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Wedgwood Blue Plates
( Article orginally published February 1957 )
NO ONE has yet assembled a complete list of American View plates made by Wedgwood at Etruria from 1895 to 1910 and on. Even production records at the Wedgwood Pottery do not identify clearly all the scenes pictured, for many of their lots were numbered or otherwise coded without complete description. Yet, according to the estimate of Sam Laidacker, in his Anglo-American China, when all the titles are fully recorded, they will number close to three hundred!
In 1910, Jones, McDuffee & Stratton of Boston, issued a booklet commemorating their 100th anniversary as "the largest wholesale and retail crockery, china, and glassware establishment in the country." Included in its pages was a list of 78 popular titles of these old blue Wedgwood Historical plates which they were importing so successfully. This list was published in Spinning Wheel in July 1952.
Most of the subjects listed were New England views. Some were of Philadelphia, New York or Washington, D. C. The Hermitage, Monticello and the home of Martha Custis, Arlington, Va., were the only Southern views represented, and no Western views at all were included.
Tryon M. Shepherd of Hartington, Nebraska, who has for years been collecting these blue souvenir plates, and has himself studied the production lists at the Etruria factory, provides the following list of plates he knows to have been made in the last sixty years, which have proved most difficult to find. Those on the list previously published in Spinning Wheel which Mr. Shepherd found particularly elusive are:The Chew House, Germantown, Pa.
Yale College & Old Yale Fence
General Ulysses S. Grant
The Wayside Inn.
Of hard-to-find plates not previously listed, but also known to exist, he includes:The Nebraska State Capitol
Surrender of Burgoyne
U. S. Naval Academy
West Point Series
The Sibley House
First Ticonderoga Series
The State Flower Series
Numbered historical platters of Naval Battles in the War of 1812.
Thus his list of known plates in this hide-and-seek list, includes only The Hermitage from the South, and none (excluding the Nebraska Capitol) from the West.
Yet Western View plates were made, and some at least, were imported by the Jones, McDuffee firm. In his thirty years of coast to coast searching, Mr. Shepherd has three examples to show: The Mount of the Holy Cross plate, made in 1901, marked Wedgwood, Etruria, England, and imported by Jones, McDuffee & Stratton; the Mormon Temple Block plate, made in 1901 for Callaway, Hoock & Francis, imported by Jones, McDuffee & Stratton, with the Wedgwood, Etruria, England, stamp; and the Pike's Peak plate, made sometime between 1900 and 1907 by the same company and for the same importer.
Though Jones, McDuffee & Stratton were the principal importers of these souvenir plates, the names of many retailers, purchasing either direct or through this firm, appeared on their special orders. Of such representative dealers as the Hunt Mercantile Co., of Santa Barbara, California, Daniel Low & Co., Salem, Massachusetts, and W. H. Duboa, St. Augustine, Florida, at least two were still selling plates as late as 1952.
Because of the fairly recent date of manufacture of these plates-the oldest hardly more than sixty years ago -it may well be they are not as yet considered sufficiently "antique" to show up in shops or at sales. Or it may be, as Mr. Shepherd suggests, the original purchasers are still in firm possession of the "souvenirs" they themselves purchased.
Be that as it may, these "late" (1895-1910) Wedgwood plates are destined sometime soon to come on the market-far too many were made for them to have become as scarce as it would appear in so short a time-and collectors and dealers alike should be on the watch for them. Western and Southern views will be of particular interest, since, as they are as yet unlisted, each will be a "discovery" in itself.
In his research on these latter day Wedgwood historical plates, Mr. Shepherd has raised, too, another question. He was informed by the Wedgwood representatives in New York that Wedgwood made numerous souvenir plates before 1895. Though Mr. Shepherd could find no record of such production at the Wedgwood Pottery, he has the best possible proof that such earlier plates were made. He has a plate itself! Octagonal in shape, medium blue in color, it bears the back stamp in blue "Old Town Square, Plymouth, Mass." and the impress "Wedgwood" with the code letters of 1884.
This was about ten years before the Jones, McDuffee & Stratton series appeared in America and twenty years before such plates were extensively advertised. "Could it be the popularity of these earlier plates," Mr. Shepherd asks, "that led Jones, McDuffee & Stratton to embark on the sale of the later series? If so, it is reasonable to assume many other such plates were made - where are they?"