Thomas Jeffwerson is the second of four Virginia presidents represented in our collection. The Jefferson china includes his own monogram with a fleur-de-lis design, influenced by his time as foreign minister of France. Entertainment during his term as President often revolved around French themes.
Dolley Madison is remembered as one of the most gracious First Ladies, and the lavish parties she initiated as wife of the Secretary of State continued when she and President Madison entered the White House. Unfortunately, while Madison was President, the war of 1812 began, during which the White House was looted and burned. As a result, only a few pieces of the Madisons’ White House tableware remain.
The Monroe china was the first created specifically for an American president. Manufactured in Paris, France in 1817, a dinner service of thirty place settings and a matching dessert service were purchased for $1,167.23. The Napoleonic eagle featured in the center of the plate was popular at the time in France and America. The eagle carried a red, white, and blue banner reading “E Pluribus Unum,” the national motto. The five vignettes inside the dark red border represent agriculture, strength, commerce, science, and arts. The china was criticized by the press at the time for being ‘foreign goods.” Congress soon passed a law mandating all furniture for the White House be made in America. When it came to manufacturing china, it would take the U.S. nearly another one hundred years to compete with the fine works produced in England and France.
Wife Mary Todd Lincoln selected this French design, combining the American eagle with various decorations in a purple-red hue called “soferino,” invented by the French in 1859 and popular among the fashionable hosts of Lincoln’s day.
Ulysses S. Grant
1869 to 1877
The Grant White House china was created under an alliance of an American artist and the considerable talents of France’s Haviland and Company. William E. Seaton created a range of floral decorations to grace the center of each plate. Lissac, painter-engraver of Haviland then transmitted these designs to porcelain, adding the same yellow-colored border, as well as the Grant coat of arms to each. During the Grant administration, this china received a great deal of use as the Grants were known for their lavish entertaining.