For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
January 7, 2009
Press Availability by the First Lady at the Unveiling of the George W. Bush State China
Old Family Dining Room
9:11 A.M. EST
MRS. BUSH: Good morning, everyone. I wanted to let you all see and announce the last acquisitions to the White House collection, made during President Bush's term. And these are all things that have been in the works for several years, and ended up taking longer than we thought. I actually thought we would be able to use some of these and enjoy them, but in fact most of them, except for the Anna Weatherley china, were just delivered, really, these last few weeks. I think the rug came in maybe right before Christmas, but we just put it down. I saw it first in here when we came home from the ranch for the holidays.
We acquired a state -- Lenox service for 320 people. We worked with the Madison -- this is actually Madison's china, these two pieces right here. We have just a few pieces of Madison china in our collection, and so we worked with this to do the Lenox china.
I consulted with our floral designer, Nancy Clarke, who you all know. We tried to think of a color and a sort of china that would be something that really we could use that would be different from the red Reagan china, from the yellow Clinton china, and from the wildflower china of Lady Bird Johnson's.
And so we determined that green was a really good idea for one more set of china for the White House. It worked with any flowers, and it worked, really, in any season. It's great in the fall with fall colors. It's pretty with orange, as you can see. It works with Christmas. So we think it'll be a really good complement to the three other existing sets that are the large sets that we're able to use for large dinners in the -- both in the State Dining Room and in the East Room when we have dinners that are so large they need to be in the East Room.
We also use all of our chinas, and you may not know this, but all the time. Upstairs in the dining room, upstairs that's in the Residence, we use the regular Reagan china -- or maybe I shouldn't say "regular" -- but the same chinas that we use for State Dinners we also use for lunch and dinner and small family dinners and really for all occasions upstairs, as well.
So adding one more set gives us both another option for colors and for floral designs and for table settings, as well as it gives us an option for being able to not use the three big existing sets so often; that we'd be able to spread it out a little bit to try to minimize breaking, which, of course, does happen, as you all know, with china. Every once in a while we've had a really bad accident where we've lost more than one piece at once when the tray fell, or something else like that happened.
This china, Anna Weatherley did. Anna Weatherley is a true American success story. She's a Hungarian immigrant. She came to the United States -- immigrated to the United States as an adult, brought with her the skills that we all know from looking at Hungarian chinas, the different Hungarian chinas that a lot of people already know in the United States.
This china itself was made by Pickard, which is an American company, the actual place. But it was decorated in Hungary by Anna Weatherley's company. She designed this set specifically for the White House. It's taken from the magnolias, the big trees that you can see both from the Blue Room and the Yellow Oval Room above it, which is a room -- both of those rooms we use for dinner parties of about 60 when we have a smaller dinner party. In fact, last night we had a dinner party in the Blue Room. And quite often we'll have -- I'll have lunches, or the President and I will have dinner parties in the Yellow Room on the Residence floor. So this is a set that -- there's 70 place settings in this set, so it's appropriate for those size dinner parties when you have about 60 people.
As you can see, there's not an eagle on it. This is also obviously a White House set of china acquired for the White House, but it's a more informal set, a better luncheon set and a better set to use in rooms like upstairs in the Yellow Oval or the Blue Room for a smaller dinner party size.
The magnolia tree that you can see from the -- both the Blue Room and the Yellow Room, that big magnolia is considered the oldest tree on the lawn, and it was planted by Jackson, although we're not really sure it was, but we think it was. That's what -- is what -- what would you say about it, Bill?
MR. ALLMAN: Jackson supposedly brought the seedlings from the hermitage, but they don't seem to show in the early pictures as having grown fast enough, so they may have been in the conservatories for a while before they actually were planted on the lawn.
MRS. BUSH: But anyway, we call it the Jackson magnolia, and everyone does. So that's why we chose to do the magnolias. And the butterflies and the bugs and the things that Anna Weatherley decorated with this were also inspired by the butterflies and bugs that we have on the lawn, on the South Lawn.
So these are the two new sets of china. We have used these sets. We've used it upstairs a lot. We used four-place settings of this yesterday for Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the U.N., at the luncheon that we had with him in this room. But both of these, obviously, will be sets of china for the next family and the next families after that to use.
And I can tell you that from living here for eight years, I'm very, very grateful to have had both -- or all three, the Johnson china, the Reagan china, and the Clinton china, to be able to use for entertaining here; for entertaining and just for all of our luncheons and dinners that are just family or friends or just us, because those are the chinas that we use upstairs, as well.
So I hope that the next family, and I know they will be happy to have these two sets, as well, to be able to entertain their heads of state that come in, as well as for their closest family and friends.
The rugs, the two carpets, that I'm also showing you today were also acquired. These -- both of these rugs, this one and the Diplomatic Reception Room rug, have been in the works, just like the chinas, for a long time. They were also things that we thought we would be able to enjoy while we lived here. But it was very complicated to design and then to have these rugs built, which are more complicated than you might guess, to first to do the designs, to settle on the designs, to settle on the yarn colors. It included a lot of strike-offs, just like with the china being sent back and forth from the mill in North Carolina, the carpet mill that made these carpets, or the Lenox, or Anna Weatherley, where they would strike-offs, we would look at them, we would tweak them, we would say that doesn't do, we're going to have to do something else. And so it ended up being a very long and complicated process. But I think we are -- we're thrilled with what the final product is in every case, and we think this rug is a really beautiful rug.
This rug was -- this room was the Family Dining Room where the family ate most of their meals up until the Kennedys added the upstairs dining room and kitchen. So for many years this was the Family Dining Room. And we still use it a lot. The President uses this room a lot for small working lunches or dinners with heads of state. In fact, we looked back, and he has entertained 81 heads of state for luncheons in this room. He's had 81 heads of states, for working lunches, here.
So the rug that we replaced was 25 years old. It was time for it to be replaced, because this room also serves as a staging room for larger events when we have big buffets in the dining room, or State Dinners. And so on those occasions this rug is either covered or it's rolled up, and so it really gets a lot of wear and tear, as these rooms are used for staging rooms, as well.
We worked on the design on this rug from elements that are in this room. The mantel behind you, which is now covered, but you all can look at it and see, the eagle that's there and the swags that are on that mantel that was installed in this room in 1962 are now what we used here with the eagles and the swags along the border of this rug. And then of course we took the color from the color that was already here in this room, the pretty yellow Family Dining Room.
This room has these medallions in the four corners, the four corners of the doors. And so we use the medallions in the field of the rug that are from the corners of the room.
Then the Diplomatic Reception Room rug, if you've seen it yet -- and you can go down to look at it -- you'll see that the eagle in the star -- sort of sunburst is in the middle of it.
Also, we took from other early images from the White House. In fact, it's a set of china that was Washington's era. Is that right?
MR. ALLMAN: This is the Monroe/Jackson era.
MRS. BUSH: Monroe/Jackson china that had that eagle in the middle, and then the star burst out from the edges.
The other rugs that were there that we replaced in the Diplomatic Reception Room also had the flags -- the emblems from the flags of the 50 states around the border, and we did that once again around the borders of the Diplomatic Reception Room.
So I'm thrilled with all of it. I think it all looks really terrific. The one thing I forgot to tell you is that the eagle we took from this plate is not the eagle we all associate with the seal, the presidential seal, but in fact is the eagle on this old Massachusetts piece that's been in the White House for quite some time, and actually we think was Daniel Webster's piece of furniture before. So it's a little bit different from the eagle seals that are on some of the other state chinas.
Okay, do you all want to ask any questions?
Q I'd like to know about the timing of this, because you're about to leave the White House. You say you've used it once. So will they use it for the President's lunch for the former Presidents and President-elect today?
MRS. BUSH: I'm not really sure about that, but I believe that today because the luncheon is going to be in the Oval Office Dining Room, that they will use what's normally used in the White House mess.
Q And was there any consideration given -- do you know -- former First Ladies have run into kind of political buzzsaws about china.
MRS. BUSH: You're right.
Q And how was this handled? Any lessons learned from earlier experiences?
MRS. BUSH: Well, sure. I mean, of course, you know, you're always aware of what has gone on before you, and the way the American public perceives things that are purchased for the White House. These, as you will see from the fact sheets that Sally will give you -- everything here was purchased by the White House Historical Association, the White House Endowment Trust, or the White House Historical Trust. That's privately raised money that is available.
The sole purpose of the fund is to acquire objects for the White House. And obviously when we started these -- designing these and working with these and determining whether or not we would acquire these, the economy was a lot better than it is today. But I still think it's very appropriate for the White House to acquire another set of china. I'm happy to be able to leave these beautiful sets of china for the next family.
Q Have the Obamas seen this china yet?
MRS. BUSH: No, they haven't. They haven't. We didn't -- we didn't have it to -- for me to show Michelle when she visited. I didn't show her, really, any of the sets of china. I think she'll have fun discovering all those and all the things -- a lot of these are stored -- they're stored in several places in the White House, but some small sets of them are stored upstairs in the family dining room that's upstairs. And I showed her the secret door into the china closet -- the little girls, particularly, and Barbara and Jenna were quick to show them all what they consider the secret doors, because they think that's really fun.
So they -- she knows at least where the china closet is, so that will be fun finding --
Q Mrs. Bush, what will you do on the night of January 20th? You'll fly back to Texas?
MRS. BUSH: That's right. We'll fly back to Texas, and we'll end up at our ranch with a number of friends who will be going with us, who will be there with us that night to spend the first night at home there. So that will be fun.
And then a few days after that, whenever it's -- the painters have finished, we'll move -- I'll move -- the moving vans at our Dallas house and move in there.
Q Mrs. Bush, could you describe how you came up with your design for the china?
MRS. BUSH: Well, I worked with Nancy. Nancy and I talked about what would be -- you know, what would be needed, with all of the sets of china we have -- what colors would be most appropriate, something that we didn't have that would be different from what we had. And we determined that green china would be great, that it would be perfect for all different seasons, that it would look pretty and fresh in the dining room, and that it was a color we didn't have.
There is a Truman set that has a wide green border that we don't have enough of to use for a big State Dinner but we have enough of to use for some occasions, and we do use it for some occasions.
But also, when I looked back at all the chinas that belonged to the White House and saw these few pieces left from the Madison china, I liked it. I thought this was very, very pretty. And because it was a set that was used here, I thought it was appropriate for us to copy it, to reproduce it in some way. And so that's what we've done. Obviously it's not exactly the same, although we did do one, the dessert plate, with the little garland of leaves.
Are these supposed to be olive leaves? I think they are. I think there are some tiny olives in it.
Q Now, that did not have the eagle on it, right?
MRS. BUSH: That's right, this set --
Q But you did the eagle.
MRS. BUSH: This set was a French set that I assume the Madisons brought with them, or did they --
MR. ALLMAN: Family set. It didn't -- the government didn't buy -- it was made between 1800 and 1805, so the family --
MRS. BUSH: Personal. And we only have a few pieces of it. How many pieces do we --
MR. ALLMAN: Just eight.
MRS. BUSH: Just eight.
MRS. BUSH: And these are a few of them. See the shape of the cup, which is not the shape of the cup we chose. And it's different, but it's really amazing, the Madison china.
Q How many pieces in each place setting?
MRS. BUSH: This one has 14, I believe -- 14 of this -- of each place setting.
Q Does the President have a favorite?
MRS. BUSH: He likes Jackie -- I mean, Lady Bird Johnson's wildflowers.
Q The Texas connection?
MRS. BUSH: And we use that upstairs a lot. The dessert plates of the wildflowers set have -- each dessert plate has a different state wildflower on it. And our butlers have been so terrific that sometimes when I've had the governors' spouses here, each governor's spouse will get her dessert or his dessert on their state flower. And they're really terrific about making sure that guests to the White House know what has come from their state or what represents their state here.
Q Do you know the cost of the -- the overall cost that the Trust paid for these?
MRS. BUSH: Yes, and that's on the fact sheet that Sally will give you.
Q And who made the rugs? Was it Stark?
MRS. BUSH: No, these rugs were made by the Spinning Wheel in North Carolina. And one of the problems now in the United States is that of course a lot of these big companies -- Edward Fields, for instance, that we used to depend upon to make so many of our carpets -- they did make so many of the carpets that are here -- have now sold, and they sold to, you know, another country -- company, to other countries.
And so when we can, we try to use American companies. And we have, pretty much, except -- Anna Weatherley's is an American company, but it was painted in Hungary, which is where her factory is.
Q Are there different types of silverware that could go with different chinas?
MRS. BUSH: We have -- we own different sets. This is this gold set that is so magnificent. Tell us about this set, Bill.
MR. ALLMAN: It's kind of a mix-and-match. The forks were made in the 1890s. The spoons were copied from spoons from the Monroe and Jackson era that had survived in the White House in limited numbers. The pearl-handled knives were made in 1920 for the Wilson White House, and then they were all copied in the Truman administration, and again in the Clinton administration to increase the numbers.
MRS. BUSH: And then the silver set that we own, that I don't think is here, is King Charles, isn't that right?
MR. ALLMAN: There's a Gorham pattern called King Charles. It was first acquired in the Nixon administration.
MRS. BUSH: And then what's this one? This is so lovely. Or that's the gold one, as well.
MR. ALLMAN: That's the gold forks from the --
MRS. BUSH: Because we also have -- and I'm sure you've seen the other set of china that says -- that's engraved, "The President's House" -- other set of silver, rather, that's engraved, "The President's House." And what is that?
MR. ALLMAN: The Minuet -- the international Minuet pattern that came in the Coolidge administration.
Q What do the dinner plates spell on the back of them? Can you hold one up?
MRS. BUSH: What do these dinner plates --
Q Yes, the news ones.
MRS. BUSH: Sure, let's see. This is the charger that has the seal, and then the dinner plate doesn't. It says "The White House 2008 Lenox, made in the U.S.A." There's one more thing that I can't read because I don't have on -- what's that word right there?
MR. ALLMAN: Oh, that's the Lenox copyright.
MRS. BUSH: Lenox copyright.
MR. ALLMAN: Just a copyright symbol.
MRS. BUSH: So it has the date.
Q You don't get to use any of this back in Texas? (Laughter.)
MRS. BUSH: We don't get to take any of it back to Texas. It's made here for the White House. I hope, but I'm not sure we managed to do this, that we can take -- we won't take this, though we ordered a few place settings for the Bush library, for the archives.
Q For the library.
Q Crate and Barrel will have it.
MRS. BUSH: Crate and Barrel. (Laughter.) These are all made especially for the White House. They won't -- you won't see them anywhere else, they're only made for the White House. And that's part of the complication, I think, is that they are specially made. Lenox makes these special sets for the White House and I think maybe for some other heads of state from other countries. But it's a really different process, and they're not available to anyone else.
Q Thank you very much.
MRS. BUSH: Thanks, everybody. Appreciate it.
END 9:31 A.M. EST