Inaugurations for President of the United States did not always take place on January 20. Most "regular" presidential inaugurations from 1793 until 1937 happened on March 4. The very first one, however, took place on April 30, 1789 after George Washington traveled (unaccompanied by his wife, Martha) from his Mount Vernon home in Alexandria, Virginia to the first capitol of the United States: New York City. Throughout his journey to New York Washington was greeted by crowds of well-wishers and feted with receptions. The inauguration itself was held outdoors and Washington was the only president (thus far) to kiss the Bible after taking the oath. To top things off, fireworks lit up the night sky. The inaugural ball did not take place that evening, but was postponed until May 7 ,which was probably a disappointment for George Washington, as he loved to dance!
Jacqueline Kennedy's garden, or, as it is sometimes called, the First Lady's Garden is located on the north side of the East Colonnade of the White House not too distant from where the First Lady's office is located. The garden is in the style of a traditional 18th century American garden and its restoration was underway when First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy was in residence at the White House and dedicated by First Lady Lady Bird Johnson in 1965 as Jacqueline Kennedy's Garden. Besides the flowers and boxwood shrubs, the garden also produces many herbs used by the White House chefs.
The East Wing or Children's Garden was created and presented to the White House by President and Mrs. Johnson. The garden is located in a wooded area near the White House tennis courts. The garden has a goldfish pond and an apple tree just right for kids to climb on. The paved walkway has embedded in it hand and foot prints of presidents' children and grandchildren.
Hurry, hurry if you plan to view the cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. The bloom timetable has accelerated and now the U.S. Park Service estimates that the peak bloom period is March 18-24, 2016, a full two weeks earlier than predicted. More than 100 years ago, in 1912, First Lady Helen Taft, in her efforts to beautify the swampy terrain surrounding the White House, accepted the gift of cherry trees from the Mayor of Tokyo. Since then millions of tourists have enjoyed the beauty the cherry blossoms bring to spring in the nation's capital.
George Washington’s china service was never used at the White House. The dishes did grace President Washington’s table in presidential residences in New York and Philadelphia before the District of Columbia became the nation’s permanent capita, after Washington left office. Washington really like the blue and white Chinese porcelain popular among the Colonial gentry at the time and he ordered several shipments during his lifetime. One pattern in particular caught his interest. The pattern featured a winged female blowing a trumpet with the badge of the Society of the Cincinnati in her hand. George Washington was the first president of the Society of Cincinnati, a veterans’ group formed of American and French officers from the Revolutionary War, and named after an ancient Roman hero. Washington paid what was considered an exorbitant price at the time ($150) to purchase the china service. After Washington’s death, the china eventually passed to his step-grandson, George Washington Parke Custis who passed it on to his daughter who married Robert E. Lee. In an historical twist of fate, china belonging to President Washington, whom many called the “father of our country” came into the possession of a man who fought to tear the country asunder. The Federal government confiscated the china service as well as Lee’s home during the Civil War, but eventually returned it to the Lee family.
The Red Room at the White House is one of four reception rooms on the state (main/public floor) of the mansion. The room is furnished in the Empire style dating from 1810-1830. The fabric on the walls is red twill satin and all the fabrics in the room were made in the U.S. First Lady Dolley Madison (1809-1817) deviated from this color scheme when she decorated the room in sunflower yellow and held weekly receptions here. Dolley's portrait is one of several in the room and is visible in this photo on the upper right-hand side of the door. Although the furniture may look formal and not all that comfortable, the Red Room has remained a favorite of many presidential families. This was true for President Abraham Lincoln and family. Numerous historical accounts relate how the Lincolns gathered here with family and friends. President Rutherford Hayes (1877-1881) was secretly sworn in here on March 31, 1877 because inaugurals were not held on Sunday and outgoing president Ulysses Grant feared a day without a president. President Theodore Roosevelt used it as a smoking room where male guests gathered after dinner to smoke cigars and drink brandy. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (1933-1945) chose the Red Room for her women-only press conferences during a time when women reporters were barred from regular press conferences. The Red Room was a favorite of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (1961-63). She added a reproduction of an 19th century French carpet to the Red Room during her restoration of the White House.
Continuing the series on Setting the President's Table, the next several posts highlight several of the controversies involving specific presidential china services within the White House collection. Not every administration has created its own service, but it is often necessary to augment previous collections for a number of reasons including, but not limited to, expansion of the number of available service pieces, or replacement of damaged or missing pieces. The china purchased for President Monroe's administration (1817-1825) was the very first designed specifically for presidential use. The china pattern featured a Napoleonic eagle in the center of the design, a symbol that was popular in both France and the United States at the time. The eagle holds a banner with the national motto "E Pluribus Unum" (Latin translation: out of many, one). Despite the patriotic tribute, there was criticism that the china represented foreign interests because it was manufactured in France. Shortly after this dust-up, Congress passed a law specifying that all White House furniture must be made in America. Despite this caveat, several administrations continued to order china from foreign manufacturers.
Setting the President's table has always been an important aspect of entertaining at the White House. From the earliest days of the presidency there were funds provided to purchase china for celebrations and state occasions. As various pieces of china became damaged, they could be sold at auction, given away or destroyed. Not any more: Congress passed legislation requiring that all presidential china be kept or destroyed. The oldest full china service still in use is the Benjamin Harrison collection. Ironically, First Lady Caroline Harrison (1889-92), who organized the china collections for display at the White House, never got to use the Harrison china service. She died before it was delivered to the White House in 1892. She did design the china that is still is use today. The Harrison design (photo at right) includes the coat of arms of the United States in the center, with gold-etched goldenrod and corn around a wide band of blue. The 44 stars on the inner band represent the number of states in the Union when she designed the china.