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Dessert Plate

From the state dinner and dessert service of Abraham Lincoln (President 1861-1865)

Artist/maker unknown, French, for export to the American market

Made in France, Europe



Hard paste porcelain, lead glaze, enamel and gilded decoration

1 x 8 9/16 inches (2.5 x 21.7 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

* Gallery 206, American Art, second floor (McNeil Gallery)

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of the McNeil Americana Collection, 2006

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Additional information:
  • PublicationAmerican Presidential China: The Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
    President, 1861-65

    Mary Todd Lincoln (1818-1882) selected two large state dinner and dessert services during the Lincoln administration. She was apparently the first First Lady to play such an assertive role in choosing furnishings for the White House.

    During a visit to E. V. Haughwout’s emporium in New York in May 1861, Mrs. Lincoln selected the second of two patterns intended for presidential use that Haughwout and Dailey had exhibited at the New York Exhibition in the Crystal Palace in 1853. The border pattern was called “Alhambra” in the 1853 catalogue, while the newly fashionable solferino color had been named by the French in honor of their recent victory over the Austrians near the Italian town of that name. The initial order comprised 658 pieces for serving dinner, breakfast, tea, and dessert with additional centerpieces and punch bowls. Haughwout subsequently supplied Mary Lincoln with a “toilet set” in the same pattern, although these bedroom pieces were differentiated by quatrefoil and tassel motifs.1

    The 1861 Lincoln service remained in use for most of the nineteenth century, with replacements as well as supplementary forms added by subsequent administrations. The Andrew Johnson administration placed an order with E. V. Haughwout in 1866 for 391 pieces that may have included the dessert dish and 7 5/16-inch plate. In 1873, Julia Grant ordered 275 pieces of “violet and gold, coat of arms” through J. W. Boteler and Brother of Washington, D.C., including 72 “cups and saucers on Foot.” Another “2 1/2 doz. dishes, purple and Gold with U.S. Coat of Arms” was delivered by Boteler to the Chester Arthur administration in 1884.2

    Reproductions of the Lincoln service on hard-paste French porcelain, most likely Limoges, were made in the nineteenth century, probably for the Centennial Exposition in 1876. These are marked “Administration Abraham Lincoln.” Susan Gray Detweiler, from American Presidential China: The Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2008), p. 48.

    1) Susan Gray Detweiler, American Presidential China, exh. cat. (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1975), p. 47.
    2) Klapthor, Margaret Brown, et al. Official White House China. 2d ed. New York: Harry N. Abrams, pp. 90, 99, 125.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.