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( Originally Published 1963 )
Calendar plates were made in this country, a different design each year from 1906 through 1929. Most of them had the months of the year imprinted around the rim, and a design in the center that might be timely - the Panama Canal or an airplane-or sentimental. Less often the calender was placed in the center of the plate. ABC plates were made also-both of pottery and of other materials such as glass and tin. These alphabet plates were meant for children.
Except for items specifically made elsewhere, such as Gibson Girl plates, a good many of these china oddities as well as a great deal of earthenware were being made in the United States by 1900. Quite a long time before this, the principal centers for white earthenware had been established along both banks of the Ohio River in West Virginia and in East Liverpool and other Ohio cities. New Jersey and New York State also had important pottery factories.
Nineteenth-century American factories used a variety of marks on their wares, but earlier pottery and porcelain from abroad are much harder to identify. More often than not, potters marked their wares. However, sometimes these marks are complete and descriptive and sometimes they mean next to nothing. A plate made 150 years ago that has no mark except a crescent on the underside, or a pitcher that has only a number, is baffling, to say the least. Occasionally, only the name of the pattern is on the underside. Later, both the pattern and firm names were given.
Marking was common in Europe. Porcelain made at Meissen in Germany, in France, and in England in the 1700's was usually marked. In fact, such firms as Meissen and Wedgwood have used a whole series of different marks between 1700 and the present time. On a good deal of tableware, mostly earthenwares made between 1825 and 1842, the trade name of the pattern was the only identification.
A plate made by T. Mayer, Longport, in the pattern Abbey Ruins could only have been made between 1820 and 1829 at Stoke-on-Trent, whereas another plate in a pattern called Arabesque was made during the 1830's at Henley because it bears not only the pattern name but also the firm name of T J. & J. Mayer. There was also a Mayer Pottery Company established in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, in 1881, but its marks are quite different from those of the earlier Mayer brothers, potters in Staffordshire, England.
Starting in 1842 in England, a system of marking was required by the British Patent Office. This "Registry" mark not only indicated that the design was registered at the British Patent Office, but made it possible to decipher the exact year, month, and day any object was made, if a person had the key. Most potters used their own trademark in addition to the Registry mark.
The Registry mark was diamond-shaped, with circles or curved lines at the corners to set off the key letters and numerals. The class and year were shown at the apex of the diamond, the month at the left corner, the day opposite at the right, and the potter or parcel at the base.
A similar Registry mark with a different key was used from 1868 to 1883. In this, the Roman numeral at the top indicated the type of ware manufactured, as it did in the earlier mark. The number in the circle below the Roman numeral indicated the day of the month; the letter in the bottom of the mark, the month (these were the same as on the first key); the numbcr in the left-hand corner, the manufacturer; and the letter in the right-hand corner.
Marks were scratched, impressed, painted, or printed-usually on the underside of a piece of china. If you can identify the mark of a firm that has been in business for many years, it will help to date the piece and hence give you a more accurate idea of its value. But, unfortunately, marks are not the most reliable method of dating and judging china, for sometimes they were changed deliberately. Thus, though it may be a satisfaction to interpret them, they are not always accurate. Other clues to the kind of china and its age are the type of body, the glaze, coloring, modeling, and decoration. Also, since 1890, the United States has required that the country of origin be stamped on the base of every piece of china.
Many types of pottery and porcelain that were invented during the 1700's are still being made. The Wedgwood firm, for example, is still making jasperware. Then there are reproductions of a similar ware with white decoration against a blue background that are being made in Japan. The great Wedgwood firm, of course, is the one founded by Josiah Wedgwood. But there is another Wedgwood firm that is not nearly so old, which was founded by Enoch Wedgwood and confined itself to making earthenware tableware.
Pottery, including as it does the various earthenwares and stonewares, is much more varied than porcelain. The distinction usually is made according to body and glaze rather than decoration.