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PHILADELPHIA (TUCKER) CHINA - 1825-1838
HISTORY. From 1816 to 1822, Benjamin Tucker, a Philadelphia Quaker, had a china shop in Market Street. His son, William Ellis Tucker, who had a talent for draw ing and painting, often decorated the china and his father built for him a kiln in the back premises wherein to fire it. The younger Tucker was obsessed with the notion of making porcelain and carried on numerous experiments to that end. At length, having satisfied himself that he could achieve his purpose, he established a china factory in 1825, his younger brother Thomas being associated with him. In 1828, Thomas Hulme became a partner and in 1832 Judge Joseph Hemphill became a member of the firm. William Ellis Tucker died in 1832 but the business was carried on with great success until 1838, when it was discontinued.
THE BODY. The body was neither the same as the French soft paste porcelain nor was it the same as the bone porcelain made in England, but it had characteristics common to both. It was, indeed, more nearly allied to the Oriental hard paste porcelain. It had great heat-resisting qualities and fire tests shewed that it would stand an higher degree of heat than the Sevres hard paste porcelain of the same period.
At first the paste had a yellowish tinge, but before long it was brought to a creamy mellow white.
THE GLAZE. The glaze was clear, transparent and of beautiful quality with a bluish tinge wherever it accumulates in thicker masses near mouldings or in flutings.
ARTICLES MADE AND CONTOUR. Table services, dessert services, tea and coffee services, inkstands, jardinieres, vases and all the usual decorative accessories were made extensively. Some of the shapes were quite original, but the majority of them shewed a strong Neo-Grec influence and many of them were close copies of Sevres forms. Pitchers and jugs seem to have been a speciality.
TYPES OF DECORATION. The Tucker china may be divided into three decorative periods. During the first period, from I825 to 1828, the decorations consisted of crude monochrome landscapes, or butterflies, flowers and fruits painted in sepia or brown . There was no transfer printing, and gold was employed only to a very limited degree.
In the second period, from 1828 to I832, Thomas Hulme very materially improved the character of the decoration, which now included sprays or groups of flowers, well executed , with an appropriate degree of gilding. Roses were conspicuous in the bouquets and floral decorations, and birds also supplied motifs. There were also decorations entirely in white and gold , executed with great distinction.
In the third period, from 1832 to 1838, more ambitious decorations were employed and so well carried out that a great deal of the Tucker and Hemphill china has frequently been mistaken for Sevres until the marks were examined. Sepia landscapes, with gilding, were continued, and all the flower and bird types of the second period, but, in addition, there were table services and vases with compositions of festoons, wreaths and medallions. Medallions, enclosed within foliage bands, flower wreaths or gold tracery, displayed monograms, initials or armorial bearings. Occasionally portraits, also, made their appearance. In the compact bands and festoons of flowers of many colors, roses, tulips and forgetme-nots were especially in evidence.
THE MARKS. When the Tucker china was marked it was plainly marked with the names of the makers, the mark varying with the different changes in the personnel of the firm. A great deal of the china, however, is altogether without marks but in nearly every instance it can be identified beyond all question by comparison with the pattern books, which have been preserved.