Inside the Presidents' China Cabinet

Inside the Presidents' China Cabinet
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Inside the Presidents' China Cabinet

James Monroe

Manufactured by Parisian designer Dagoty-Honoré in 1817, this was the first set to be commissioned solely for presidential use. It consisted of 30 settings and portrayed a Napoleonic eagle in the center carrying a red, white, and blue flag reading "E Pluribus Unum."

Credit: White House Archives

James K. Polk

Many years later, in 1845, a new set was needed and this one was designed by Dagoty-Honoré as well. The set included a simple white center with gold trim, making it easy to mix with older collections.

Credit: White House Archives

Abraham Lincoln

This was the first collection to be chosen entirely by a first lady. Mary Todd Lincoln selected a china set with a deep purple hue called "Solferino," with an American bald eagle in the center and the national motto written across the clouds. It later became known as the "Royal Purple" set.

Credit: The National Archives

Rutherford B. Hayes

Artist Theodore R. Davis met with first lady Lucy Hayes at the White House conservatory and he suggested a set be made to represent the flora and fauna of North America, so he created 130 designs that were so liked by the public that they were often reproduced.

Credit: The National Archives

Benjamin Harrison

First lady Caroline Harrison selected china that was symbolic and representative of America. The Coat of Arms graced the center and the border portrayed a goldenrod and corn motif etched in gold and blue. Unfortunately, the collection was never used by the first lady, as she passed away before it arrived in 1892.

Credit: The National Archives

Theodore Roosevelt

When the White House was renovated in the early 1900s, the State Dining Room was enlarged, resulting in a need for new china. First lady Edith Roosevelt ordered Wedgewood china that was white and highlighted the Great Seal of the United States.

Credit: White House Archives

Woodrow Wilson

This set was the first to be made in America — by Lenox. At the time, the "newest" china in the White House was already 10 years old, from the Teddy Roosevelt era. This set was designed by Lenox’s chief designer Frank Holmes in 1918 and was hand-picked from a collection that first lady Edith Wilson saw in Dulin & Martin Co. while browsing.

Credit: The National Archives

Harry S. Truman

The new State Dining Room was repainted a soft celadon green and paneled in oak and the Trumans wanted a new service to coordinate with the décor. First lady Bess Truman worked with New York department store B. Altman and Co. on the interior design, and she decided on a near-identical match for the set. President Truman has the seal on the setting standardized in 1945.

Credit: White House Archives

Lyndon B. Johnson

A more modest set, it portrays American wild flowers with a gold rim, with each set portraying one of the 50 state flowers. It was hand-selected by first lady Lady Bird Johnson as she designed it with artists from Tiffany & Co. and had it manufactured by Castleton China.

Credit: The National Archives

Ronald Reagan

Modeled and designed after Woodrow Wilson's china and featuring the seal of the President of the United States, this set is etched gold on an ivory background with a border of scarlet. The china was hand-selected by first lady Nancy Reagan and was made by Lenox.

Credit: The National Archives


While there are quite a number of perks that come with being the president of the United States, you might not consider a seriously stunning and regal set of china one of them, but we do.

Inside the Presidents' China Cabinet

Although White House china has been around since Monroe's presidency, hand-picking the sets has been a tradition for first ladies since Mary Todd Lincoln. Working with renowned china company Lenox as well as other brands, first ladies have chosen place settings that have graced the tables of some of the most iconic dinners in American history. While some settings are more versatile than others, each represents the first family's style, though not every presidential administration selected a new set of china.

The prized dishes are housed in the White House China Room, and older collections are held in the president's dining room.

To view the Presidents' China Cabinet, Check out the slideshow above!

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