KEY POINTS

  • A team of calligraphers designs all official and social White House documents, including invitations and official greetings
  • The chief calligrapher is among the White House staff members with a top secret clearance
  • The position comes with a reported salary of $109,200

Odd jobs are also present at the White House, but all staffers help the president perform his duties in some way, including the calligraphers. Here’s how much a calligrapher earns while working in the East Wing.

Calligraphers might not be the first profession that comes to mind when thinking of White House staff members, but the East Wing does employ several people trained in calligraphy. 

Despite being an odd job, it comes with great compensation. The chief calligrapher is paid $109,200 to oversee the rest of the calligraphers, Reader’s Digest reported.

Patricia Blair served as the chief calligrapher of the White House, per official White House documents from 2018. Based on a list of White House salaries published by NPR, she earned $102,212 back in 2017.

calligraphy A calligrapher's job comes with a huge compensation. Photo: Pixabay

The chief calligrapher oversees the design and execution of both social and official White House documents. These include menus, place cards, invitations, proclamations, citations, military commissions, special announcements, official greetings and even signs for the White House vegetable garden.

As this is not an easy task, the calligraphy team has two more members, who are each paid a salary of around $84,400 annually, per Reader’s Digest. 

Matt Costello, a senior historian at the White House Historical Association, said the office of the calligrapher can be traced all the way back to the 1860s when a staff member was given the task of writing White House invitations by Mary Todd Lincoln, according to CNN.

It wasn’t until the 1940s that the office was greatly utilized to help create handwritten invitations, menus and place cards for state dinners and other functions.

Due to the nature of the chief calligrapher’s work, he or she is among the select few who are granted top-secret clearance among White House staff members, CNN reported. Rick Paulus, the chief calligrapher during the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, said their inclusion is due to their need to know the president’s schedule and their proximity to world leaders.

"As calligraphers, we feel like we're playing an integral role," Paulus said. "The invitation sets the stage for the whole event. Calligraphers are helping, simply, to set the stage for diplomacy."

However, he clarified that he "never, ever dealt with intelligence matters."