Fine Art & Antiques by Dr. Lori
Presidential Place Settings 1900 to 1950
Posted February 2011
While Presidential china dates back to our founding fathers, the china selected by the First Ladies of the 1900s is as unique as the century’s Presidents.
In 1902, President and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt moved into the newly-remodeled Executive Mansion, or White House. The State Dining Room was dramatically altered to seat 100+ guests. Oak paneled walls, a fireplace, and nearly a dozen of President Teddy Roosevelt's prized big game hunting prizes (taxidermy animal heads) were put on display. A new 1,320-piece set of Wedgwood china was ordered, and for the first time, it featured the Great Seal of the United States.
The first Presidential china service manufactured in the United States was made by Lenox, Inc. from the great American pottery center of Trenton, N.J. First Lady Edith Wilson chose a design of ivory porcelain with the Presidential Seal raised in 24-carat gold at the center of each plate. The set cost $11,251. The service was delivered to the White House in 1918. Mrs. Wilson designed the China Room, featuring First Lady Caroline Harrison's china cabinet. Today, it is a very popular room for White House visitors.
In 1934, there was a public outcry in response to the announcement that the White House would be ordering new china in the midst of the Great Depression. Eleanor Roosevelt explained the need and placed a small order with the Lenox factory at a cost of $9,301.
During the Truman Administration, a $500,000 expenditure was approved by Congress to renovate the White House. It was in dire need of not only a facelift but of reconstruction to main portions of the grand house. The State Dining Room had been extensively remodeled, and Teddy Roosevelt’s oak-paneled walls were painted a soft Williamsburg green. The good-natured Bess Truman instructed workers to remove Teddy’s taxidermied hunting trophies from the dining room walls, too. By 1951, First Lady Bess Truman selected a new set of china to go with the new green décor. The porcelain set had a wide green band that matched the walls and cost some green, to the tune of $28,271.
The Eisenhower china had motifs reflecting the President’s military service. Recently, an 11-inch bone china service plate from the Eisenhower Presidential set with raised pinwheels and the gold Presidential seal and star border sold at auction for $5,500. The plate was marked with a Castleton Studio mark on the bottom and “The White House November 1955”. That single plate cost more than General Eisenhower’s World War II jeep!
First Lady Mamie Eisenhower was greatly interested in the White House china collection, and she began a project to highlight it. Thanks to her project, by 1957, all the official and personal (unofficial) china of each administration was represented in the White House's famed China Room.
Today, visitors to the White House can view the Presidential china on tours to the China Room and decide for themselves if they like Mamie Eisenhower’s soup tureen better than Bess Truman’s turkey platter.
Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, award-winning TV personality, and TV talk show host, Dr. Lori presents antiques appraisal events nationwide and on luxury cruises worldwide. Seen on The Tonight Show, also watch Dr. Lori on the Fine Living Network and on the national TV morning show Daytime, weekdays on Atlanta’s ABC 2 WSB-DT at 9 am, Tampa’s NBC 8 at 10 am, and Jacksonville’s CW 17 at 6 am. Visit www.DrLoriV.com, become a fan at www.Facebook.com/DoctorLori, or call 888-431-1010.