Following President Abraham Lincoln's assassination, Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCulloch, offered President Andrew Johnson his reception room on April 16, 1865, as a temporary Executive office until Mrs. Lincoln sufficiently recovered from her nervous breakdown to vacate the White House. The Office of the Supervising Architects in the Treasury Department had completed their collaboration with Pottier & Stymus to decorate the interior of the Secretary's office and design the furniture in a cohesive patriotic statement only weeks prior to Johnson's occupancy. Images of this emblematic office furniture in Johnson's temporary office were disseminated internationally through visitors and newspaper drawings such as Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's Illustrated newspaper. The furniture in Andrew Johnson's temporary office was crucial in emphasizing the national identity at a decisive moment in United States history following the Civil War and subsequent assassination of President Lincoln through its symbols and Renaissance Revival style, which was prevalent in library and office furniture in the 19th Century. The shields ornamenting the furniture were also portrayed in nationalistic propaganda while the Renaissance Revival style of the furniture associated the current United States of America government with illustrious past republics emphasizing its power, solidity, and longevity. The chapters are: (1) The Treasury Suite Furniture in the Cultural Context of Establishing a National Identity (2) The Pottier & Stymus Commission, (3) Pottier & Stymus and the Renaissance Revival Style Furniture, (4) Shields on the Treasury Furniture Suite, (5) Influence of the Treasury Furniture Suite on Other Government Furniture. The sofa from Johnson's Treasury office is still in the collection at the United States Treasury Department. While not all of the furniture in the room survives, the published drawings and contemporary accounts provide comprehensive knowledge of the room and its influence. These primary and largely unpublished sources are in the United States Treasury Archive and in the Andrew Johnson suite. Further pertinent primary documents, including Supervising Architect of the Treasury, Alfred Mullett's manual containing drawings and construction advice on standardized office and post office furniture, are in the National Archives. Other primary sources and furniture for comparison are accessible in archives in the White House, House of Representatives, Supreme Court, and State Department. While significant scholarly work has been done on Pottier & Stymus in The Magazine Antiques and Herter Brothers: Furniture and Interiors for a Gilded Age, the furniture in Andrew Johnson's office in the Treasury Department have not been written about extensively. Focus has been given to the entire Secretary of the Treasury's Office Suite renovation. However, this thesis is unique as the first material culture study of the importance of the furniture in the Andrew Johnson Reception Room in reinforcing the national identity of the United States of America at a time of crisis.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree of Masters of Arts
Corcoran College of Art + Design (Washington, D.C.)
Masters Theses from the Corcoran College of Art + Design
The Corcoran College of Art + Design has non-exclusive publication rights. Permission is granted to quote from the thesis with the customary acknowledgement of the source. Copyright for each article is retained by the author. Republication in any form requires permission from the author of the thesis.