I’m thinking it would have been pretty cool to be a friend of President Abraham Lincoln.
But not for the obvious reasons.
After viewing a small display of wine glasses at the Richard Nixon Library and Museum (see yesterday’s blog), I wanted to learn more about the history of stemware at the White House.
The display at the Nixon Library indicated that First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy had ended the tradition of ordering engraved stemware. I wondered why, and I’m still wondering; I can’t find any information about her reasoning.
But during my research, I learned that from 1829 through the Kennedy administration, a half-dozen state services had been purchased for use at White House events such as state dinners and receptions.
I also learned that all of the glassware in those six sets had been hand-blown and hand-cut, and included the Great Seal of the United States in various forms. And all had been made in the United States.
No two state services and no two sets of glassware were identical in their makeup. President Jackson’s service, for instance, was engraved with grapevines and leaves, and each setting included two wine glasses and a wine glass-rinsing bowl. I’m sure that made for some enjoyable dinners.
But it was President Lincoln who really knew how to throw a party. Historical documents show that, in 1861, his settings included six wine glasses — one for each course of the meal.
My research also unearthed something else you may not know about President Lincoln: Long before becoming President, he was a partner in a business that sold, among other adult beverages, wine. According to this story, they charged 25 cents for wine, although it wasn’t clear whether that was for a glass or a bottle.
We can probably presume it was for a bottle, since lodging at their diverse business went for 12.5 cents per night, and horses could stay over for a quarter.