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Early Souvenir Pitchers
LIVERPOOL PITCHERS, with their neat black decoration, take their name from the famous English seaport from where so many of these pitchers were brought home to America by returning sailors. The black transfer-printed design marked a revolution in earthenware decoration and made it possible for average people to have attractive dishes on their tables. Transfer printing was just what the name indicates. A copper plate engraving was coated with a special ink, a sheet of paper was pressed on the inked plate and, while still wet, transferred to the unglazed ceramic surface. Firing and glazing followed. This process was first commercialized in Liverpool by John Sadler and Guy Green, in 1756.
This decorative china made Liverpool and Staffordshire potteries famous all over the world, and especially in America. Josiah Wedgwood brought the cream ware on which the transfer designs were printed to a high state of development and, in 1763, named in "queen's ware" in honor of Queen Charlotte. He sent this ware over thirty miles by cart to Sadler and Green for its black printed decoration. Similar cream ware was also made in Bristol, Leeds, Sunderland, and Liverpool. Typical of the latter place were a slightly grayer tone and heavier quality than the true Wedgwood. Of the potters making it in Liverpool, only two consistently marked their wares. They were Herculaneum Pottery and Richard Hall & Sons.
Liverpool pitchers with black decoration were in favor until about 1815 when they were superseded by those with transfer printing in color, such as the well-known blue and white. During the period of black and white, pieces intended to catch the eye of a seafaring man included pitchers, mugs, plates, handleless cups and saucers, and even a punch bowl, a favorite present for the captain to bring back to the owners of his ship. Pitchers were the most popular and the designs were as varied as the tastes of the buyers. The stock design was a ship. With a few touches, it easily became a souvenir of the voyage. The flag that flew at the mast was added by hand. Under the spout there was usually a design where the narnes of buyer and recipient could be added and the whole given additional firing.
Other popular designs were those with a Washington motif-a bust of the great man or a representation of his tomb. The coat of arms of the United States was another patriotic touch. This particular pitcher was made for an American sea captain. The black decoration includes a three-masted ship flying the American flag and, under the spout, the coat of arms of the United States with thirteen stars above. Below is the inscription: "Peace, Commerce and honest Friendship with all Nations. Entangling Alliances with none. Anno Domini 1804." The latter reflects the hopeful attitude of the time when the aim of the United States was to keep clear of the Napoleonic conflict.
That this aim was not realized is reflected by the quantities of Staffordshire pottery flowing across the Atlantic after the War of 1812. Decorated expressly for the American trade, this ware often showed such scenes as English and American ships in combat on Lake Champlain.
Such china appeared in well-established homes along the eastern seacoast, rolled westward in covered wagons, and formed part of the cargo on the Mississippi River boats. Especially desired by the buying public was a good-sized pitcher with a colorful decoration of copper lustre bands and stripes which set off a transfer-printed picture of a naval battle, entitled "Second View of Com. Perry's Victory" It is one of two views of this famous naval engagement which took place on September 10, 1813. During the course of the battle, Perry's flagship was lost to the British, but he transferred to another ship, the Niagara, and gained the victory. The two views show the fifteen ships engaged in somewhat different formation.
Both were taken from paintings done by the artist Michele Felice Corne (1752-1832), who was born in Italy, came to America and settled, first in Salem, Massachusetts, and later in Boston. He also painted a naval scene with the Constitution in close action with the GueCriere. Engravings of these three paintings were published by Abel Brown of Boston in 1816. In due time, they came into the hands of the Staffordshire potters along with many others that provided subjects for the American market.