The election of 1800 was perceived by many as a return of the government to the people and away from the “kingly ways” of John Adams. Jefferson moved quickly to make a number of changes, the first of many that he felt would reflect the “republican simplicity” and informality of the country. Pomp and ceremony reminded him too much of the European courts. The large levee room (known today as the State Dining Room) used by Adams for his receptions and entertainment became the president’s office, making the point that the business of being president took precedence over social form.
Issue number 17 of White House History looks at Thomas Jefferson’s White House, how he used it, how he staffed it, and impressions of it from contemporaries on the scene.
In his forward William Seale writes, “A president’s household is always interesting, and not any less that one of contrasts where Jefferson moved about in tatty clothes and worn overslippers, while his servants were outfitted richly in silver lace and guests were served on fine silver and china, what was usually acclaimed as the best food and wine that could be had in the young capital.”
We find out in Charles T. Cullen’s article, Jefferson’s White House Dinner Guests, that the dinner table was Jefferson’s favorite political forum. Lucia Stanton’s A Well Ordered Household, tells us how slaves and free people, natives and immigrants, kept Jefferson’s big house going, serving the stream of guests that never subsided. In The Adena Dumbwaiters, Stuart D. Hobbs writes about finding a fascinating clue to a convenient shortcut in Jefferson’s White House while restoring an old house in Ohio. New Wine in an Old Bottle contains a special collection of photographs by Peter Vitale, published for the first time, of White House rooms redecorated or refurbished during the George W. Bush administration.
The cover image by architectural photographer Robert Lautman captures Jefferson’s view of the White House across the Tidal Basin from the memorial.
White House History is published twice yearly by the White House Historical Association and features articles on White House history, architecture, fine and decorative arts, and gardens, as well as stories about the occupants of the White House and their experiences while living there.
White House History is available for $6.95 per copy (plus packing and delivery). To order please call toll free 1-800-555-2451 or visit our web site
The White House Historical Association, established in 1961, is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to enhance the understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the White House. All proceeds from the association’s trusts, publications and other items are used to fund acquisitions of historic furnishings and artwork for the permanent collection, assist in the preservation of public rooms, and further its educational mission.