Presidential china patterns chosen by first ladies

What will be the next presidential china pattern has always been of interest not only to historians but collectors. This is especially true since traditionally it has been up to the 1st lady to select the pattern and maker. However during the beginning of the George Washington presidency, presidential china dinner services were gifts from abroad. One of the earliest sets was a gift to Martha Washington, in 1795, from Andreas Everaredue Van Braam Houckgeest, the representative of the Dutch East India Company. It was Chinese Export porcelain and consisted of 45 pieces. The border is a circular chain, each with the names of the fifteen states in the Union at the time. There is also a snake that is a Chinese symbol of lasting forever. The gold sunburst has the intertwined letters, M.W.

After Washington’s terms some china was made to order, while other patterns were gifts to the various presidents and their wives. The designs reflected not only Eagles and the Seal of the Republic, but the state flowers of the United State. Over the years many of the first ladies have felt it was time for new china for official functions. They selected patterns that followed the design fashions and colors of the times.

Mary Todd Lincoln discovered that there wasn’t enough tableware available to host large state dinners. She had been left with the remains of china from the administration of President Pierce, known as the “Red Edge” set. She replaced them with plates showing the American eagle, pictured in the 1853 London, Crystal Palace Exhibition. She added her own touch with a bright, purple-red border, then the fashionable color. The set numbered 190 pieces. After Lincoln’s re-election she bought another set of china. Two months later the President was assassinated and the set was never used.

Documents have shown that the Lincoln plates were made by Haviland and Company, Limoges, France, as were many of the sets for succeeding Presidents.

CLUES: Probably the earliest reproduction, “The Martha Washington” or “States” china was made in 1876. It was sold to the public to tie-in with the 1876 U.S. centennial and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Haviland and Company was commissioned to reproduce it. Those reproduction are very collectible, if you can find them and expensive. Prices for later reproductions aren’t cheap. In 1992 a set of President William Henry Harrison china, reproduced in 1900 came to auction. Consisting of 36 pieces, it sold for $8,140.00. These days it would be double that.

In 1969 Haviland and Company began reproducing a series of plates in the original Presidential patterns. Most popular were the Lincoln plates. The edition of the first two issues was 2,500 for each addition. They are sometimes stamped “Administration Abraham Lincoln” in red. Others have the mark of J.W. Boteler & Bros. and “Fabrique” par Havilland & Co./Pour J.W. Boteler & Bro/Washington.” The original china had no marks.

Reproductions are offered for sale at Presidential museum gift shops.