National Geographic : 1961 Jan
NATIONALGEOGRAPHICPHOTOGRAPHERTHOMASNEBBIA © N.G.S. "Little Fort Knox," the Gold Room Stores a Glowing Treasure President Monroe started the White House gold collection with French flatware; a place setting shows on page 17. Two decades later Whig orator Charles Ogle used the flatware to attack President Van Buren. "Your house glitters," he thundered in Congress, "with all imaginable luxuries and gaudy ornaments." Nonetheless, Presidents and First Ladies continued to add golden plates, goblets, vases, and bowls. In 1956 Mrs. Eisenhower's close friend, the late Mrs. Margaret Thompson Biddle, left to the White House her priceless vermeil (gold fired into silver), made in Europe between 1700 and 1900. Flower containers and decorative pieces such as the knights in armor add glitter to the State Dining Room when chiefs of state are entertained. Frenchmen, who invented the vermeil proc ess, cleaned objects of this kind in champagne.