The Truman china service in use in 1967 (Johnson Library)
Dinner for 140
The ground floor China Room is where the White House collection of china is kept. Even the earliest presidents received government funds to purchase state china. However, by a special clause in the appropriation bills, "decayed furnishings" could be sold and the proceeds used to buy replacements. Such "furnishings" included state china, and during the 19th century the cupboards were frequently swept clean and the contents carted off to auction. The money could then be used to order a new china service that better suited the president and his family.
Even into the 20th century, White House china was often given away if it was chipped or broken. Later, Congress passed a law that required that all presidential china be kept or destroyed. When new dessert plates for the Johnson administration turned out badly, the White House staff smashed it against a basement wall painted with caricatures of the president's assistants.
Today, nearly all presidents are represented in the china collection one way or another. And full services suitable for state dinners exist for the B Harrison, Wilson, FD Roosevelt, Truman, L Johnson, Reagan, and Clinton sets, although the older sets are much smaller than the newer ones and cannot be used for the largest events. Replacement pieces are occasionally ordered for these, as pieces become chipped or broken.
George W Bush (formal, 320 settings)
John Quincy Adams