Main Content

White House Decorative Arts in the 1920s

Copyright © White House Historical Association. All rights reserved under international copyright conventions. No part of this article may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Requests for reprint permissions should be addressed to

War and Woodrow Wilson's ill health kept the White House closed to the public for several years prior to Warren G. Harding's 1921 succession to the presidency. When he and his wife Florence moved in, they reopened the house immediately on an unprecedented scale, giving visitors and the press more access than ever before. Florence Harding did not want to spend government allocations on furniture for the family areas, and brought many items from their Washington home to furnish the White House. No significant acquisitions were made during the Harding administration. However, the Harding Memorial Association donated gilded glassware and examples of the Lenox dessert service owned by the Hardings.

Grace Coolidge, keenly interested in history, studied old photographs of White House rooms and was disappointed to find very few original furnishings in the house. She obtained a resolution from Congress to provide for the acceptance of treasured objects as gifts to a permanent collection, establishing the White House as a museum. In 1925 an advisory committee of experts was appointed to evaluate and make recommendations on the décor of state rooms and to review offers of gifts. When she crocheted a coverlet for the “Lincoln Bed”, Grace Coolidge hoped to start a tradition where each first lady would leave a meaningful memento of life in the White House.

Water Goblet. Central Glass Works, Wheeling, West Virginia, 1921. American services and glassware, given to or personally owned by President and Mrs. Warren G. Harding, reflect the tastes of the 1920s.