ABRAHAM LINCOLN WHITE HOUSE SERVING PLATTER
An excessively rare serving platter used in the Lincoln White House in 1865 and present there at the time of Lincoln's assassination. This platter is from the Lincolns' informal, regularly-used household service, thus saw much more use than the formal pattern used for state dinners. The platter measures 13 1/2" at its widest point (and 9 1/2" at its narrowest) and bears a buff-colored gilt-edged band at its edge bearing some edge wear. It is in otherwise excellent condition and ideal for the collector of Lincolniana. It appears that this same service may have been used in the White House during the administrations of Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant as well.
At the end of 1864, Mary Todd Lincoln ordered a new set of Presidential china, unlike the well-known magenta Solferino set used throughout the first term of Lincoln's presidency, from James K. Kerr's "China House of Philadelphia. It is documented that on January 9th and 10th, 1865, Mrs. Lincoln sent telegrams to Kerr requesting immediate delivery of the new dinner service (ref: Mary Todd Lincoln, Her Life and Letters by Justin G. Turner and Linda Levitt Turner, 1972). It appears this set, known as "One extra large French China Dining, Dessert and Coffee Service decorated on a white ground delicate Buff border with burnished Gold Lines", was not billed until Jan. 30, 1865 and that the primary delivery of the set was made by Harnden Express on Feb. 13, 1865. This is documented by the National Archives, Miscellaneous Treasury Account, vouchers 25 & 26, account number 157178. Of course, two months later, President Lincoln would be assassinated at Ford's Theater.
Subsequently, a meeting between B.B. French, the Commissioner of Public Buildings and Grounds, and new President Andrew Johnson occurred regarding the non-payment of the invoice for the china ordered by Mrs. Lincoln. Johnson was asked to approve its payment, which he did on Aug. 29, 1865. It is assumed the Johnson's did not like the "Buff" set as on Jan. 17, 1866 an order was placed with E.V. Haughwout of Haughwout & Co., New York City, to replenish the Solferino china set.
On July 23, 1866 the 29th Congress passed an act providing for the appointment of an official steward of the Executive Mansion. At that time, Interior Secretary Orville H. Browning ordered an inventory of the contents White House. A second inventory, taken on Dec. 4, 1869 during Grant's presidency, lists the Solferino set and also lists a buff set, obviously the one ordered by Mrs. Lincoln. President Chester A. Arthur, in the first autumn of his administration, ordered an extensive redecoration of the Executive Mansion. At the same time, Arthur inventoried and evaluated the property within the Mansion. Under the direction of the steward, William Crump, the pieces of china to be discarded were packed into 30 barrels. The pieces in this set then appeared at auction in Philadelphia in the 1880's when it was sold to Sylvanus Wilson Hall, a Clerk of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia and a Clerk of the West Virginia Constitutional Convention. It then remained in his family until sold at auction in January, 2010. Little else known relating to the outcome of the other pieces of this very rare dinner set.
Provenance provided with this lot includes copies of the following:
1.) A receipt from The White House signed by Clement E. Conger, the Curator for The White House Museum and dated August 25, 1980 acknowledging that a coffee cup and saucer together with "a small covered vegetable tureen" were donated by Mrs. Fritzie Conley Carper and Mrs. Carter Conley Hardesty.
2.) A letter of acknowledgement written to Mrs. Carper on January 27, 1981 by Clement E. Conger, on behalf of the Committee for the Preservation of The White House, for the donation of a cup and saucer "believed to be from the state service ordered for The White House by Mrs. Abraham Lincoln.
3.) A receipt dated September 22, 1980 was issued to Mrs. Carper from Claudia B. Kidwell, Chairman of the Department of Social and National History of The Smithsonian Institution, acknowledging the gift of a "9 1/2" plate, cup and a saucer" belonging to the "buff services ordered and received Mrs. Abraham Lincoln for The White House in 1865".
4.) A notarized letter dated January 14, 2010 from Fritzie Conley Carper detailing the provenance of the china from its purchase by her great grandfather Sylvanus Wilson Hall at a public auction.