Seafood plate from the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Service (Front)


Seafood Plate and Ice Cream Dish from the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Service, 1879–1880 Porcelain with enamels and gilding Gift of Christopher Monkhouse 2003.111; Gift of Daphne Farago 82.022 A chance meeting between the wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes and Theodore Davis, an illustrator and journalist for Harper’s Weekly, in the White House conservatory produced one of the most extraordinary dinner services. The First Lady was selecting botanical samples to be used for the decoration of the presidential service, which had already been contracted with Haviland. On the spot, Davis suggested that Mrs. Hayes use depictions of flora and fauna native to North America, thus celebrating the naturalistic bounty of the country. Mrs. Hayes was in favor of the idea and Davis became the designer of the service, producing 130 distinct decorations for the 562 pieces made for nine courses. Each decoration was drawn by hand, etchings were made to transfer the outlines, basic colors were applied via chromolithographic and decalcomania processes, and finally enamel details and gilding were added by hand.

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