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The White House Service

On Inauguration Day 2021, we look back to the days of the creation of the White House Service by Wedgwood for US President Theodore Roosevelt.

In 1902, Theodore Roosevelt had moved into new executive offices in the newly built West Wing for which Congress had voted to invest $65,196. $475,445 had already been agreed for repairing and refurnishing the Executive Mansion.

It soon became apparent that a new state dinner service would be required as part of the furnishings for the renovated house. Initially, it was hoped by Roosevelt that the dinner service could be manufactured in the United States but, at that time, the art of porcelain manufacture in America was very much in its infancy, no one factory could be found which was capable of providing a dinner service of the size and quality required for the President’s table.

The order for the service was taken on 30 August 1902 via Van Heusen Charles Co. of Albany, New York. The representative who secured the order was Mr. John A Service, American representative for several British glass and china establishments, including the Etruria based factory of Josiah Wedgwood & Sons Limited.

A full range of items was produced including plates of various sizes, soups, breakfast cups and saucers, teacups and saucers, and coffee cups and saucers.

The design itself consisted of a border of “Gold Colonnade” with the American Eagle crest picked out in naturalistic colours.  At the time of the order it was estimated that there would be 20 months enamelling work alone to decorate the crests.

Items ordered included the following:

Bone china pattern number X5333 (“Gold Colonnade”) 

15 dozen plates 10 inch
10 dozen plates 9 inch
10 dozen plates 8 inch
10 dozen plates 7 inch
5 dozen plates 5 inch
10 dozen soups 9 inch
8 dozen A Ds and saucers (After Dinner cups - usually coffee cans)
10 dozen teas and saucers
10 dozen oyster plates
12 only dishes 16”
12 only dishes 18”

The first batch of ware was sent on 15 December 1902 and the service was completed by April 1903.  The number of pieces produced at the time was 1,296 - all complete with the American Eagle crest.

Records also reveal that a substantial (although exact numbers are not given) “matchings” order was received by the Etruria factory in 1912.

Will the Bidens enjoy some extraordinary dining on the service?

Image: Working on the White House Service, Etruria