WITH HER FINISHING school manners and keen fashion sense, Eula Wulfjen Kendrick was the perfect foil to John’s down-home cowboy persona. She brought sophistication to the Governors’ Mansion and charmed her husband’s political connections, be they friend or foe.
Like all First Ladies, including her good friends Nellie Tayloe Ross and Louisa David Carey, Eula hosted countless gatherings at the Governors’ Mansion. These ranged from private luncheons for political operatives to public open houses attended by hundreds of Wyomingites. These open houses were especially popular. Following the mansion’s New Year’s event in 1916, at which “a constant procession of callers entered the portals of the mansion,” the society pages were filled with praise for the First Couple:
The cordiality that is one of the most winning characteristics of the hostess seemed to be contagious, and proved so irresistible that a disposition to linger was noticeable. Governor and Mrs. Kendrick have endeared themselves to the public by the many delightful courtesies they have extended, in which the personal factor plays a commendable part.
These same articles would go on to describe - in great detail - the gowns worn by Eula and the other women in attendance at such parties. Eula Kendrick was known for her fashion sense. Her gowns, tailored to fit her petite figure, were exquisitely detailed with lace and embroidery. And while most women enjoyed reading about the dresses, they sometimes got her in trouble:
When her husband became governor of this great state, [Eula Kendrick] traveled to New York City and paid something like $10,000 for the gown. Did that make Kendrick a better Governor?
This 1916 editorial in The Saratoga Sun was a politically-motivated attack that was only partially true; Eula’s inaugural gown did come from New York, but it was purchased for cost at a wholesale house.
DINING AT THE WHITE HOUSE
AFTER MOVING TO Washington D.C. in 1917, Eula did less entertaining at home. Instead, she accepted frequent invitations to the White House from her new First Lady friends, Grace Coolidge and Lou Hoover. Every so often, a thick white envelope would arrive at the Kendricks’ Washington apartment located at the stately Meridian Mansions (2400 Sixteenth Street). Inside would be a card with the Presidential Seal at the top, containing an invitation for dinner at the White House. Eula attended these affairs as often as possible. Although she wasn't much of a cook and didn't eat a great deal, she loved to collect recipes, menus, serving ideas and cooking tips. She kept a notebook filled with notes and doodles depicting how cooks – including the White House chef – garnished and served various dishes.
In 1929, Eula submitted several simple recipes to Washington’s Congressional Club for inclusion in their new cook book. The 770-page tome featured recipes from congressional wives, cabinet officials, First Ladies and members of the diplomatic corps. Lou Henry Hoover, wife of President Herbert Hoover, wrote in the introduction that the intention of the book was to broaden the gastronomical limits of America’s regional kitchens. "It is astonishing," she noted, "how closely each of … us keeps to the food and cooking habits of her own line of ancestry, and how little given to experimenting to see if her neighbors and compatriots near and far have better ways."
From simple Arroz de todos los dias (Honduran “every-day rice”) to exotic Zito (Yugoslavian ceremonial cake), the Congressional Club Cookbook was full of recipes most Americans had never heard of. Fortunately, there were some all-American favorites as well, including Wyoming Governor Nellie Tayloe Ross’s Nut Brownies and Eula Kendrick’s California Orange Cups.
Since the Monroe administration in 1817, dinner at the White House has meant dining off the official White House china. When the Kendricks were first invited in 1917, they ate off the Theodore Roosevelt china – a white English-made Wedgewood pattern featuring the Great Seal of the United States. In 1918, Woodrow Wilson’s new Lenox china was delivered. In a revolutionary departure from precedence, the china featured the arms of the Presidential Seal rather than the Great Seal. It was also the first to be manufactured in America. As one newspaper said,
The proud day has arrived when the White House dining service [was] designed by an American artist, made at an American pottery ... and decorated by American workmen.
Remaining in use until 1935, when it was replaced by another Roosevelt’s china, the Wilson china had 1,700 pieces (about 100 place settings). By today’s standards, that’s not much. The 1982 Reagan china, for example, had 220 19-piece place settings (4,180 dishes), while the George W. Bush china (introduced in 2002) had 320 14-piece place settings (4,480 pieces).
BELIEVE IT OR NOT ...
The White House China was once the subject of controversy. In 1817, the Parisian firm of Dagoty & Honoré manufactured the first White House china solely for presidential use. It was designed specifically for President James Monroe. The thirty place settings and matching dessert service cost the taxpayers $1,167.23. The china was criticized by the press – not for its cost, which was equivalent to about $17,500 in today’s money – but because it was “foreign goods.”
Congress soon passed a law mandating that all furniture and furnishings for the White House, including china, be made in America. Unfortunately, the law was ignored until 1918; it took a century for an American manufacturer – the Lenox Ceramic Art Company of Trenton, New Jersey – to make dishes of high enough quality to compete with those produced in England and France.
Four Wyoming Governors (AHC)
Eula Wulfjen Kendrick (AHC Kendrick Collection, TESHS)
State Historic Site
A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
April 2016 - December 2016