Perfectly timed to coincide with election season, a massive single-owner private collection of White House Presidential, First Lady and First Family mementos, memorabilia and gifts — gathered by a man who worked at the White House from the Truman through the Reagan administrations — was sold at auction Friday, October 12, by Great Gatsby’s Auction Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia.
Bonner Arrington was a carpenter at the White House for 33 years, and during his time there he had unique and direct access to the most powerful office-holder in the world. Involved in all of the day-to-day maintenance and special events that occurred within the public and private rooms of the White House, Arrington began, early on, to proudly cherish every small memento that came his way while doing a job that, as a poor boy from Covington, Va., he never dreamed possible.
The collection was consigned by Arrington’s grandson, Johnny Lloyd of Atlanta. “Even if it wasn’t a presidential election year, this collection would still attract enormous attention,” said Marie Kowalik, president of Great Gatsby’s Auction Gallery. “It’s quite literally a historical timeline of 20th century White House history.”
Mr. Arrington’s grandson has stories of his own to share, from walking in awe as a small boy through the halls of the White House holding onto his granddad’s hand, to later years when his grandfather would tell him of building the bier for President Kennedy’s coffin so that it might lay in state in the East Room of the White House, to happier times of building the gazebo for Tricia Nixon’s White House wedding.
Highlights of the sale included a wide variety of memorabilia collected during the terms of Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan.
Among the most unusual pieces in the sale were a rocking chair from the Roosevelt administration, slated for the trash, the underside with a plaque inscribed: “Executive Mansion, Theodore Roosevelt” (it was President Roosevelt himself who renamed the Executive Mansion the “White House”); and a small piece of burned wood post removed from the White House in 1950 during the Truman administration, when President Truman had the entire interior of the then structurally unstable White House gutted for restoration and remodeling (this burned post is believed to have survived the White House fire of 1814 set by British soldiers and carries a bronze plaque that reads, “Original White House Material Removed in 1950”).
The auction was held in Great Gatsby’s 60,000 square foot gallery located at 5180 Peachtree Industrial Boulevard in Atlanta. To learn more about Great Gatsby’s, please log on to www.greatgatsbys.com.