Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In Respectful Memoriam

I was hesitant to set a table and label it a tribute to the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. There have been countless beautiful and moving observances, memorials, and commemerations over the past few days, and I wasn't sure I should take on such a formidable challenge. But how could I not?

As I set the table and took photographs on September 11, 2011, I was ever mindful of what had transpired ten years earlier. I'm certain we all remember where we were, how we learned of the tragic events, and how we felt (and still feel) about what took place that day.

Since I'm not good at remembering numbers, I searched online for statistics regarding loss of human life that day. Here's what I found:

"The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 by al-Qaeda resulted in 2,996 immediate (attack time) deaths, including the 19 hijackers and 2,977 victims. 372 foreign nationals (excluding the nineteen perpetrators) perished in the attacks, representing just over 12% of the total. The immediate deaths include 246 victims on the four planes (from which there were no survivors), 2,606 in New York City in the towers and on the ground, and 125 at the Pentagon. About 292 people were killed at street level by burning debris and falling bodies of those who had jumped from the World Trade Center's windows. All the deaths in the attacks were civilians except for 55 military personnel killed at the Pentagon. Some immediate victims were not added to the list until years later."

And the following that reminds us the United States didn't suffer alone:

"More than 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks on the World Trade Center."

As I worked, I reflected on the terrible consequences that have occurred during the intervening years -- the loss of both civilian and military lives, the devastating injuries, the hardships all sides have endured.

I chose to use American tableware. The water glasses are Fostoria's best-known pattern, the ever-popular "American."
I teamed them with a lesser-known companion pattern, "American Lady." "Lady" paired blown-glass bowls with pressed stems that match the "American" cubist pattern.
The flatware is "La Scala" by Gorham. Dinner plates are "Monroe" from the Lenox Presidential Collection.
A few weeks ago, I purchased a stack of gold-rimmed salad plates at an area antiques mall. The plates feature the seal of the United States Department of Defense. A few of them substitute the words, "Secretary of Defense" for "Department of Defense."
They vary slightly, but all were made by U.S. companies: Lenox, Gorham, Pickard, and Castleton.
The ones by Castleton are lighter in color and feature a gold line just inside the gold outer band. The seals are larger on the Lenox and Gorham plates. I think they're all similar enough to use interchangably.

I searched for information on the Pentagon's website about heraldry in the U. S. Military. Here's part of what I found:

An American bald eagle with wings displayed horizontally grasping three crossed arrows and bearing on its breast a shield of thirteen pieces Argent and Gules, a chief Azure. Above the eagle an arc of thirteen stars with alternating rays. Below the eagle is a wreath of laurel to dexter and olive to sinister. On an encircling band the inscription "DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE" at the top and "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" at the bottom.

The American bald eagle, long associated with symbolism representing the United States of American and its military establishment, has been selected as an emblem of strength. The eagle is defending the United States, represented by the shield of thirteen pieces. The thirteen pieces are joined together by the blue chief, representing the Congress. The rays and stars above the eagle signify glory, while the three arrows are collectively symbolic of the three component parts of the Department of Defense. The laurel stands for honors received in combat defending the peace represented by the olive branch.

The seal was originally approved on 8 October 1947 by the President for the National Military Establishment. The designation was changed to Department of Defense on 15 August 1949.

The bread plates, made by the Homer Laughlin company, feature the seal of the Department of the Navy. I purchased them (at a different antiques mall) a couple of years ago, thinking I'd use them someday to set a table with a patriotic theme. Viewed closely, the eagle is holding an anchor. The outer band is a rope design, and the inner one appears to represent a chain.

Unlike the bone china salad plates, these smaller dishes have the look of restaurant ware. Perhaps they were intended for use on ships, rather than in formal dining rooms.

I enjoy collecting vintage glass swans, and I used several on today's table. Most were probably manufactured by the Duncan & Miller Company. The process of creating each of their sleek, stylized swans required 14 craftsman.
In my mind, they're representing ships -- a feathery flotilla, a peaceful armada ...
The little blue one is probably my favorite.
The white feathers are sections of a boa I purchased at Jo-Ann fabrics for this table. I put cotton balls under the feathers to give them additional height.
Colorful blown glass swans, like the one below, are often represented as being Italian (Murano), but several companies in the United States made them as well. I found this one at Goodwill. It held a dusty, faded arrangement of "silk" flowers (which I promptly discarded).

I wedged a piece of dry floral foam in the opening, added feathers, and inserted zebra grass plumes to create a quick, inexpensive centerpiece.

I used several Fostoria "Baroque" candleholders. Their shape makes me think of crashing waves.
A Fostoria "American" mayonnaise bowl and underplate provide additional sparkle.
The napkins and napkin rings (of indeterminate origin) came from a local estate sale.
More "Defense" plates will be used when it's time for dessert and coffee. The cups and saucers are "Gotham" by Theodore Haviland (marked "made in America").
The Theodore Haviland "Concorde" coffee pot is also American, made during the time the company transferred operations from France to the United States before, during, and for several years after World War II.

When using off-white dishes with gold decoration, mixing a variety patterns can work beautifully.

I placed a Cambridge "Caprice" bowl and underplate on the chest. As with the "Baroque" pieces, "Caprice" reminds me of waves and cascading water.
I didn't wait for darkness to fall to begin lighting candles.

The candles are Patrician, made by Candle Artisans of Washington, New Jersey. The color is "quince."

In religion, particularly Christianity, a white feather is often interpreted as a message card from heaven, brought by angels. It is seen as a sign of peace and a message from a departed loved one in heaven, affirming that they are well.

An apocryphal story I found:

In 1775, Quakers in a Friends meeting house in Easton, New York, were faced by a tribe of Indians on the warpath. Rather than flee, the Quakers fell silent and waited. The Indian chief came into the meeting house and, finding no weapons, he declared the Quakers to be friends. On leaving he took a white feather from his quiver and attached it to the door as a sign to leave the building unharmed.

Thank you for your visit.
Please join Susan of Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursdays.


  1. The part about the feathers got to me.. under my skin, in my heart and lifted up in prayer. How beautiful is that. The feathers add so much to your table.. gorgeous. I love all your gold rimmed plates, the Monroe Lenox is one of my favorites, so elegant and demure it still makes a very stately appearance! This is a very touching and lovely tribute to this country and it's stamina and strength and to those who lost their lives that day. God Bless you Bill, with all my heart.. xo marlis - oh super great table!!!

  2. Loved every part of this tablescape. I wonder how the defense dept plates wound up in TN! Beautiful and calming.
    Beckie in Brentwood, TN

  3. Beautiful table as always--love the Defense plates! And also a beautiful tribute! We were affected gravely/personally by 9/11 and I'm so glad that years later people take the time to honor those lost! You did it in a spectacularly beautiful way!


  4. This is the most ideal way to remember... I absolutely adore the table, and I find it so touching that you decided to do this. The decor and the setting is stunning as always!


  5. Hi Bill,
    you made a great work with this tribute to all the victims of 9/11. This tablesetting is woven with respectfull and loving thoughts to all those lost persons and to their families.
    Best greetings, Johanna

  6. This is a beautiful table and you put so much thought into it. How perfect and interesting to have the government china. I think you did this tribute beautifully.

  7. Beautiful tribute. Just beautiful!

  8. Bill, your table is gorgeous...what a special tribute.

  9. Beautiful post...beautiful table. The crystal is just gorgeous, Bill. Love the zebra grass centerpiece.

  10. Very tasteful table and explanation of traditions. What a wonderful find the plates with Defense Department seals on them are. Thank you for your research and for sharing.

  11. Beautifully done Bill. Your table is gorgous. I love the use of the boa in the swan, thank you for your research and for sharing... very informative.. hugs ~lynne~

  12. Hi Bill, I've been following your posts for about a month. Everything you do is so amazing. This table setting is beautiful. I retired from the DoD after 36 years service much of which was with the Navy. I loved seeing the defense china! I also loved the feathers and the swans.I want to make a wreath this Christmas from feathers but wasn't sure where to find the feathers. Now I know where to get them!

  13. A very pretty table -- and what novel dishes!!! A fitting tribute to the occasion.

  14. Oh, Bill! This is splendid. Absolutely splendid. I am awestruck by every bit of it. You put your heart and soul into this tablescape, making it a fine and fitting tribute to the memory of those lives lost in the tragedy. Using the graceful swans with the white feathers is just unbelievably fabulous. I am so glad you gave the back story on that so everyone will know. VERY clever to cushion the feathers with cotton balls! The "crashing waves" of the candlesticks is genius! I see you used the china!!! Hooray!!! It's so neat, Bill, and you just cannot deny it's appeal. This is truly regal, yet comes with head bowed. The use of all-American details is wonderful. "Made in America" is becoming harder and harder to find anymore! This table just goes to show that it isn't necessarily necessary to go all red, white and blue to express patriotism, nor is it necessarily necessary to go all black to express the mourning of a great loss. Beautiful! (P.S. - I don't know how, but somehow I wasn't following you! I wondered why I didn't get your last post, and then when I saw I didn't have this one in my email box, either, I checked and found out I was no longer following. Weird. I don't know what I did, but I'm back on track now!)

  15. Dear Bill, This is a lovely table with a great deal of thought behind it.
    I'm without words concerning 911. 10 years have passed and oh how we have all changed.
    God bless,

  16. At first when I looked at the table it looked like it could be set for a State dinner. What a wonderful table full of meaningful pieces. Truly lovely and hopefully the white feather will mean peace for us too.

  17. How exquisite Bill. What a beautiful tribute. Terri xo

  18. Bill this is truly lovely. The gold rimmed Seal plates with the Monroe Presidential Collection plates provide a respectful stately statement. Bringing in the names like Haviland, Fostoria and Duncan & Miller pays tribute to the pride in America. The stories about the white feathers are touching and I will always remember them. It is very sobering to read the statistics of the massive loss of life that day. Thank-you for your informative and respectful tribute.

  19. Bill:

    Such an incredible tribute, such detail. Not to mention the fact that these are from your astounding collection. Just wonderful.

    - The Tablescaper

  20. Your thoughtfulness and resourcefulness are as usual evident in the whole tablescape. You put such effort into setting a beautiful table.
    A very touching post.

  21. So beautifully and thoughtfully composed. Thank you for sharing.

  22. Bill - I hesitate to even try to put into words what is valued and touching and meaningful in this post, lest I somehow dimish it, yet there are so many critical and beautiful points to be mentioned: all made in the USA, the white feathers, the facts about the event, the honor and respect. I will simply say that this creation is worthy of formal recognition or award. Thank you, Bill, for this masterful tribute.

  23. A very touching and heartfelt tribute Bill.

  24. Very honorable tribute!

  25. Absolutely beautiful. All the made in AMerica dinnerware and your interpretation and use of decorative elements to convey "USA" themes is stunning. Love the plates with the official seal - fabulous find! A wonderful tribute.

    I also have a question about the Haviland platter on your side table. Do you have this china as well? This was my mother's pattern which I inherited from her.

  26. Such detail! The feathers are an interesting interpretation. LOVE the Defense plates and the American manufacturers. Beautiful tribute.

  27. A lovely tribute, very appropriate and heartfelt. And that's what matters, that it comes from the heart.
    The table is beautiful.
    I never knew that story about the Friends in NY, and I taught NY history for many years. Learn something new everyday.

  28. Wonderful table, wonderful tribute. Everything shimmered... your photos and your words...

  29. I am so deeply moved emotionally by this loving tribute, you've made me cry! Such a respectful & touching representation of all the happened that awful day.

    The feathers are a wonderfully expressive addition & a very unique idea. I had never heard that story about the Quakers, but I DO know they are very Peaceful people.


  30. Oh Bill -- I'm in love with this beautiful table. I think your table of peace swans are so perfect for this tribute table. What wonderful china you found -- real treasures.

  31. What a beautiful tribute to 9-11 using everything made in the USA as it used to be in those days! I'm so happy to see this gorgeous tablescape with such lovely swans everything...MADE IN USA!! Thank you for this fabulous idea and for all you taught us about that awful and tragic day which we'll never forget! I'm very moved by your lovely post dear Bill, thank you so much for sharing it with us.
    Many blessings to you and God bless America.

  32. Gorgeous and original design concept. The feathers add an unexpected soft touch to the graphic lines of the military chinas. The Cambridge centerpiece bowl is really special. I cried most of last week watching coverage of 9/11. We must never forget. Thank you for sharing your inspirational design. Cherry Kay

  33. I really like the story of the feathers! Once again, your table is exquisite, do I sound like a broken record??? Wonderful idea to use American dishes etc. Thank you! XO, Pinky

  34. Thank you Bill for the beautiful tribute and reflection of the events of 9/11. The history behind the thought and choices you made were wonderful to read. As always you did magnificent work.

  35. Bill, this is so beautiful! I didn't realize you collected the ones you showed in this wonderful tablescape. Gorgeous crystal stemware and I love the salad plates with the seal. I've never seen any like those...what a treasure!

  36. What a lovely tribute! What a beautiful table! Your choices are so thoughtful and sensitive and the feathers are a perfect - although unexpected touch!

  37. Such a thoughtfully styled table! Wonderful, meaningful selection of every element. And that black swan centerpiece is just lovely!

  38. Bill, I never come away from looking at your tablescapes that I don't feel as though I've studied at the feet of a master. This table was so touching, so moving, such a wonderful tribute. I loved the swans. When I first saw them I thought, "These look Heaven sent!" but I thought I was just being overly sentimental. When I saw your explanation, I was thrilled. I lost my mom a year ago and I like to believe that she leaves pennies around for me that I find ("Pennies from Heaven"). Now I will start looking for white feathers! Thank you so much for creating one of the most beautiful tablescapes I've seen and one that touched me to my very soul.

  39. Hi Bill,

    As is always the case, your table is elegant, timeless and full of beauty but this is truly special. It is moving, paired with the explanations of events, traditions, etc.
    I think if for those who read what you wrote and not just look at the photos they will pause, feel, and reflect upon 9/11. Very touching, very unique, and very beautiful tribute.


  40. What a beautiful and unique way to pay tribute to our fallen countrymen and all the other innocents lost that day.
    This shows that we can find and put together beautiful tables with all American pieces.
    I have a fondness for Homer Laughlin because I don't mind putting it in the dishwasher. It is so neat that you were able to find the Dept/Secy of Defense plates from various makers.
    The sentiment expressed in the white feathers touches one's heart. Thank you for sharing the story of the peaceful Quakers.
    My older daughter and I will be in NYC in October. We have secured two passes to visit the 9/11 Memorial. The passes were to be mailed today. I won't believe it til I have them in my hand. I have visited the site twice and I want to see it in a more peaceful light. If that is possible.
    Thanks for your beautiful execution of this serene and meaningful tribute. Ginger

  41. A beautiful tribute, Bill. The swans with the feathers are stunning. This is such a heartfelt post, and so respectful and inspiring! I've always loved the American by Fostoria, such a classic! You've thought of every detail, not only for a gorgeous table but a lovely way to honor our country.

  42. Hello Bill:
    Forgive us, please, for arriving so late at the table, so to speak, but we have been away from both Budapest and the computer for a few days and are still in the process of catching up on favourite blogs.

    This is a most fitting, and beautiful, tribute to all those who lost their lives in the attack on the World Trade Centre on September 11th. ten years ago, and also for all those who have suffered, and presently so do, on account of the most despicable acts of terrorism which continue to be perpetrated throughout the world.

    Your table setting is restrained and so very carefully chosen, as befits the occasion, with the white feathers not so much symbolising cowardice, as once they did, but peace and prosperity for which we all pray. The inclusion of the china from the Ministry of Defence is so appropriate to the occasion, as it is lovely, in its simplicity of white and gold.

  43. Ooh, ooh... this one I LOVE!!!
    And a beautiful tribute, too.

    We also remember those whose lives have been affected by the clean-up, as well. Many first responders and residents near Ground Zero are now battling respiratory illnesses and even cancer.

    Again, thank you for the info about the dishes, glassware, etc. I always learn so much when visiting. NOW I know what some of the dishes may be in MY cabinets. ...Karen

  44. Bill, this table is just breathtaking. Absolutely breathtaking. I loved every detail and every word. You really did justice to not only your beautiful accoutrements but to the memory of our fallen, too. We lost one of Mr. Magpie's business associates in the Towers. He was a volunteer firefighter, and he ran from the office to the Towers to help. He was found months later with a group of New York's finest. He is forever my hero.

    I love the swans. They are lovely. The whole table is. Great job!



  45. Bill, You table is wonderful! Thank you for an excellent tribute!

  46. Hi Bill, how have you been? Your table is gorgeous as usual!! Love it all! Love, ~Nana~

  47. This is beautiful. Really such a loving, thoughtful tribute. It brought tears to my eyes. Living in New York you forget that it also affected the rest of the country, the rest of the world in such a profound way. I think we have a tendency to believe that everyone else just wants to forget.
    I loved reading everything you had to say. And I especially loved how you mentioned the feathers and peace, and also the swans and ships. I just read recently about the great boat lift, and how that was the only means of transportation (other than walking) off the island of Manhattan on 9/11, so anyone and everyone that operated a boat turned toward lower Manhattan, and so began the rescue.

    Thanks so much for visiting me, Bill, it was a nice surprise to see a comment from you. I haven't been to my other blog in so long, and haven't done any tablescapes in over a year, the blog you visited is just sort of a very self-centered "all about me' blog.
    I so appreciated your kind words, and I loved hearing about your Mom, and I remember well your beautiful tablescape with your Family Bible.

    Your name is often mentioned in our home, for we still enjoy "Bill's Mojitos" very much! In fact, my husband now grows mint in our side yard for that very purpose.
    All the best to you, Eileen

  48. Has anyone told you today that you are the greatest thing since sliced bread? Well, you are! Not only your tablescapes that are superb, but you... the courtly gentleman we all have come to love. Civility, thy name is Bill!

    Thank you for your sweet comments. They, and YOU, are so appreciated...



  49. Sorry I'm just now commenting... I really enjoyed the blog post, full of lots of info. My heart was very still and quiet as I scrolled through your pictures. The plates were PERFECT. Even before I saw the seal I thought they were so reverent and stately. I love the sparkling crystal. A very gorgeous piece.