Monday, May 1, 2017

White House China

George Washington

It's my understanding that Abigail Adams used whatever dishes were there, or what? I never did find that out, but there is a written note in her handwriting inviting a guest to one of the 'levees' as they were called. Dolley Madison's state china service was a hard-paste porcelain with gilt-relief. The plates were produced in 1814 at the Paris factory of Jean Nepomucene Hermann Nast.
    After the War of 1812, with the White House burning, etc, the Monroes had to refurnish and redecorate. First Lady Mrs. Monroe decorated in the French style. She was the first to have White House china created solely for the presidential use. The placesettings were manufactured in Paris. She was also the first to have an eagle as part of the design with a red, white, and blue banner displaying the words, "E Pluribus Unum", the national motto. There are five vignettes inside of the dark red border, representing agriculture, strength, commerce, science and arts.
James Monroe
Abraham Lincoln
    Another set wasn't ordered until the Polks moved in in 1845.  The service included a plain white design and gold trim, there is a shade of green border and a large flower in the center, like a pink wildflower.
    Mary Lincoln knew how to spend money. She would put Madonna to shame, I think. It was her mission to spruce up the White House and make it special to the world. She gave it some much needed updating and redecorating all the way from the family living quarters to the kitchen. She purchased china that was solely made in America.  She was very socially active and conscience of what it should look like, assuming that they won the war. The purple-red border called 'Solerino", later known as "Royal Purple", gave way to the center American bald eagle, which appears as if it were flying through the clouds. The Coat of Arms displayed on the bald eagle is glorious.
    When Mrs. Hayes moved in, she ordered the china to include the flora and fauna of North America as decoration. She used the same eagle and Coat of Arms motif for the center.
    In 1892, First Lady Caroline Harrison wanted new china that would be "symbolic and meaningful to Americans." She also had the Coat of Arms in the center, designed a goldenrod and corn motif etched in gold around a wide band of blue. There are also 44 stars for the number of states in the union and the corn is symbolic of her home state of Indiana. Mrs. Harrison was the First Lady to begin gathering and storing remnants of former chinaware in the White House. She died before it's delivery.
    First Lady Edith Roosevelt ordered Wedgeood china. It was white and highlighted the Great Seal of the United State for the first time. This was in the early 1900's.
Harry Truman
   Mrs. Wilson, Edith, chose Lenox, and it was in 1918. The china featured a deep ivory border surrounding a brighter ivory body and two bands of matte gold encrusted with stars, strips, and other motifs. The Seal of the president was raised in gold in the center of each piece. This was the first time that everyone at a State Dinner could eat off the same plate design plus it was decorated by American workmen.
    First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt found that by the time she'd moved in, the dishes were largely depleted. She ordered Lenox, also, and the year was 1933. They included a border of 48 stars, the presidential seal in enamel colors on an ivory body.  President Roosevelt liked nautical objects, the stars were set against a band of marine blue. The inner band was complemented with golden roses and feathers, which was reminiscent of the Roosevelt crest.
    The Truman's went through extensive renovations in the White House. First Lady Bess Truman ordered Lenox china in 1951. The pattern included a border of celadon green flanked by an etched gold band and a twenty-four karat gold rim on an ivory body. It included a raised gold presidential seal, surrounded by 48 gold stars.  After the war, President Harry S. Truman issued an executive order to standardize the seal; he had the head of the eagle turned toward the olive branch, representing peace, instead of toward the arrows, representing war.
     First Lady Maimie Eisenhower only ordered service dinner plates to complete the set.
    First Lady Lady Bird Johnson determined that new china was needed. Her china featured American wild flowers and was manufactured in the United States by Castleton China. She featured the eagle that was first designed for the Monroe china. The wildflowers feature flowers from throughout the United States. That lady sure loved her wildflowers!
    First Lady Nancy Reagan was modeled after Woodrow Wilson's, featuring the seal in burnished gold on an ivory background with a border of scarlet. The service was manufactured by Lenox.
Ronald Reagan

   First Lady Hilary Clinton wanted to commemorate the 200 anniversary of the White House. The china included a border of pale, creamy yellow, rather than a brighter primary color, and images of the White House, instead of the customary seal. Each placesetting has a different pattern, with elements found in the various rooms of the White House.
   First Lady Laura Bush ordered from Lenox, too.  She chose a soft green pattern due to its versatility and ability to coordinate with flowers. The pattern was inspired by Dolley Madison's dishware.  The smaller White House Magnolia Pattern is now distributed throughout the United States through DeVine Corporation, and this is what was used in their private All of this information came from Google.  If you want to read more or see pictures Google China Room and White House China. There's two great Wikipedia sites. The best pictures of all is this link:    Give that a try, hopefully it'll work. This one has beautiful pictures, too.

George W. Bush

Truman china service 1967



  1. So interesting. All of the china pictured is quite lovely, and the idea of wildflowers on the china is charming. One can also catch a glimpse of some of the various first ladies' personalities by what they chose for china.

  2. Really enjoyed learning about the White House china. Good luck with your books.

  3. Loved this. Love learning about the first ladies and the White House. My favorite is the Monroe pattern. I'd love to have one of those plates. Thanks Barb. Cher'ley

  4. The amount of research that goes into this blog is mind-boggling, Barb! I love reading about your passion--in fact, I nominated your blog for the Liebster Award this morning. If you'd like to accept, details are at

    1. Thanks, Kaye, and I will, but how do you identify 11 blogs!?

  5. I just went down the list of those I follow. You could look at your own followers, too. Eventually, as these things do, you'll run out of blogs because everyone will already have done it! I guess, just do what you can--if you want to participate.

    1. I didn't think of doing that, I just thought of people I know that are doing it. Thanks