Margaret Hoover Brigham was quite young when she lived with her presidential grandfather, Herbert Hoover, in the White House. Just five years old, she and her brother moved temporarily to the Executive Mansion when their father took ill. They lived on the third floor, in what was then the family quarters.
“We were incorporated into the family doings at convenient times,” she remembers. “In the afternoon, late afternoon Kosta Boris, Granddaddy's valet, would come find me and we would walk over to the office and wait in the cabinet room. Sometimes it would be a little longer than Boris had estimated that Granddaddy would be through, so Boris would get underneath the table and pretend he was a bear roaring, just to amuse me, keep me from making too much noise or getting in the way.”
ELEGANT GOLDEN BRONZE HAND FORMATION. A PERSONAL GIFT FROM PRESIDENT HOOVER FOR FIRST LADY LOU HENRY HOOVER IN 1929 - PART OF THE RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX COLLECTION
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So who was this Kosta Boris? Like several other presidential valets over the years, he met Herbert Hoover while serving in the military. In Kosta Boris’ case, the year was 1918, the place Paris. Kosta was a Serbian native and naturalized American citizen who spoke Serbian, French, and English fluently. After joining the Army, he was assigned to the U.S. Food Administrator’s office. There, he served as orderly to the Administrator, Herbert Hoover.
Every presidential valet has had some duties in common – notably, overseeing the sartorial side of the president’s daily life. But many had other broad responsibilities, serving as personal assistants, barbers, bartenders, waiters, companions, and confidantes. Historians suggest each president’s valet knew him as (or more) intimately than anyone else. That was certainly the case with Kosta Boris and Herbert Hoover.
Although Kosta had numerous other offers, he accepted Hoover’s invitation to return to the US after the war and become Hoover’s personal valet. The Hoover family, including Kosta Boris, settled in Palo Alto, California, where Herbert, Jr. was attending Stanford University. His younger brother was still in high school. Former President and Mrs. Hoover traveled quite a bit, so it fell to Kosta to look after the boys. But he also ran errands, served as butler, waited table, and of course maintained Mr. Hoover’s wardrobe.
Kosta became known as “Boris,” because it was traditional for valets to be addressed by their last name. Naturally, when Herbert Hoover was elected President in 1928, Boris moved with him to the White House. He continued to fulfill broad duties, laughingly referred to by the Hoover family as “Domestic Maestro” or “Factum Factotum.”
PRESIDENT HERBERT HOOVER WAS THE FIRST PRESIDENT TO HAVE A TELEPHONE INSTALLED IN THE OVAL OFFICE
But he was always mindful of Hoover’s desire to dress formally for dinner, even when there were no guests or other family members present. “He had his full dress clothes in the White House,” recalled Boris later. “A tuxedo, a cutaway coat, two blue suits, one brown and, of course, pairs of white trousers, white shoes, blue coat; a Palm Beach suit. It had a little belt in the back.”
White House seamstress Lillian Rogers Parks thought Boris “looked more like a diplomat than a valet,” as he was “tall and handsome, with salt and pepper hair.” Perhaps that’s why he caught the eye of Essie Paul while shopping in Washington, DC. A department store sales clerk, she became his wife.
It was back to Palo Alto for the Hoovers after his presidency. Boris and his wife went, too. Boris and Essie remained there – in fact, Boris served as valet for two Stanford presidents, after the Hoovers moved to New York City. But Boris and Essie paid an annual visit to Herbert Hoover in New York, up until his death in 1964.
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.