December 23, 2008 Mount Vernon Curator To Discuss "Setting the President's Table" On Jan. 15

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Kathy Woodrell (202) 707-0945

The purchase and use of White House china provides a window into the importance and style of entertaining by U.S. presidents and their First Ladies – and it can provide the public with a lot to dish about, too, as in the cases of Mary Todd Lincoln and Nancy Reagan. Christina Keyser, an assistant curator at Mount Vernon, will discuss “Setting the President’s Table” at the Library of Congress at noon on Thursday, Jan. 15, in Room 139 on the first floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. SE, Washington, D.C. Sponsored by the Library’s Humanities and Social Sciences Division, the lecture is free and open to the public; tickets or reservations are not needed. Keyser will discuss the history of presidential china from the administrations of George Washington to George W. Bush. Her lecture is based on the exhibition “Setting the President’s Table,” which is currently on display at Mount Vernon until Jan. 21, 2009. The exhibition showcases a sampling of porcelains from the Robert L. McNeil Americana Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The illustrated presentation will highlight the development of the White House China Collection and will portray various patterns, both imported and designed in the United States, as well as china designed for use aboard presidential boats and airplanes. Both Mary Todd Lincoln and Nancy Reagan were criticized for their purchases of White House china. Lincoln ordered lavish purple-and-gold china during the Civil War. Reagan ordered 4,370 pieces of scarlet, cream and gold state china at a cost of $210,399. Although the Reagan china was paid for by private donations, the purchase raised eyebrows because it was ordered when the nation was undergoing an economic recession. Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, with nearly 142 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. As the world’s largest repository of knowledge and creativity, the Library is a symbol of democracy and the principles on which this nation was founded. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site, in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill, and through its award-winning Web site at Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized Web site at


PR 08-235
ISSN 0731-3527