As you may have heard by now, Lady Bird Johnson has passed away. You can read all about her life history, her personality and her accomplishments elsewhere on the internet and in the print media, but where do you go if you want to know about her dinnerware? That’s right, people – as we like to say on the shopping mall maps: YOU ARE HERE.
“Lady Bird Johnson and her staff worked very closely with Tiffany and Company of New York City on the design and the china was manufactured by Castleton China, Inc. Like First Lady Caroline Harrison, Lady Bird Johnson was personally involved in the design of the Johnson china. Mrs. Johnson combined her main cause, beautification and conservation of the country’s landscape with the history of White House china. The pieces feature the eagle motif first designed for the Monroe china, and the porcelain was decorated with wildflowers found throughout the United States. There were over forty different wildflowers represented on different pieces of china. Again with a tribute to nineteenth century history, she had dessert plates made featuring the state flower of each fifty states. The floral decals on original dessert plates did not meet Mrs. Johnson’s final approval, so the flower designs were hand painted on each plate, delaying the completion of the china until the summer of 1972.” Party Politics, firstladies.org
Her influence regarding wildflowers went beyond the roadsides, parks and public land – she got them onto the White House china which means that space-suited schoolchildren of the future will be reading about them long after the billboards and wild onions have resumed their terrifying return to roadside domination. The pictures here don’t do it justice at all. It’s on display in the Johnson Library in Austin and thank goodness I was allowed to stand at gawk at it as long as I wanted to because only moments before, I was rudely torn away from the “Dessert Plates of the First Ladies” for sale in the museum gift shop.
Overall, my perpetual host in Texas is a gracious host and extremely accommodating, but over time I have bumped up against the limits of his hospitality, and they are these:
- will not shop for knock-off pocketbooks with me
- will disregard your concern about hair-dos and delicate skin tone if he wants to drive you around in his sporty little convertible under the hot Texas sun
- has no tolerance for gift shops
- won’t watch The Thornbirds with me
So, sadly, I was not able to purchase a dessert plate which I didn’t need, does not match anything else I have, but did indeed covet. It’s America, isn’t it? Don’t we have the inalienable right to pile up as many dishes as we want to? Let’s see them try that in Russia.
Anyway, Lady Bird Johnson. She gave the impression of being a total cream puff, but was able to impose floral patterned china with a girly yellow background on old Lyndon. Even Nancy Reagan couldn’t do that and Ronnie was totally whipped.