Wine Cooler. Paul Storr, London, 1809-10, for Rundell, Bridge & Rundell. Four urn-shaped wine coolers came as part of the vermeil collection that was donated to the Eisenhower White House in 1956 by Mrs. Margaret Thompson Biddle.
In the fall of 1950, more than a year before the Truman family returned, the Commission on the Renovation of the Executive Mansion discussed furnishing the house in either late 18th century Georgian style or early 19th century Federal style to celebrate the house’s early history. However, rising construction costs limited the budget for new furniture and many pieces removed before the construction were reinstalled with the addition of some neo-classical reproductions. The most dramatic change in décor was in the State Dining Room where the oak-paneled walls were painted soft green. A new state service designed for the Truman’s had a green border to correspond with the newly painted walls. The Trumans saw and approved all sample sketches for the state rooms and were especially involved in the interior decorating of the second and third floors. President Truman’s 1952 televised tour of the house showed his immense pride in the results.
President and Mrs. Eisenhower moved into the newly renovated White House in 1953 and were impressed by its simple dignity. Since everything had just been renovated, Congress did not provide the $50,000 given to each new administration in that period for furnishings and redecorating. Mamie Eisenhower took a great interest in the china collection and arranged for a Smithsonian Institution curator to research, identify, and rearrange the china in the China Room. She also accepted many gifts, among them a collection of gilded silver received in 1956 from Mrs. Margaret Thompson Biddle. In 1958 the Vermeil Room was created to display the pieces.
Betty C. Monkman, The White House: Its Historic Furnishings and First Families, 220-225.
Service Plate, Dessert Plate, and Cream Soup Cup and Saucer. Castleton China, Inc., New Castle, Pennsylvania, 1968-72; designed by Tiffany & Co., New York. Lady Bird Johnson's interest in the natural world is reflected in the designs on the Johnson state service.
In 1960, President and Mrs. Eisenhower accepted a donation of early 19th century American federal furniture for the Diplomatic Reception Room. This was the first successful attempt to furnish a White House room in the period of its earliest occupancy, and set the precedent of obtaining a museum-quality collection of furnishings for the White House.
When President and Mrs. Kennedy came to the White House in 1961, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy was dismayed to find so few historic furnishings. She began an extensive program to revive the historic character of the White House. She formed a Fine Arts Committee to advise her on the acquisition of authentic period furnishings, and Lorraine Waxman Pearce was hired as the curator of the growing collection. Pearce authored the first guidebook published by the White House Historical Association. A call for donations by Mrs. Kennedy led to a great influx of authentic furnishings, among them three original chairs from Monroe’s Oval Room and a chair made for the East Room in 1818. An Act of Congress in 1961 extended legal protection to these and all White House objects.
After the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy, President and Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson inherited a White House whose state rooms were largely furnished with early 19th century pieces. In 1964, to continue the efforts of Jacqueline Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson issued an Executive Order establishing the advisory Committee for the Preservation of the White House and a permanent position for a White House curator.
Betty C. Monkman, The White House: Its Historic Furnishings and First Families, 226-252.
Work Table. Attributed to Duncan Phyfe, New York, c. 1810. Mrs. Nixon worked with Edward Vason Jones, a consulting interior design expert, for the acquisition of neoclassical pieces by New York cabinetmaker Duncan Phyfe.
When President and Mrs. Richard M. Nixon took up residence in 1969, the wear and tear of thousands of visitors and guests necessitated improvements to several rooms. In 1970, First Lady Patricia Nixon and the Committee for the Preservation of the White House began a program to furnish several of the rooms in high quality American decorative arts from the early 19th century. Major examples by cabinetmakers Duncan Phyfe and Charles-Honore Lannuier were acquired for the Green and Red Rooms. Acquisitions during the Nixon administration were substantial bringing hundreds of pieces of furniture, nineteen chandeliers, examples of china services from past administrations, and carpets among other things to the White House.
President and Mrs. Gerald Ford were in residence during America's bicentennial in 1976, and received several donations from patriotic citizens. Among these were pieces of James and Dolley Madison's French dinnerware and Edith Roosevelt's carved ivory fan. First Lady Betty Ford used examples from the historic dinner services for small, private dinners.
President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter demonstrated a deep appreciation for the history of the house. First Lady Rosalynn Carter concentrated on expanding the art collection and added important works such as George Caleb Bingham's 1847 Lighter Relieving Steamboat Aground. In 1979 Mrs. Carter helped create the White House Preservation Fund, which provides an endowment for new acquisitions and for the refurbishing of state rooms. That same year the only known surviving sofa from the French Monroe suite was given to the house.
Betty C. Monkman, The White House: Its Historic Furnishings and First Families, 252-257.
Service Plate, Fish/Lunch Plate, and Tea Cup & Saucer. Lenox, Inc., Trenton, New Jersey, 1981-82. The design of the new state service commissioned by Mrs. Reagan was based on the first American service made for the White House in 1918, but the color was changed to red, her favorite hue.
When President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan came to the house in 1981, they continued to add furnishings with historic White House associations. Notably, two 1818 East Room chairs and a brass and ivory presidential seal used by Abraham Lincoln were acquired. The first lady was a great force behind soliciting contributions for an extensive redecoration of the private quarters and the maintenance of public spaces. Over 150 collection objects, the marble walls, wood doors and floors in the public rooms were conserved.
First Lady Nancy Reagan commissioned a new state dinner and dessert service that had 220 place settings, each with nineteen pieces. The large and expensive service was acquired with funds donated from a private foundation, but it was widely criticized at a time of federal budget cuts. Under the Ronald Reagan administration, the first comprehensive conservation survey of the White House furniture collection was conducted, and the American Association of Museums accredited the house as a museum in 1988.
Betty C. Monkman, The White House: Its Historic Furnishings and First Families, 257-259.
Side Chair. Philadelphia, c. 1760-85. Acquisitions for the permanent White House collection under the Clintons included a pair of chairs that may have been from a group of "plain" mahogany chairs purchased in 1789 for George Washington from cabinetmaker and merchant Thomas Burling.
President and Mrs. George H. W. Bush resided in the White House for the 1992 bicentennial of the laying of its cornerstone. First Lady Barbara Bush appointed curators and art historians to a revived Committee for the Preservation of the White House. The committee established procedures to review objects for the collection and recommended the acquisition of a mahogany card table with Charles-Honore Lannuier's label. A sample of the Lincoln state porcelain service was donated, as were pieces of the Lincoln glassware. Barbara Bush also worked to activate the White House Endowment Fund under the White House Historical Association. The goal was to raise an endowment for acquisitions, the refurbishing of the public rooms, and conservation of the collection.
President and Mrs. William Jefferson Clinton moved to the White House in 1993. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton continued to support the White House Endowment Fund, and through her efforts its 25 million-dollar goal was met in 1998. President Clinton appointed members to the preservation committee to broaden its expertise, and Mrs. Clinton sought its advice for the 1995 refurbishment of the Blue Room and the East Room. The Entrance Hall, Cross Hall and Grand Staircase were refurbished in 1997, and the State Dining Room in 1998. Many objects came into the collection during the Clinton years, including a pair of eighteenth-century mahogany chairs with a history of having been purchased in 1789 for George Washington's first presidential residence in New York.
Betty C. Monkman, The White House: Its Historic Furnishings and First Families, 259-262.
Vases with portraits of President John Adams and George Washington
To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the White House, the White House Historical Association donated a set of special gifts to America's home: a pair of elegant 19th century French porcelain vases, a rare 19th century mahogany desk and bookcase, and a new state dinner and dessert service for 300. The cylinder secretary and bookcase is a sophisticated example of American Empire furniture built by an unknown master cabinetmaker in New York about 1830. The gilded porcelain vases, circa 1820, feature hand-painted images of George Washington and John Adams on one side. The reverse sides include gilded eagles derived from the Great Seal of the United States, along with the words "E PLURIBUS UNUM," all executed in burnished and matte gold.
The new state dinner and dessert service for 300 was used for the first time at a special dinner commemorating the 200th anniversary of the White House. The service incorporated designs inspired by architectural motifs in the State Dining Room, East Room and Diplomatic Reception Room.
In January 2009, shortly before President Bush completed his second term, First Lady Laura Bush introduced two new sets of White House china. The larger, gilt-edged service, consisting of 320 place settings, has a green basket-weave motif, intended to coordinate with any floral arrangement. The smaller service of 74 place settings, hand-decorated with magnolias and butterflies, is to be used in the private family quarters.
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