Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Registering china patterns in my mind...

On my way to work and running early for a change...

I stopped at a traffic light by the O.C. Tanner building, originally a library built in 1905 that was renovated just last summer.

Been meaning to take a look at the place...wonder if they will let me inside?

I know the O. C. Tanner company has something to do with jewelry...class rings maybe?


Looked like it was time for another Field Trip!

I pulled up to the curb in front of the building, put my car in park, scrounged up two quarters for the parking meter and bought myself 30 minutes to explore.

Inside I found a three story high spiral staircase, with an imaginative folded paper sculpture suspended on LED fibers.

There were jewelry cases everywhere, but what immediately caught my eye was...

A series of china plates.

Not just any ordinary plates...these were the plates used in the White House during various Presidential administrations!

Above is the orange lily patterned china that was part of the china service from the Presidency of U. S. Grant right after the Civil War.

Then there was a sample of the china selected by Mary Todd Lincoln...the first time White House china was selected by a First Lady.

(Some people thought Mary was trying to be "royal" with her choice of a purple band on the china).

Mrs. Franklin Roosevelt dignified choice...

Mrs. Wilson's slightly more exuberant choice...

The unexpected and controversial selection of Mrs. Hayes...

Popular with the people, yet panned by the critics. I think she was quite brilliant in her design thinking!

Mrs. Benjamin Harrison's selection with a corn border designed to honor her home state...

With a bit of sad history noted.

Theodore Roosevelt's plate.

and this design sprigged with wildflowers...can you guess which First Lady selected this pattern?
(Answer at the end!)

I learned later that the china display would end Feb. 28th. Whew! What a lucky impulse I had!
As it turns out, the foremost collector of White House china has a friend living in SLC. The friend convinced the collector to to loan some of his collection to the store. An article about the collector and the plates can be read HERE.

I warn you though, collector shared some pretty funny and touching details that are likely to haunt you for awhile. I'm still laughing about his wife's comment about the collection, and President Truman's thoughtful designing methods.
The top floor of the O. C. Tanner building had art objects for sale. I took a fancy to this glass design immediately.

And enjoyed the idea of having this adorable real diamond bunny to wear when feeling spring-ish.
If you are interested in seeing a few more examples of Presidential china, check out THIS or THIS site.
I realize that many of the First Ladies were around my age when they selected china patterns for White House usage.
What a daunting task that must have been for them.
I myself can hardly ever pass by a display of china patterns without mentally deciding which pattern I like best.
Sometimes my husband agrees with me, other times he doesn't.
It is a simple routine that we engage in...yet I find I wince when he doesn't care for my pick.
The First Ladies don't just get feed back from their husbands, they get feed back from the whole country!
How brave they must be to dare to select something that will be commented on forever.
I've read the biographies of many of the First Ladies. They form an amazing sisterhood. So many of them moved into the White House with personal sorrows burdening their hearts, grieving children that died weeks before moving in or miscarriages, bearing personal physical limitations, mental health challenges and homesickness that would over shadow their new station in life.
Growing up they all seemed so poised...now that I am closer to their age I can picture their personal lives better and am quite amazed at how they managed so well in the public eye.
If I should ever be invited to a White House dinner you will be sure to see me edging my way over to the China room to have a look-see, while ignoring the high profile guests seated at the next table. I have a feeling that there would be quite a few women who would be quite game to join me!
So which pattern is your favorite?
Mine is the red bordered Reagan China.
Or maybe it is Theodore Roosevelt's china.
Gosh it is hard to decide!
Answer: Lady Bird Johnson of course, she who championed beautification via wild flowers across her home state of Texas.
***O. C. Tanner makes the Olympic Team rings. Now that's what I call a "class" ring!


ellen b. said...

I like the Theodore and the Lady Bird!

Vicki said...

Gosh, you've got all the neat places to visit! I love "Field Trips with Jill!"

I really like Lady Bird's china...I'm a sucker for wildflowers!

Lovella ♥ said...

I'm with Ellen .. my favorite for sure. I had no idea that each administration chose whole new china sets. They use them for all the formal diners then? I smile as my idea of sprucing up my china is a new table cloth.

Thoughts on Life and Millinery. said...

Actually not every administration gets to select china. There has to be a need such as the old set being chipped up, or a need for a larger set arises.

I suspect Mrs. Obama will have a hard time coming up with a reason to select china since Mrs. G.W. Bush had two sets made (formal and informal) and Mrs. Clinton has a set made as well.

I guess you could say that with china pattern options: Them's the breaks!

Kathy said...

I LOVE dishes. My favorite is the Lincoln one with the purple band for over all color coordination and for having an eagle that doesn't just float but has a bit of an environment. Second is Lady Bird's. Love the wildflowers - but not the floating eagle.

Lady Bird would cry over the state of the freeways now. There doesn't seem to be the money to keep them as beautiful as she had in mind. We had a striking freeway here into Vancouver, but it's being widened and down go the huge trees and so long daffodils.

Kate said...

I like Teddy's too but my absolute favorite is Mrs. Hayes'. Wow! So beautiful! Serendipitous visit. Good for you. K Q:-)

Islandsparrow said...

Well now - that was a fun surprise for you - and for us! I like Lady Bird's choice - although I'm not so fond of the eagle in the center but I guess you have to be patriotic in the White House, don't you. Of course a beaver would look worse :)