Mary Todd Lincoln was born into a socially prominent, slave-holding family in Lexington, Kentucky. Because of this, she was raised in a household where elegant dinner parties were a regular occurrence. When she and her newly-elected-President husband Abraham moved into the White House in 1861, Mrs. Lincoln expected to host elegant state parties of her own. Imagine her disappointment when she found only a hodge-podge of official dinnerware from previous administrations.
As First Lady, she made acquiring new White House china a top priority. In fact, historians note she was the first Presidential wife to personally take on this task. Throughout the 1800s, American presidents ordered fine china from overseas, because American manufacturers could not meet the same standards for quality porcelain. Mary Todd Lincoln chose Haviland & Co. of Limoges, France to produce her official White House china. However, she ordered the dinnerware through New York’s E.V. Haughwout & Co.
BEAUTIFUL HAND-PAINTED SERVICE PLATE FROM THE ABRAHAM LINCOLN OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHINA COLLECTION - MANUFACTURED IN FRANCE BY HAVILAND & CO. - PART OF THE RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX COLLECTION
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Opened in 1857, E.V. Haughwout was a large store in Manhattan described by the New York Times as “the greatest china and porcelain house in the city.” Mary Todd Lincoln worked closely with the firm to design and hand-paint her impressive china service.Although the dinnerware was manufactured by Haviland in France, it was Eber Haughwout and his team of artists who painted each piece. By September, 1861, the Lincoln china -- 190 pieces in all – had arrived at the White House. It cost $3,195. This service was far smaller than the huge collections with 300 or more complete place settings ordered by our most recent presidential couples.
RARE DELICATE EGG CUP (ONLY 24 WERE ORDERED) FROM THE 1861 LINCOLN OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHINA COLLECTION - PART OF THE RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX COLLECTION
The Lincoln Official White House China collection is highly patriotic and very different from other Presidential china. The plates are white porcelain with a scalloped edge, wide solferino band and a gold rope border. In the center, there are clouds behind the traditional presidential depiction of the American bald eagle – outstretched wings, talons holding an olive branch on one side and arrows on the other. There is also a shield decorated with stars and stripes and a banner that reads “E. Pluribus Unum,” which is Latin for “out of many, one.”
The Lincoln White China is often referred to as “Royal Purple” or the “Lincoln solferino china” because of its distinctive shade of purplish pink. The unusual color got its name in an unusual way. It was discovered in 1859, the same year as the famous Battle of Solferino, at which Napoleon defeated the Sardinian Army. So the Lincoln china has two distinct ties with history.
ELEGANT BUFF SERVING DISH FROM LINCOLN'S EXECUTIVE MANSION CHINA COLLECTION DURING LINCOLN'S SECOND TERM IN OFFICE - PART OF THE RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX COLLECTION
At the Begining of the 2nd Term of the Abraham Lincoln Administration, Mary Todd Lincoln ordered a Buff Set of French Haviland China for use in the Executive Mansion. This White House China was to feature more modest decoration and to be more simple in design than the Solferino (Royal Purple) China of 1861. This Buff China set finally arrived at The White House only three months prior to the assassination of President Lincoln. Today, a number of examples of The Buff China Remain at The White House as well as at The Smithsonian Institution, and a few pieces are in advanced private collections.
So many pieces of Mrs. Lincoln’s official White House china broke or became damaged, Andrew Johnson had to order replacement pieces within just a few years. Later presidents – Ulysses Grant, Chester Arthur and Grover Cleveland -- were so taken with the lovely color and elegant decoration, they continued to order matching replacements to augment the Lincoln Presidential China service. Nonetheless, today only a small number of pieces still exist.
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.