top of page

An Ebullient President Johnson Gives Out Ten-Gallon Hats

Dec. 29, 1963 - In Stonewall, Texas today, President Johnson perched a ten-gallon Texas hat on the head of West German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard today after the German-speaking area had tendered the West German leader a “herzlich wilkommen” (warm welcome). So heavy was the German flavor of the day that Mr. Johnson said he would have to call it a “forty-liter hat.” In high good humor at the conclusion of two days of talks he considered a great success, Mr. Johnson acted as his own master of ceremonies in handing out more than 30 of the broad-brimmed felt hats. The President kept up a running fire of conversation during the presentations and at one point called upon his press secretary, Pierre Salinger, to play the piano. Mr. Salinger, a one-time child prodigy at the keyboard, complied somewhat reluctantly and got his own forty-liter hat as a reward. The occasion was a barbecue luncheon served for 100 guests in the white-frame gymnasium of the Stonewall High School. Dr. Erhard and Mr. and Mrs. Johnson ate beef barbecue, spareribs, potato salad and baked beans, and drank coffee from tin cups. They heard Van Cliburn play Beethoven and Chopin, saw a local group perform German dances, and exchanged serious speeches of farewell. Then Mr. Johnson produced the hats and began distributing them. The first went to Dr. Erhard. “It’s a big hat for a big man,” Mr. Johnson commented. Each member of the official German and American parties was similarly crowned, although it took Mr. Johnson six tries to put a good fit on Dr. Karl Carstens, State Secretary of the West German Foreign Office. The first hat he tried dropped over Mr. Carstens’ ears and nearly obscured his face. Chancellor Erhard made no secret of his liking for the brand of hospitality extended. In his remarks during luncheon, he said the “homelike” atmosphere created by President and Mrs. Johnson had “brought about a spirit that was a guarantee the talks would be a success.” Turning toward the First Lady, he said, “I no longer feel as your guest. I feel at home with you, and I am sure this is not going to be the last meeting.”


bottom of page