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White House China of the Lincoln Administration in the Museum of History and Technology   By: (1922-1994)

White House China of the Lincoln Administration in the Museum of History and Technology by Margaret Brown Klapthor

First Page:

UNITED STATES NATIONAL MUSEUM BULLETIN 250 CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE MUSEUM OF HISTORY AND TECHNOLOGY PAPER 62, PAGES 109 120

WHITE HOUSE CHINA OF THE LINCOLN ADMINISTRATION IN THE MUSEUM OF HISTORY AND TECHNOLOGY Margaret Brown Klapthor

SMITHSONIAN PRESS WASHINGTON, D.C. 1967

[Illustration: WHITE HOUSE COLLECTION

Figure 1: A TABLE SETTING showing the Lincoln china being used for a luncheon during the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson.]

Margaret Brown Klapthor

WHITE HOUSE CHINA OF THE LINCOLN ADMINISTRATION

In the Museum of History and Technology

This article on the china of the administration of President Abraham Lincoln is intended to be the first of a series of articles on Presidential china based on the collection in the Smithsonian Institution. From contemporary records in National Archives, newspaper articles and family records it is our hope to assemble material which will ultimately present the story of White House and Presidential china of every administration. Myths and facts surrounding this interesting topic will be examined and presented to assist the many collectors of this porcelain as well as others who admire and appreciate its historical interest.

In this first article, the author describes the efforts of Mrs. Abraham Lincoln to acquire porcelain suitable for official entertaining in the White House.

THE AUTHOR: Margaret Brown Klapthor is associate curator of political history in the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of History and Technology.

When Mrs. Lincoln arrived at the White House in 1861 she found the pantry sadly deficient in elegant tableware to set a State dinner. The last official State service had been purchased by the White House during the administration of President Franklin Pierce (it is the china known popularly as the "red edge" set), and not enough of that was left to serve a large dinner party.

Theodore R. Davis, who designed the State china purchased during the administration of President Rutherford B. Hayes, wrote an article, published in the May 1899 issue of the Ladies' Home Journal , on the "Presidential Porcelain of a Century." He records that in 1860 he saw the State Dining Room of the White House set up for the formal dinner given for the visiting Prince of Wales, and that "the dishes were more or less odd, but generally comprised what was known as the 'red edge set'."

Chinaware was not the only thing needed in the Executive Mansion in the opinion of Mary Todd Lincoln. Fortunately for her, Congress was accustomed to appropriating $20,000 to refurnish the President's House to the taste of each new First Lady. This money became available to her when the special session was convened in April 1861, and Mrs. Lincoln set out the next month on a shopping trip to New York and Philadelphia. She was accompanied by a favorite cousin, Mrs. Elizabeth Todd Grimsley, who had come to Washington for the inauguration in March and stayed on at the White House with the Lincolns for six months.

The ladies' arrival in New York City on May 12, was duly noted in the city newspaper. On May 16, 1861, The New York Daily Tribune records under the heading Personal :

Mrs. Lincoln employed the greater portion of Wednesday forenoon in making purchases. Among other places she visited the establishments of Lord & Taylor, and Messrs. E. V. Haughwout and Co. At the latter establishment she ordered a splendid dinner service for the White House in "Solferino" and gold with the arms of the United States emblazoned on each piece. The purchases also include some handsome vases and mantle ornaments for the blue and green rooms.

The firm of E. V. Haughwout and Co. whose bill head identifies it as "Importers and Decorators of French China" was accustomed to Executive Mansion patronage... Continue reading book >>




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