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White House Decorative Arts in the 1970s

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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-Honoré Lannuier were acquired for the Green and Red Rooms. Acquisitions during the Nixon administration were substantial, bringing hundreds of pieces of furniture, nineteen chandeliers, and examples of china services from past administrations, as well as carpets 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.

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.

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