Her sense of style was unprecedented in the White House and because of her we have a national treasure restored and intact.
On February 14, 1962 she took the country for a tour of the partly restored White House with Charles Collingwood of CBS News. Millions tuned in to watch (although not my poor mother, who was quite sick that day and has still never seen the broadcast!) and she won an Emmy for her efforts.
In that she shows us the dining room used for state dinners. The table is set using the Eisenhower & Truman china and some of Monroe’s silverware. There are LOTS of french imports on that table but no napkins : ) I’ve done a version of that table here:I actually have a version of the Truman china, here is the original:
And here you can see mine:
So the gold band around the outside edge is smaller and there is no seal in the middle BUT I found these in two bundles of 6 at Salvation Army for a dollar per set. That’s right, 12 plates for two dollars. I watched the clip of the dining room over and over and over – there are LOTS of glasses on that table and layers of silverware showing two different sets. She talks about how the one set is vermeil (or gold) and then says they used to use Monroe’s knives and forks but so many were lost. If you look carefully at the silverware the knives look very much like my french ivory!She then says the glasses are ‘theirs’ meaning she/the administration purchased them, and from a company in West Virginia no less! Mine are from IKEA, they cost about 83 cents a piece. The Kennedy administration never bought china like most presidencies, only the glasses. It was customary for the new president to auction off the old administrations’ dishes to pay for the new. “When new dessert plates for the Johnson administration turned out badly, the White House staff smashed it against a basement wall painted with caricatures of the president’s assistants.” Keep in mind that Nancy Reagan spent over $400,000 for new china, more than double what her husband made in a year : )
Even though the show was shot in black and white there are plenty of images of that room in color. You can see the gold everywhere…and I just don’t have anything like that. After all, President’s and King’s don’t eat here. Sigh…
The candlesticks caught the light just right and cast rainbows on the table : ) The iconic sunglasses are there as a memorial to the woman who made them famous.
If you’d like to see the clip of the dining room visit from the original broadcast, here is the youtube link:
The White House website has a nice few pages about the China Room and collection, including the Johnson story, here:
They even show the Truman dishes ‘in use’ in 1967!
Jackie died in 1994 from cancer and is buried next to JFK in Arlington. When I was in Washington DC a few years ago I made sure to dress up and visit her grave. Thank you, Jackie, for your grace in some of the most trying circumstances in modern history. Thank you for showing us that life can go on.
Tomorrow – London tea : )
328 days to go!!