 expense in a Daniel Harper column juxtaposing that expense against the most high profile White House sequestration cut.

"With the White House closing its doors to public tour groups in order to save money for the sequester, it's worth remembering some of the other costs the White House incurs annually," Harper wrote. "Despite sequestration, there's been no announcement of the White House scaling back on calligraphers."

In an undated C-Span video, a staff calligrapher says they hand craft master invitations, placards, citations, and awards which are printed and then often hand personalized with the recipient's name.

When our sister station, WUSA,  put a photo of an original White House invitation next to one they made themselves on Facebook, many people thought the fake was the real thing - or at least that it looked just as good or better.

"Honestly, they both look nice, so I would go with the printer version," wrote Facebook fan Aaron Sumner .

"Style is similar and so is appearance," wrote Karen Erickson on our Facebook page. "Go with the printer!"

Many of those who could tell the difference, preferred the cheaper alternative. It may seem insignificant in the big pile of money we need, but every little bit helps," wrote Jocelyn Kennedy. "There needs to be more of this kind of things done away with."

"I would not be insulted if I got a thermography invitation," wrote Facebook fan Lauren F Rutley. "That said, what would happen to all the newly unemployed calligraphers? "

Other defended the craft as an important tool in diplomacy.

"Many foreign leaders would find the typically-American preference for informality disrespectful, which could threaten negotiations before they begin," wrote Tim Flavin. "State dinner invitations should not look like they were laser-printed on stationery from Target."

The calligraphy staff and hand written invitations are not unique to the Obama White House.


The best invitation sample we could find was from the George W. Bush Administration and the oldest was issued by John Quincy Adams in 1801.

Both images were provided by the White House Historical Association.

The White House did not respond to WUSA's request for comment.

By: Russ Ptacek/WUSA/Gannett


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