While many past White House state services feature similar elements, such as a variation of the iconic bald eagle on the Great Seal or the Seal of the President, Matthew notes that each president and first lady incorporated their own style and taste to the pattern. Lady Bird Johnson highlighted her love of flora and fauna with a Tiffany & Co. design featuring wildflowers; and Nancy Reagan made sure her favorite “picker-upper” color, red, was dominant on their state service.
“The use of the Great Seal or the modern Presidential Seal is a way to distinguish the dishes as the official presidential service,” Matthew says. “It’s kind of like the government leaving its mark on the plate.”
Most state services customarily came with teacups and saucers, along with coffee cups and saucers. However, not all were accompanied by a matching teapot. Several teapots included in The White House collection of dinnerware and china were part of separate dessert services or were gifts bestowed to the President and First Lady.
Since 1917, selections of different state services have been on display for official White House visitors to view in the China Room on the Ground Floor of The White House. However, the pieces held there are only a fraction of the wares that have been collected since the start of the United States presidency. Today, the official White House Collection holds approximately 65,000 objects from plates to serving dishes to cups and saucers to flatware.