LYNDON B. JOHNSON AND LADY BIRD JOHNSON WERE THE SECOND PRESIDENTIAL COUPLE TO USE CASTLETON CHINA TO MANUFACTURE THEIR OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHINA. THE EISENHOWERS WERE THE FIRST.
Castleton China is out of business now, but they were a highly respected pottery manufacturer during their heyday, even producing a set of Official Service Plates for President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his wife Mamie, and a full White House China set for President Lyndon Baines Johnson and his wife Lady Bird.
The company was actually known by several names during its history. It started in 1901 as the New Castle China Company, located in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Shortly thereafter, the company acquired nearby Shenango Pottery and operated under that name for several years. Shenango produced several types of pottery, primarily dinnerware for hotels.
The Shenango name was taken from a Seneca tribe that had relocated in the Shenango Valley. Some of the company’s products in earlier years featured identification marks on the bottom that depicted Native American motifs, one of which showed an Indian decorating a piece of pottery. The company grew and became quite successful, but a tremendous flood in 1913 and, later, the economic hard times of the Great Depression caused significant fluctuations in the company’s fortunes.
SHENANGO CHINA LOGO DEPICTING A NATIVE AMERICAN PAINTING A PIECE OF POTTERY - NEW CASTLE, PA.
Throughout the ups and downs, company leader James McMath Smith devoted consistent energy to finding and developing alternative sources for glaze materials, because coal and other traditional materials were expensive and in short supply. That brought him to the attention of William Haviland in Limoges, France.
Beginning in the mid-1930s, Haviland made a deal to partner with Smith, producing the world-renowned Haviland China in America at the New Castle production facility. Haviland had two goals: to protect his company from potential ruin in the event of a Nazi invasion of France, and to eliminate high American import duties by producing china domestically for the US market. This highly successful partnership lasted until 1958.
Meanwhile, the equally famous German china manufacturer Rosenthal also sought a partnership with Shenango, again out of fear that impending war would put them out of business. This arrangement was formalized under the name Castleton China. After World War II, Shenango bought out Rosenthal’s share of the partnership, continuing to produce china under the Castleton name.
INTRICATE SERVICE PLATE FROM THE LYNDON B. JOHNSON WHITE HOUSE CHINA COLLECTION - 1968 - MANUFACTURED BY CASTLETON CHINA. THIS HANDSOME PLATE IS NOW IN THE COLLECTION OF RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX.
Thus it came that LBJ and Lady Bird were able to order a full service of Castleton China for their Official White House China. Interestingly, their dishes were actually designed by Tiffany’s. This was the only time Tiffany’s designed an entire presidential china service, although the company had been previously commissioned by Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower to design a set of 120 service plates to augment existing White House china.
RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX - HISTORIAN AND COLLECTOR
World renowned collector Raleigh DeGeer Amyx has acquired a remarkable number of scarce or rare pieces of official White House china. Mr. Amyx’s passion for American historical artifacts has been his sole focus for more than 35 years. Mr. Amyx's collection is the largest privately-owned collection of extremely high-quality, as well as the rarest, Official White House China and Presidential China in the world. If you would like to engage in a discussion with Mr. Amyx about White House China, please contact him through the button below.