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Platter from the Hayes, White House state dinner service, 1880
ID: 72.174.1
Designed by Theodore R. Davis
Made by Haviland & Co. Limoges, France

November 2002

The platter decorated with a turkey was intended for use at state dinners at the White House and would present other foods than roast turkey, but it nicely symbolizes our Thanksgiving traditions. The plate comes from a very large set of dinnerware, each piece depicting in a natural way an American bird, fish, animal or flower. An American artist, Theodore Davis, developed the images from 130 watercolor designs. He also modeled twelve new shapes for plates to be used for special courses.

Elaborate plates and a multitude of eating utensils created a need for etiquette manuals to help the untutored wade their way through a fancy dinner. The dinner service that contained the turkey platter soon lost popularity at the White House. As you might expect, who wants to see the animal you just finished eating in its natural habitat.

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--Henry Prebys, Curator

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