At one of the reenactments I attended I signed my Civil War books inside the gift shop at the event venue. There I found the most delightful “little something.” I bought a dozen to save for hostess gifts for future trips. I gave away the last one to last weekend’s hostess. The “little something” is a tiny replica of Mrs. Lincoln’s dinner plate.
Mary Todd Lincoln was the first First Lady to take an assertive role in choosing china and other furnishings for the White House. After discovering Mrs. Pierce’s china had many broken and chipped pieces and too few, she realized the need for more dishes for state dinners. She went to New York and ordered 190 pieces from E.V. Haugwout & Company.
In the center of the plate is an eagle holding a red, white and blue shield and a banner that reads E Pluribus Unum. The border is a purplish red which was a fashionable new shade in 1861, called Soliferno. It’s edged with gold and white twisted rope. This same pattern was ordered several times in later years as more dishes were needed. The dishes were enjoyed by First Families for about one hundred years.
It’s an appropriate gift as I was usually visiting for the Civil War Sesquicentennial wearing period clothing, selling Civil War books. The little dinner plate has a ribbon attached, so it can hang on a Christmas tree or cabinet knob. I’ve removed the ribbon on mine and use it as a tea bag dish or spoon holder.
Every one I’ve given away has brought such pleasure, I doubt if an expensive bottle of wine or a box of chocolates would have been received with as much surprise and joy. It’s unusual and no one had seen one before. My mother always said, “The best things come in small packages.” It’s not a typical souvenir, not made in China, and an unlikely hostess gift. Perhaps that’s why it’s so appreciated and cherished, as well as appropriate, given by this history writer.
I need to replenish my stock! Now if I can only remember where I was when I found them.