August 8, 1974 was a historic day: It was the day President Richard Nixon announced his resignation on national television.
Appropriately, the last meal Nixon ate in office also seemed like a somber affair.
Hours before that evening announcement, Nixon ate cottage cheese, pineapple slices, and a glass of milk for lunch. It came on a metal tray accompanied by just a fork, knife, and napkin, as seen in a photo by White House photographer Robert Knudson that was released by the Nixon Library.
The presidential seal on the china plate offers a stately air to the meal, but the empty chair and small portion reinforces Nixon’s isolation.
NPR reported in 2015 that the photo was unusually “spare and melancholy” compared to the traditional White House photography style.
White House photography is usually very “people-focused,” and rarely features food as the main subject, Jon Fletcher, an archivist at that National Archives who is responsible for the Nixon Administration photographs, told NPR.
The only other photos Fletcher could find from the Nixon administration that featured solely food were from Nixon’s 1972 trip to China, but those photos were optimistic and joyous and featured tables full of food, unlike his last meal.
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