The President Who Travelled With Jelly Bean Jars On Air Force One

It's easy to forget that Air Force One — the American presidential aircraft that serves as a mobile symbol of the United States wherever it is in the world — is also a business travel aircraft for the nation's commander-in-chief. As such, it's not unreasonable to expect that the presidents who use it also might want to add some personal touches onboard as they go about the serious business of diplomacy. In fact, the specially modified Boeing 707 that served as Air Force One for Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush reflected their personal styles.

Nixon, whose term ran from 1969 to 1974, named the plane the "Spirit of '76" in recognition of the then-upcoming 1976 American bicentennial celebration. Ford, an avid pipe smoker, had a large ashtray engraved with his name, the seal of the United States, and "Air Force One" aboard the plane. Carter, in a departure from the pomp and circumstance associated with the aircraft, did not embellish or stock Air Force One with any items from the private sector (per Aerotime Hub). George H.W. Bush had the distinction of being the first president to have access to both the 707 and 747 versions of Air Force One. However, it may be Reagan who added the most unique touch while traveling aboard the presidential aircraft.

Reagan's special Air Force One cargo

The aircraft that served as Air Force One for Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush carried some special cargo during Reagan's eight years in the White House. The plane, now on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Simi Valley, California, reportedly still includes that cargo — a jar filled with Jelly Belly jelly beans. Reagan had a long history with jelly beans, using them in 1966 as an aid in his successful attempt to quit pipe smoking during a run for the governorship of California. Reagan's choice of jelly bean, according to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum, was Goelitz Mini Jelly Beans. They were manufactured by the Oakland, California-based Herman Goelitz Candy Company, which began sending a monthly shipment to the governor's office.

Later, operating under the name Jelly Belly, the company continued supplying its jelly beans to Reagan during his presidency. According to the Ronald Reagan Foundation & Institute, Reagan "ordered three and a half tons of patriotic red, white and blue beans" for his inaugural festivities in 1981 and kept a standing order for 720 bags of Jelly Belly beans while in office. Jelly beans also were a subject of one of the folksy witticisms for which Reagan was noted. According to The Old Time Candy Company, Reagan once said "... you can tell a lot about a fella's character by whether he picks out all of one color or just grabs a handful."