Library

The Blair House Library houses over 1,500 books on the history and culture of the United States and other countries. Foreign delegations often present Blair House with books about their homelands. A selection of these important diplomatic gifts, many signed by current and former heads of state, is always on display to convey that America values the international friendships they represent and respects the history and culture of other nations.

Photograph by Durston Saylor 2016 / Copyright White House Historical Association

Library
  • Liverpool Jug, 1798

    Decorated English creamware jugs of this type, often called “Liverpool,” were popular collectibles of the day. Their black transfer motifs commemorated American patriotic themes and other ceremonial events. This very large jug, one of seven in the Blair family collections, features gilt decor and the names “Tho[mas] & Mary Buntin”—a fitting gift to honor the couple's marriage on August 19, 1798, in Newburyport, Essex, Massachusetts.

  • Marble Mantel, 19th century

    This neoclassical, Italian marble mantel has a fluted frieze divided by paterae over a golden yellow marble surround flanked by female figures modeled after Antonio Canova’s 1822 sculpture Dancer. Gist Blair had the Library remodeled in 1920; he and his wife likely purchased the mantel during a trip abroad that year.

  • Argand Garniture Lamps c.1840

    A rare garniture of three gilt and patinated bronze Argand oil lamps retailed by J. & I. Cox, New York, NY, and owned by the Blairs, feature urn-shaped fonts with ram head and floral swag ornaments. Patented in 1780 by Aime Argand, such lamps had a cylindrical wick mounted so that air could pass both through the center and around the outside of the wick before being drawn into the chimney. The improved air flow and steadier flame yielded brighter light and less frequent wick trimming. More complex and costly than earlier oil lamps, Argands were very popular until cheaper kerosene lamps emerged in 1850. Now electrified, the central double-light fixture retains its original floral etched glass shades.

  • Portrait of Francis Preston Blair, Jr.

    This somber study of Frank Blair, Jr., painted by popular Washington, D.C. and German-born artist Henry Ulke (1821-1910), is signed and dated 1876, after the subject’s death on July 25, 1875. Henry and his brother Julius Ulke owned a painting and photography studio on Pennsylvania Avenue. At the time of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, the brothers roomed at Petersen’s boarding house across from Ford’s Theatre where the dying president was taken. After Lincoln’s body was removed on April 15, 1865, Henry and Julius photographed the blood-stained bed—one of the most haunting photographs in history.

  • English Globes, 1800–1808

    One of a pair of rare globes — terrestrial and celestial — made by J. and W. Cary of London. Both are gilt bronze, mounted on mahogany tripod supports. The terrestrial globe shows the tracks of Captain Cook’s voyages. They are original to Blair House.

  • First Families Book Collection

    Two glass-enclosed bookcases contain a donated collection of books signed by U.S. Presidents and First Ladies since the establishment of Blair House as the President’s Guest House, as well as various historic photos and presidential memorabilia.