Mamie Eisenhower: Unwitting creator of THE iconic color of the 50s, “Mamie Pink”

mamie eisenhower

Mamie Eisenhower: Library of Congress image

MAMIE PINK: The iconic decorating color of the 50s, arguably. Ubiquitous in fashion as well as bathrooms and kitchens. The mid-century trend to pink seems to have come directly and irrefutably from Mamie Eisenhower, first lady from 1953 to 1961. Pink was Mamie’s favorite color. She wore a pink gown with 2,000 pink rhinestones to Ike’s inauguration. Ike sent her pink flowers every morning. Her bathroom in Gettysburg was pink down to the cotton balls. She re-decorated the private quarters in the White House in pink. So much so that reporters called it the “Pink Palace.” The color also seems to have been known as “First Lady Pink.” As a result of all this pink-think, there was probably no question that American women (and marketers) would pick up on it. It also was a color trend right in line with the exuberance of the time — and even supportive of the return of women to the home after WWII and their complete remaking of the American domestic landscape.

In fact, my own informal research from scouring marketing materials from the period indicates that pink kitchens and baths arrived solidly in ’53, reached a total frenzy in 1957, then pretty rapidly started to fade after that, as other trends took hold. A typical adoption curve for a trend like this.

I have an aquamarine kitchen – the decorating gods sided with my husband on this decision. But I really truly wanted pink. I have to admit, a total fixation.

Meanwhile: Here’s a nice story about Mamie:

All About Mamie

By Jan Biles, The Capital-Journal (Topeka, Kansas), Published Sunday, November 18, 2007

Not much is known about Mamie Doud Eisenhower.

She was a dutiful wife and mother who stood in the background as her husband, Dwight, excelled in his military career during World War II and then led the country from the Oval Office as the 34th president from 1953 to 1961.  Read more here on the newspaper’s website – well worth it!

Comments

  1. By 50s Pam on

    See the main blog — we have lots of wallpaper research in Decorate/Wallpaper category. I LOVE wallpaper in a vintage bathroom! Good luck!

  2. By Lisa on

    Just came across this page while looking for ideas to change my pink bathroom… I’m keeping it pink I only want change the wall paper. My bathroom is pink tile half way up the wall with maroon trim, maroon tile squares and rectangle on the floor, pink bathtub, pink sink, pink toilet, pink tile with marron trim countertop. The wall paper (which I dislike) is vertical stripes green,pink,maroon and beige with a pink rose boarder. Any suggestions on wall paper?

  3. By Susan Moore on

    I was wondering if someone could help me find touch up paint for my 1963 pink sink? There are a few chips at the water overflow hole area. When purchasing a toilet seat for our pink toilet the color on the seat was called “rose beige”, but I wouldn’t describe my fixtures as beige – they are definitely pink. Any suggestions?

  4. By Susan on

    We moved into a 1948 home a few years ago. We have one pink and maroon bathroom and one blue and yellow. I am determined to keep both as is, but the sinks are not as functional as new ones. Also, the maroon is hard to work with since the sink, tub, and potty are all that color. Any suggestions for the wall above the pink tile that would go with the maroon. Right now it is just painted pink to match the tile, but I need a bit more pizazz!!
    Just discovered this sight, love it.

  5. By Julie Reizner on

    Hey Pam, my husband and I are doing a pink powderroom right now in our 1915 bungalow house in Cincinnati. I always loved pink, but had no idea it had such a history until I found your Retro Renovations website, and it also never occurred to me how flattering it is on our skin, and that’s a great reason to use it! Much better than the dark, cold navy blue that tiny room is right now. Just today I even ordered Thibaut’s Flamingo Bay wallpaper (in the yellow colorway) you posted while back for one of the walls, and all the hardware in that room is gold, so I think it’ll look very warm and tropical. Thanks for getting the info out there, and I’ll post pics when it’s done! Back to priming the walls… :c )

  6. By kathleen on

    Sadly our pink bathroom has been bulldozed into condo parking. Amidst a plumb problem induced kitchen renovation i stumble on this site. It brought back memories of our first rent house. It was a quaint but very run down 1920’s cottage with pink bathroom tile with battleship gray woodwork. Our first home improvement was to paint that vintage medicine cabinet cream. Several houses later I inherited another pink bath.this time with a 70’s retro chocolate brown tub and 80’s pink and grey wallpaper. With the tub painted white the old pink paper is livable unlike my sinkless kitchen.
    Thanks for some good memories.

  7. By Regina on

    The flamingo wallpaper you show here was not only in my Nana’s bathroom in Pawt, RI when I was a child in the 50’s, but it was also in my first home in Solihull, England. Who knew it would be considered a retro phenomenon?

  8. By on

    Did you see the PINK BATHROOM in Lonny latest issue out today? I nearly died!!!!!!!!!!

    I just blogged about you and little miss poodle bathroom this week. Love your mission. Am having the odd desire to install a pink bathroom!

  9. By on

    Just discovered your site. LOVE! We are proud of our 1957’s pink kitchen! But wow, I wish it was a bathroom so I could use that wallpaper over on the right!

  10. By Paula on

    Thanks — that just might do it. And I have a Sherwin Williams store just a mile or so away. I’m leaving on a trip tomorrow, but will check it out when I get back.

  11. By Paula on

    I’m mostly asking because I’ve gotten sort of obsessed with color matching and management in the last few years since I started using Photoshop. Once you start looking at paint chips it’s kind of easy to lose perspective. I was looking at the photo of Mamie’s bathroom at Gettysburg, but it’s always hard to tell exactly what a color is from a computer screen. I’ve been thinking of painting my study and am thinking of using Mamie pink, but am still not sure what I’ll do with it. I was born in 58, and have fond memories of pink from my toddler years. Thanks for the suggestions. My husband’s aunt still has an original pink bathroom in her house. :)

  12. By 50s Pam on

    Hi Paula, no, I don’t know. To be sure, there were a lot of pinks, and I don’t know that there is *one* that’s narrowly defined as Mamie pink. If you want to do more research — look at Mamie’s bathroom at Gettysburg (in my other post on this site featuring an interview and photos from the Eisenhower home in Gettsyburg)…. also her other pink accessories…there is a big photo gallery on the Eisenhower National site, I think I put a link to it in the post. The tile that B&W sells — top right column photo (pink bathroom with maroon trim) is pretty darn close — and I think they’d tell you they’ve been selling it for 50 years. I don’t own the Pantone deck — I’d be curious to know why you’re asking…and what you decide!

  13. By Paula on

    Do you know what the Pantone numbers are for Mamie Pink? I can probably approximate it, but would like the additional backup if possible. Maybe it’s not just one color, but a bunch that are close to a certain color.

  14. By 50s Pam on

    Hi Amie, for sure there were pink bathrooms before Mamie. We see them going all the way to the 30s. She is the one that I credit with really popularizing them. So – your bathroom IS likely original.

  15. By Amie D. on

    Our house was built in 1948 and we too have a pink bathroom. Is this a trend that started before Mamie or is it possible that our bathroom was renovated in the 50s??

  16. By on

    interesting
    we have a house built in 1950 and it’s most certainly “mamie pink”
    I guess the builder didn’t even know he was ahead of his time. as it were.

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