Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lemonade Lucy

Lucy Hayes earned a nickname of “Lemonade Lucy” for banning all liquor from the White House in support of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. While Sarah Polk banned liquor, she allowed wine. Lucy didn’t even want that, but bowed to the Secret of State, yet the ensuing debacle meant she got her way in the end:
She [Lucy] proposed banning all liquor and wine from White House events, but the secretary of state objected that foreign dignitaries expected to enjoy wine with their meals.

Against her better judgment, Lucy deferred to the State Department. The result was a calamity for social drinkers. The first foreign guests to be entertained at the Hayes White House were Russians, a nationality known at the time for hard drinking and alcoholic excesses.

The state dinner for Grand Dukes Alexis and Constantine began elegantly enough. Flowers decorated the reception, in the halls and on the dining tables, where oval mirrors, meant to resemble the clear reflecting surface of a tranquil lake, were set along with Sevres china. The mirrors at the center were surrounded by ferns and vines, with mound of fruit intended to look like foothills. At each end were glazed cakes decorated with azaleas and tea roses.

The Marine Band played the Russian anthem as Lucy led Grand Duke Alexis into the reception. The secretary of state’s wife took Constantine in tow. What happened next has been never been completely chronicled, but the Russian guests became inebriated and a scene ensured. It was the last straw.

The Hayeses never even served wine at their entertainments after that, although it has been reported that sympathetic White House stewards would secretly spike the punch of guests with alcohol upon request.

Source: Rating the First Ladies by John B Roberts, pg. 142

As a note, this is a pretty good book.

No comments: