Ever since James Monroe occupied the White House, it has become a tradition for most American presidents to outfit the official dining rooms with their own versions of White House China. It isn’t simply a matter of vanity. Over the decades our presidents and first ladies have hosted an increasing number of state guests. And we all know that china which gets used, eventually gets broken.
By the time President Lyndon Johnson and his wife Lady Bird had been in residence a couple of years, it became clear that new china was needed once again. It was 1967, and no new full set of Official White House China had been ordered since 1951, when Harry Truman was President. The First Lady, Lady Bird, took the lead. In fact, she played a more hands-on role than many of her predecessors, working closely with designers and the manufacturer every step of the way.
BEAUTIFUL HAND-PAINTED SERVICE PLATE FROM THE LYNDON B. JOHNSON OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHINA COLLECTION - DESIGNED BY TIFFANY AND COMPANY AND MANUFACTURED BY CASTLETON CHINA - PART OF THE RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX COLLECTION
SEE MORE OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHINA HERE.
Lenox had been the manufacturer of choice for most presidents in the 20th century, once Woodrow and Edith made the momentous switch to an American company. However, Lady Bird Johnson turned to the famous designers at Tiffany and Company of New York City for help creating the Johnson Official White House China.
The design combines America’s most enduring symbol – the federal eagle -- with Lady Bird’s signature initiative as First Lady, known as “beautification.” Her renowned efforts to honor the diverse beauty of our country and to improve the appearance of roadways and other public places are reflected in the wildflowers that decorate the Johnson Official White House China collection. The result is a set of White House China that look quite different from other Presidential collections.
THE HAND-PAINTED DESSERT PLATES - AS DISPLAED ON THE RIGHT - FROM THE JOHNSON'S OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHINA COLLECTION FEATURE EACH OF THE 50 STATES' OFFICIAL FLOWERS
Dinner plates and bowls are bordered with a variety of American wildflowers – over 40 in all -- hand-painted by well-known artist Andre Piette. This process was so time-consuming the china service wasn’t completed until 1972, well after the Johnsons had left office. Dessert plates feature each of the 50 states’ official flowers, one in center of each plate. And all plates are trimmed with a narrow border of raised gold dots. The eagle motif reflects the eagle used by President Monroe, appearing at the top center in the border of dinner plates and on the center of service plates.
LADY BIRD JOHNSON HAD A FONDNESS FOR FLOWERS, WHICH INSPIRED HER "BEAUTIFICATION" THEME FOR AMERICA
Tiffany’s designers produced actual plates with different designs for Lady Bird Johnson to review during the design process. A total of 2,208 finished pieces were manufactured by Castleton China of New Castle, Pennsylvania. The company reportedly destroyed numerous pieces during the manufacturing process before they achieved 250 approved place settings. The china was first used at an official dinner for Australian Prime Minister John Gorton.
The Lyndon B, Johnson service marks the first time official state china was not purchased with government funds. Both Tiffany and Castleton absorbed some of the cost, and the remainder was paid by an anonymous donor.
VERSO INSCRIPTION ON THE JOHNSON'S OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHINA COLLECTION
When the exquisite new china was unveiled to the American public, Anthony Ostrom, manager of Tiffany’s in Chicago, noted one thing was missing. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, he pointed to the fact that the state flowers were not identified on the backs of the dessert plates. “Nobody knows what they are,” he lamented.
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.