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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Collectible Pot Lids

Author: Marcia Ray

The people who saved Carrie Nation vinegar bottles in the 1930s or Lestoil bottles of recent date, had they lived a century ago, would have filled their cupboards with colorful lids from jars of hair pomade and shrimp paste and pates. And time would have proved them wise. These small round lids, printed with colored pictures have been popularly collected for a long time. The English, not usually given to Victoriana, have doted on them.

Most of these lids-and jars--were made at the F. & R. Pratt potteries in Fenton, Staffordshire, from 1845 when Jesse Austin, the senior partner, invented the process of printing pottery with oil color, to 1879 when he died, and a bit later. The process was based on the one Baxter used for his color prints, and was far from simple. Copies of paintings, landscapes, sports scenes, city buildings, famous people, and most colorful etcetera graced these containers. Most favored by collectors today are the early "bear grease" lids - a series of 16 shows different bears. The pots held, of course, hair pomade of bear's grease.

The Pottery Gazette and Glass Trade Review, for April 1, 1925, quoted the "Londoner's Diary," in the Evening Standard: "The curious craze for collecting the lids of old Fenton shrimp paste and pomade pots seems to continue unabated. At the sale of M. W. Nicholas's collection, a number of such lids, which could formerly be bought for coppers, were disposed of from 5 to 10 apiece. One, with a portrait of the Duke of Wellington, was knocked down for 15. Another, called 'Pet Rabbit,' made l1; and a third, with a portrait of Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stow-presumably in honour of Uncle Tom's Cabin-fetched 21. Several were sold attached to the original pots, which were quite agreeable in shape, but for reason not apparent to the uninitiated, the presence of the pot does not appear to increase the value of the lid."

The "curious craze" is still unabated - to the point that collectors must now be wary of reproductions. Writes John Bedford in Looking in Junk Shops (1964), "False ones usually stand accused by their unconvincing colors, a lack of `crazing,' and a different sort of 'ring.' When struck gently with another plate, the genuine one in most cases will sound dead, while the false one will ring." (That's a switch for you!) For Baxter Prints, see SW sep '59.

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