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Courtesy the White House  Laura Bush uses the Ronald Reagan china for State Dinner in the State Dining Room
In the film American President, President Andrew Shepard shared his first kiss with Sydney Ellen Wade in the Dish Room.  That ground floor room is a popular destination as part of the White House tour.  We have Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison, china painter enthusiast and wife of Benjamin Harrison, to thank for gathering the various unbroken bits of presidential china in one room.  The China Room, previously known as the quite dull Presidential Collection Room leaves an impression with the embedded shelving showcasing our nation's unique state china services in all their rare splendor.  The services bear the names of the president that approves the design and procures the china while they are in office.  I want, nay NEED, to see a view of a 14-piece place setting that that bears the name Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. with a compliment of chargers and serving plates there for future presidential use.

Doing the dishes takes an immense amount of time and usually arrive at the sunset of an administration.  Nancy Reagan truly had few options for entertaining. She soon found out no new china had arrived at the White House since Lady Bird Johnson's brilliant and unique homage to wild flowers were selected. The famously red basket weave with gold trim Ronald Wilson Reagan china service arrived at the White House in 1982.  And once again, an eagle flew as part of the presidential seal on the plate.

Let us glide down the orange grand circular staircase for more 1600 ground floor dishing.

Of all the notable presidential family names that lived in the White House, the Lincolns left very little tangible evidence that they were ever there.  Mary Todd Lincoln treated shopping like an Olympic sport that demanded she spend every once of gold to get the gold.  She actually purchased two formal sets of china. The first set, a royal purple, still sees limited use 150 years later.  Mrs. Lincoln after going with a bold design, purchased a second service, the Buff set that arrived after President Lincoln's funeral. The White House has some of the cream and gold trimmed service pieces remaining.  It is called the Buff service rather than the Abraham Lincoln service.

June 3, 2009 Lunch in the White House Residence Private Dining Room with Nancy Reagan & Michelle Obama using the Reagan china service.
Paying for the dishes presents a few political issues. And, I definitely would not advise Michelle Obama in doing it the Mary Todd Lincoln way. In today's money and to do the job properly accounting for larger state dinner events, inflation and breakage will make any new service cost a good deal over $500,000. If the service is for 400, the pricing will clear the $600,000 mark. The Reagan china service that has 19 pieces per place setting serves 220 for around $952 per setting, at a cost of $210,399 in 1981. The funding was not the tax payer, but through donations to the White House Historical Association for all 4,370 pieces. Unlike the Monroes, Lincolns and the Kennedy era, there shall not be imported French china.  Yes, even way back in the day, the voting public took snarky critical note if presidential things were not made in America. It was hard being a Francophile.  (Couture is another matter all together.)

Lenox is in Trenton, New Jersey.  The wonderful gold inscription on the backside of the presidential plates states, The White House, the year and the words Made In America.  Laura Welch Bush chose to echo Nancy Reagan with a green basket weave or crosshatching design and a slightly different version of the golden eagle/presidential seal motif on an ivory background. Inspiration for this service is said to be from the private dinnerware of James and Dolley Madison. The desert plates have a laurel wreath. The smaller, green Truman service complements the Bush service as well as the stunning William Jefferson Clinton service with its gold inlays of rooms in the White House. The George W. Bush formal 14-piece place settings serve 300. The Bush Lenox- made service cost $492,798 when delivered in January 2009.  

The teacup from the George W. Bush china service
Addressing another White House need, Laura Bush, purchased the 75 piece hand-painted less formal setting from Pickard China based in the Land of Lincoln - though the hand painting was done in Hungary. The $74,000 Anna Weatherly, Magnolia Residence China service displays flowering magnolia vines and blossoms and wandering butterflies and cute bugs indigenous to the White House grounds.  Instead of hauling out presidential services for teas and luncheons in the residence, she ensured President Obama and Mrs. Obama along with future First families would be able to use a full set of dishes without the stress of seeing more breakage in the rarer more popular formal dinner services, such as the 1700 piece deep blue and matte gold Woodrow Wilson service.

Michelle Obama can make it possible for another First Gentleman or First Lady can entertain dignitaries on a large scale after her time of being FLOTUS ends. Usually a white tie dinner (the highest form of protocol) is held for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth in a president's second term.  My hope is a exclusive dinner for HRM is held over the next couple of years and indeed, it will be a State Event to remember.  The Queen reigned over a head of state white tie event at Buckingham Palace for the Obamas last year.

Michelle Obama's hosted 400 people for her first state dinner. There is no service currently in the White House that can handle an event of that magnitude on its own.  Michelle chose to mix and match the formal services and she has made other color innovations for larger state events.  The political need for the Obamas to appear ecumenical, economical and not make winners and losers of the first state function invitation resulted in tent construction on the South Lawn and floral arrangements that complimented the melding of the differing china services.

A president's second term gravitates towards foreign affairs as they wind down.  Entertaining in the White House is about one of the only places that American exceptionalism should be on display on behalf of every citizen. Before that inevitable final goodbye on January 20, 2016, I really want to see a concerted fundraising effort or one major donor proudly present the 44th president of the United States the golden opportunity to leave his china service as a legacy in the ever popular Dish Room.  


What color would you select for the Obama China Service?

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