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Treasures of the White House: Monroe Armchair

Treasures of the White House: Monroe Armchair


As part of the refurnishing of the White House after the fire of 1814, President James Monroe ordered for "the large oval room" (Blue Room) a suite of French mahogany furniture. The agents, Russell & LaFarge of Le Havre, however, substituted a suite of gilded beechwood furniture by the noted Parisian cabinetmaker, Pierre-Antoine Bellangé (1760-1844), asserting, that "mahogany is not generally admitted in the furniture of a saloon, even at private gentlemen's houses." The 53-piece was described on the 1817 shipping invoice as decorated with "olive branch ornaments, covered in double-warp satin, fine crimson".

In 1860, 28 chairs (perhaps what remained of the original 38) along with the original complement of sofas, stools, footstools, and screens were sold at auction in Washington, D.C. Only the pier table has remained continuously at the White House. Five armchairs, two side chairs, and one sofa have been returned to the White House since 1961. The two side chairs are the only pieces at the White House to bear traces of the maker's stamp. A group of reproductions (seven arm and four side chairs) was made in 1962 to supplement the three original chairs acquired in 1961-62.

Office of the Curator, The White House

Gift of Cathrine Bohlen, 1961