A SPECTACULAR 1934 DINNER PLATE FROM THE FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT COLLECTION WERE MANUFACTURED IN AMERICA BY LENOX - FROM THE RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX COLLECTION
It was not until 1918 that American presidents were able to entertain official guests using dinnerware manufactured in the United States. For every preceding administration, presidential dinnerware was imported from China, England or France. Theodore Roosevelt complained, "We are dependent upon foreign factories for the very dishes from which the Chief Executive of the United States must eat." And he was right. His own presidential china was made in England.
The problem was perceived quality. Porcelain produced in the U.S. simply didn’t match the quality of china produced elsewhere – certainly not up to White House standards. Although Congress had mandated back in 1826 that all White House furnishings be made in America, the nation’s top leaders chose to ignore the Congressional edict when it came to their dishes.
A STUNNING 11.5" 1918 SERVICE PLATE FROM THE WOODROW WILSON WHITE HOUSE CHINA COLLECTION - THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL CHINA TO BE MANUFACTURED BY AN AMERICAN COMPANY - FROM THE RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX COLLECTION
That changed with Woodrow and Edith Wilson. By the time they moved into the White House, Teddy Roosevelt’s official dishes were more than 10 years old and showing their age. So in 1918, President and First Lady Wilson selected Lenox to create the first American-made presidential china – 1700 pieces featuring an understated design the company itself describes as “a deep ivory border surrounding a brighter ivory body and two bands of matte gold encrusted with stars, stripes and other motifs.” The presidential seal also appears on plates, in raised gold.
Since the Wilsons brought Lenox into the exalted group of presidential china manufacturers, five more presidential couples have selected Lenox to produce their White House china.
Economic times were bad in 1933 when Franklin D. Roosevelt became president, but First Lady Eleanor suggested ordering new china would create badly needed jobs. They turned to Lenox for a new 1700-piece service decorated with the presidential seal plus patriotic gold stars on a marine blue band that acknowledged Roosevelt’s love of the water and boating. The dishes also featured a second band of feathers and gold roses, reminiscent of the Roosevelt family crest.
THE 1951 HARRY TRUMAN WHITE HOUSE CHINA COLLECTION USED A BEAUTIFUL DEEP MOSS GREEN COLOR MOTIF - FROM THE RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX COLLECTION
In 1951, President Harry Truman and his wife Bess called on Lenox to create a 1,572-piece set of china with a celadon green border, to coordinate with the wall color of the newly redecorated State Dining Room. Truman also standardized the presidential seal, issuing an executive order that mandated the eagle would henceforth be depicted facing the olive branch of peace rather the arrows of war.
Ronald and Nancy Reagan also redecorated the State Dining Room, in stark white with gilded accents. For them, Lenox designed china that incorporated Mrs. Reagan’s favorite scarlet red color along with gold in the band, to contrast boldly with the white room.
THIS 1981 CHINA SERVICE FROM THE RONALD REAGAN COLLECTION DEPICTS BOLD COLORS AND DESIGNS, WHICH ARE EMBLEMATIC OF THE ERA DURING WHICH REAGAN SERVED AS PRESIDENT. EXAMPLES NOW IN THE RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX COLLECTION.
The Clintons ordered new china from Lenox to celebrate the White House’s 200th anniversary. Breaking with tradition, these dishes feature individual architectural illustrations of The State Dining Room, East Room and Diplomatic Reception Room, each within a yellow band. Service plates feature a drawing of the White House North Entrance, within a gold band.
THE CLINTONS MINIMIZED THE USE OF COLORS IN THEIR WHITE 2000 WHITE HOUSE CHINA COLLECTION, INSTEAD SELECTING A STRONG YELLOW AND WHITE COLOR PALETTE. AN EXAMPLE OF EACH PIECE IN THE PICTURE ABOVE EXISTS IN THE RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX COLLECTION.
Most recently, President George W. Bush and his wife Laura ordered a set of Lenox china – oddly, at the very end of their White House tenure. These pieces are decorated with a green cross-hatched band and a ring of laurel wreathes, a design inspired by the family china of James and Dolley Madison.
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 as well as 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.