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White House Decorative Arts in the 1980s

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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.

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.

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