Wednesday, September 7, 2011

the Buchanan White House

When AL came to the White House in 1861, it had been decorated by President Buchanan's niece, and was a little the worse for wear. The above picture is a drawing of a Buchanan reception held in the East Room for ministers of, I believe, Japan. The carpet, although expensive woven Brussels wool, was very bright, containing gold and orange as well as red and deeper colors. The drapes were a darker red, and there was a lot of gilding on the woodwork. Mary Lincoln thought a more subdued approach would be fitting for the Lincoln East Room, but nothing had been done about redecorating (after all, the Southern states were dropping out of the Union daily, and there was Fort Sumter . . .) by May 24. Elmer Ellsworth lay in state in the East Room for most of the 25th--the first civilian so honored. Nevertheless, it was Buchanan's East Room as far as decorative touches were concerned. Ellsworth's bier was hastily made of raw wood and covered with cloth. The casket, with a glass window on the top half of the lid (smaller picture to the left--not EE's casket, but similar) was laid on the bier for viewing through the glass window over Ellsworth's face.

Just seeing these images is so helpful in creating a mental picture of the past.


  1. I believe this is the embassy from Japan pictured here. Their appearances here and in NYC were widely covered by the illustrated weeklies. Anthony issued several stereo views of their reception in New York.

  2. I agree with you, and thanks! It is Japan. My interest in the Buchanan East Room was Ellsworth-centered, so when I was looking for images and descriptions, this came up. When I looked at the men closely (after I had posted, of course!), I could see easily that their dress looked more Oriental than Indian. Thanks as well for reading my blog. Please join! Keep my facts from wandering--!

  3. Meg, this is great. i look forward to seeing more.