JAMES MONROE WAS THE FIFTH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND ALSO THE LAST PRESIDENT WHO WAS A FOUNDING FATHER OF OUR GREAT NATION.
By the time James Monroe entered the White House in 1817 as America’s fifth president, things were beginning to take shape in the Executive Mansion. Whereas George and Martha Washington had to provide virtually all their own furnishings, early subsequent presidents were able to build upon one another’s acquisitions to furnish the presidential offices and entertaining quarters. However, through the first four administrations, presidents and their first ladies continued to provide their own tableware.
James Monroe was the first president to commission a set of dishes specifically for use in the President’s House, as the White House was then known. He ordered 30 place settings from Dagoty Honore in Paris, and the china was delivered in the fall of 1817.
In modern times, the Monroe china suffered from a case of mistaken identity, as some historians thought these dishes had in fact belonged to Andrew Jackson instead of Monroe. The verso mark tells a different story, though. The mark found on the back of these plates was used only between 1816-1820, years when James Monroe occupied the White House.
Although some pieces of the Monroe china service bear no verso marking, there are other facts that confirm the provenance of this dinnerware. The Monroe Museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia, owns two cups that are an exact match to this service and which were acquired by the museum directly from descendants of President and Mrs. Monroe. Two other matching pieces belonging to two separate public collections have also been specifically identified as part of Elizabeth and James Monroe’s White House china.
THIS LOVELY PLATE FROM THE MONROE DINNER SERVICE ILLUSTRATES THE SIMPLE YET ELEGANT DESIGN THAT BEGAN THE PRESIDENTIAL TRADITION OF OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHINA.
President James Monroe may be most famous among world historians for his “hands off” policy proclaiming that no foreign entity would be allowed to encroach on any territory in the Americas in an effort to expand their nation’s holdings. At the time, Monroe and other American leaders were concerned that Russia had its eye on land extending south from the Bering Sea along the Pacific coast. They were also worried that Spain had plans to re-establish itself in parts of Latin America.
The President was blunt in his proclamation, stating, ". . . the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European Power." This policy, which decades later became known as the Monroe Doctrine, was backed by the British. Having been removed from the Americas via the Revolutionary War, they were not anxious to have Spain regain a powerful hold on this continent.
World history aside, however, President James Monroe will always be most famous among White House historians and collectors as the first president who purchased a set of china for official use. He probably had no idea he was creating a presidential “lifestyle” tradition that would become an important part of our nation’s history just as the Monroe Doctrine became an important part of our diplomatic history.
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 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.