This lovely Blue Canton China Dinner Plate was used by the first presidential couple George and Martha Washington on the many occasions that they entertained at home. Committed to protocol and following European Royal traditions the first lady and her husband did not dine in private residences other than their own. This tradition put particular emphasis and importance on their in-house dining ritual and as a result great care and consideration was taken in picking out the best linens, cutlery and table service for their dinner parties and for everyday use. The Washington's had a preference for Blue Canton China and owned a number of different patterns of this particular style.
Blue and white Chinese porcelain, much like the present example, was in demand well into the 19th century, and has continued to be popular as a symbol of heritage for many American families. The most fashionable tables in the early American Republic were set with blue and white Canton ware, so called because of the great Chinese trading port of its origin. Blue and white Canton ware was both prized as elegant enough for formal occasions and durable enough for everyday china and was used daily in the Mount Vernon home of the first lady and the president.
This particular dinner plate has been authenticated in a letter by the curator of the Mount Vernon collection as a plate formerly owned by Eleanor Custis Lewis of Woodlawn Plantation. Mrs. Lewis was the granddaughter of Martha Washington and she was raised by the Washingtons following her father's death. At the time of Martha Washington's death, Mrs. Lewis inherited "all the blue and white china in common use." This service almost certainly included many pieces of the "Table China fine blue and white" shipped to Mt. Vernon in April of 1763 as well as the "27 Dishes" purchased by the president in 1783 from tavern keeper Samuel Fraunces in New York. The curator of the Mt. Vernon collection, Carole Borchert Cadou, described this particular dinner plate as "a stellar example in a remarkable state of preservation."
Eleanor Parke Lewis
H.L.D. Lewis (the great-granddaughter of Martha)
Thos. Birch's Sons, Auctioneers, Philadelphia, December 15, 1891, Lot 143
Joseph E. Fields, II
Hendershott Museum Consultants
These plates have been exhibited at the following museums:Portland Art Museum, Portland Oregon "The Art of Independence" (1997)
Museum of Stonybrook, Stonybrook, New York. Traveling Exhibition "George Washington: American Symbol" (2/6/99- 5/31/99)
Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania (6/11/99 -1/27/2000)
Museum of Our National Heritage, Lexington, Massachusetts (10/99 -2/2000)
James A. Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania. "Picturing Washington: Icons and Images of America's Founding Father" (9/25/99 -1/2/2000)
Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum, West Branch, Iowa. "Revolutionary America! 1763-1789" (4/20/02 - 10/3/02)
St. Bonaventure University, Olean, New York. "Glorious Lessons: The Idea of America" (9/24/04- 3/20/05)
The Mahwah Museum, Mahwah, New Jersey. "March to Victory: In the American Revolution" (9/9/06 - 12/16/06)
Herbert A. Hoover Presidential Library, West Branch, Iowa. "American Mysteries, Riddles and Controversies " (4/21/ 07 - 10/28/07)
Midwest Genealogy Library, Independence, Missouri. "Roots of a Nation"- "The Harkins Collection" (Summer 2011)