The Presidents’ Plates

On a historical tour of part of the Wabash and Erie Canal, our group stopped at the preserved home of a prominent citizen. I spent most of the time there looking at the china cabinets. With my little bit of knowledge, I recognized flow blue, ironstone and transferware from the Nineteenth Century. There were many colors and patterns in the collection, and I began thinking of the dishes chosen by first families.

President Grant’s table service.

If you were fortunate enough to be a guest for dinner at the White House sometime in the past 200 years, you would have been eating from some pretty special plates. At first, the china used for visitors was a mixture of English and Chinese imports. Then, during President James Monroe’s administration, the first official presidential dinner service was ordered.

Caroline Harrison preferred Limoges.

In 1889 First Lady Caroline Harrison, who was a history buff, had the ambition to save for posterity the presidential china that’d been used. A few years later when William McKliney was president, a writer named Abby Baker researched it in great detail. She became involved in acquiring and preserving the place settings until her death in 1923.

Wedgewood was Edith Roosevelts’ choice, after an Ohio manufacturer hesitated at the size of the order.

Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt ordered two cabinets made for china which had come back through auctions and donations. These were seen by White House visitors at the east end of the mansion. What was to be done with damaged pieces, though? There were plenty of those, which Mrs. R directed to be broken and scattered in the Potomac River. Mrs. Wilson oversaw the completion of the current China Room in 1917.

The Eisenhower’s service plates complemented previous designs.

During the Eisenhower era, new cabinets were made; Mamie’s service plates were rimmed with a wide gold band that could be used with any of the previous designs. Jacqueline Kennedy was instrumental in creating Public Law 87-286, which made the dishware “inalienable and property of the White House.”

The China Room in 1975. It was established during the First World War. (housebeautiful.com)

Today newlyweds don’t dwell mucn choosing good china for company. Many of my generation hang on to ours and the memories that gleaming cups, saucers, plates and a few goblets bring back. For Americans, presidential china does the same. We hope that it continues for a long, long time.

Unless otherwise noted the photos are from architecturaldigest.com. Information comes from that site and from whitehousehistory.org.

Birthday Bash

Did you know Calvin Coolidge was born on the Fourth of July?  Or that the most common month for U.S. presidents’ birthdays is October?  There has been at least one born in every month, but only since 1988 when George H.W. Bush was elected.  Thanks to sites like http://www.wikipedia.com and http://www.indepthinfo.com, we can see a quick list of birthdates and birthplaces of our presidents (I have no idea why JFK’s is out of order, but I could not move it).

Virginia and Ohio are the most common birthplaces, with seven newborn chief executives each.  The Virginia prezes were early on, when there weren’t any states west of the Mississippi.

For some reason I felt better when the person in charge of the country had been born before me.  And then Barack Obama was sworn in.  Can you say, “Kid President?”  It’s just that I knew people his age when they were in school.  Guess everybody grows up, though.

Image result for president birthday parties

According to an article by Laura Fitzpatrick for Time, presidents have spent their special days in a variety of ways over the last 240+ years.  Abraham Lincoln was said never to have celebrated his in the White House.  Warren Harding got news of his election to the highest office in the land on his 55th.  Franklin Roosevelt received 100,000 telegrams when he turned 52.  On Harry Truman’s 61st birthday during World War II, Germany surrendered.

Of course, no one who’s seen the film clip of Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy will ever forget it.

Looks like we go back to having a more senior statesman or woman this year.  But that doesn’t make it better.  I’m going to spend my birthday tomorrow trying not to think about it.

Presidential Birthdays

George Washington February 22, 1732
John Adams October 30 1735
Thomas Jefferson April 13, 1743
James Madison March 16, 1751
James Monroe April 28th, 1758
John Quincy Adams July 11, 1767
Andrew Jackson March 15, 1767
Martin Van Buren December 5, 1782
William Henry Harrison February 9, 1773
John Tyler March 29, 1790
James K. Polk November 2, 1795
Zachary Taylor November 24, 1784
Millard Fillmore January 7, 1800
Franklin Pierce November 23, 1804
James Buchanan April 23, 1791
Abraham Lincoln February 12, 1809
Andrew Johnson December 29, 1808
Ulysses S. Grant April 27, 1822
Rutherford B. Hayes October 4, 1822
James A. Garfield November 19, 1831
Chester A. Arthur October 5, 1829
Grover Cleveland March 18, 1837
Benjamin Harrison August 20, 1833
William McKinley January 29, 1843
Theodore Roosevelt October 27, 1858
William Howard Taft September 15, 1857
Woodrow Wilson December 28, 1856
Warren G. Harding November 2, 1865
Calvin Coolidge July 4, 1872
Herbert Hoover August 10, 1874
Franklin D. Roosevelt January 30, 1882
Harry S Truman May 8, 1884
Dwight D. Eisenhower October 14, 1890
John Kennedy May 29, 1917
Lyndon B. Johnson August 27, 1908
Richard M. Nixon January 9, 1913
Gerald R. Ford July 14, 1913
Jimmy Carter October 1, 1924
Ronald Reagan February 6, 1911
George H. W. Bush June 12, 1924
William J. Clinton August 19, 1946
George W. Bush July 6, 1946
Barack Hussein Obama August 4, 1961

OB= order of birth    Dates sort by month and day    Colony, pre American Revolution = Colony, pre–1776, rather than state.
OB President Date of birth Birthplace StateColony, pre American Revolution of birth In office
1 George Washington 02-22February 22, 1732 Westmoreland County virga !Virginia 01 !April 30, 1789 – March 4, 1797
2 John Adams 10-30 October 30, 1735 Braintree Massaa !Massachusetts 02 !March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801
3 Thomas Jefferson 04-13 April 13, 1743 Shadwell Virginia 03 !March 4, 1801 – March 4, 1809
4 James Madison 03-16 March 16, 1751 Port Conway Virginia 04 !March 4, 1809 – March 4, 1817
5 James Monroe 04-28 April 28, 1758 Monroe Hall Virginia 05 !March 4, 1817 – March 4, 1825
6 Andrew Jackson 03-15 March 15, 1767 Waxhaws Region Sou !South/North Carolina 07 !March 4, 1829 – March 4, 1837
7 John Quincy Adams 07-11 July 11, 1767 Braintree Massab !Massachusetts 06 !March 4, 1825 – March 4, 1829
8 William Henry Harrison 02-09 February 9, 1773 Charles City County Virginia 09 !March 4, 1841 – April 4, 1841
9 Martin Van Buren 12-05 December 5, 1782 Kinderhook New York 08 !March 4, 1837 – March 4, 1841
10 Zachary Taylor 11-24 November 24, 1784 Barboursville Virginia 12 !March 4, 1849 – July 9, 1850
11 John Tyler 03-29 March 29, 1790 Charles City County Virginia 10 !April 4, 1841 – March 4, 1845
12 James Buchanan 04-23 April 23, 1791 Cove Gap Pennsylvania 15 !March 4, 1857 – March 4, 1861
13 James K. Polk 11-02 November 2, 1795 Pineville North Carolina 11 !March 4, 1845 – March 4, 1849
14 Millard Fillmore 01-07 January 7, 1800 Summerhill New York 13 !July 9, 1850 – March 4, 1853
15 Franklin Pierce 11-23 November 23, 1804 Hillsborough New Hampshire 14 !March 4, 1853 – March 4, 1857
16 Andrew Johnson 12-29 December 29, 1808 Raleigh North Carolina 16 !April 15, 1865 – March 4, 1869
17 Abraham Lincoln 02-12 February 12, 1809 Sinking !Sinking spring Kentucky 17 !March 4, 1861 – April 15, 1865
18 Ulysses S. Grant 04-27 April 27, 1822 Point Pleasant Ohio 18 !March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1877
19 Rutherford B. Hayes 10-04 October 4, 1822 Delaware Ohio 19 !March 4, 1877 – March 4, 1881
20 Chester A. Arthur 10-05 October 5, 1829 Fairfield Vermont 21 !September 19, 1881 – March 4, 1885
21 James A. Garfield 11-19 November 19, 1831 Moreland Hills Ohio 20 !March 4, 1881 – September 19, 1881
22 Benjamin Harrison 08-20 August 20, 1833 North Bend Ohio 23 !March 4, 1889 – March 4, 1893
23 Grover Cleveland 03-18 March 18, 1837 Caldwell New Jersey 22 !March 4, 1885 – March 4, 1889
24 !March 4, 1893 – March 4, 1897
24 William McKinley 01-29 January 29, 1843 Niles Ohio 25 !March 4, 1897 – September 14, 1901
25 Woodrow Wilson 12-28 December 28, 1856 Staunton Virginia 28 !March 4, 1913 – March 4, 1921
26 William Howard Taft 09-15 September 15, 1857 Cincinnati Ohio 27 !March 4, 1909 – March 4, 1913
27 Theodore Roosevelt 10-27 October 27, 1858 New York City New York 26 !September 14, 1901 – March 4, 1909
28 Warren G. Harding 11-02 November 2, 1865 Blooming Grove Ohio 29 !March 4, 1921 – August 2, 1923
29 Calvin Coolidge 07-04 July 4, 1872 Plymouth Vermont 30 !August 2, 1923 – March 4, 1929
30 Herbert Hoover 08-10 August 10, 1874 West Branch Iowa 31 !March 4, 1929 – March 4, 1933
31 Franklin D. Roosevelt 01-30 January 30, 1882 Hyde Park New York 32 !March 4, 1933 – April 12, 1945
32 Harry S. Truman 05-08 May 8, 1884 Lamar Missouri 33 !April 12, 1945 – January 20, 1953
33 Dwight D. Eisenhower 10-14 October 14, 1890 Denison Texas 34 !January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961
34 Lyndon B. Johnson 08-27 August 27, 1908 Stonewall Texas 36 !November 22, 1963 – January 20, 1969
35 Ronald Reagan 02-06 February 6, 1911 Tampico Illinois 40 !January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989
36 Richard M. Nixon 01-09 January 9, 1913 Yorba Linda California 37 !January 20, 1969 – August 9, 1974
37 Gerald R. Ford 07-14 July 14, 1913 Omaha Nebraska 38 !August 9, 1974 – January 20, 1977
38 John F. Kennedy 05-29 May 29, 1917 Brookline Massachusetts 35 !January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963
39 George H. W. Bush 06-12 June 12, 1924 Milton Massachusetts 41 !January 20, 1989 – January 20, 1993
40 Jimmy Carter 10-01 October 1, 1924 Plains Georgia 39 !January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981
41 George W. Bush 07-06 July 6, 1946 New Haven Connecticut 43 !January 20, 2001 – January 20, 2009
42 Bill Clinton 08-19 August 19, 1946 Hope Arkansas 42 !January 20, 1993 – January 20, 2001
43 Barack Obama 08-04 August 4, 1961 Honolulu Hawaii 44 !Assumed office January 20, 2009