English Porcelains In America
AS soon as porcelain was manufactured to any extent A in England it was exported to America. The Boston Evening Post of November, 1754, advertised " a variety of Bow China Cups and Saucers and Bowls," and other sales of Bow china were made, and special pieces also brought across the ocean to wealthy Americans. Specimens of Plymouth and Bow china may still be occasionally found in America, but any such that have been preserved and gathered into private collections - can be positively identified only by comparison with authenticated and marked pieces in public collections. It would be impossible to give any definite Bow marks. The stamp or design of the anchor and dagger is popularly considered proof that the piece thus marked is Bow. The triangle, formerly regarded as a positive Bow mark, now appears to have a rather shaky, reputation, and is as frequently assigned to Chelsea. The character and shape of the ware, and the style of the decoration are better grounds to base identification upon than any marks. Excavations made upon the site of the old Bow china works revealed much debris of broken pieces of china, and these specimens afford the most positive means of identifying the paste and ornamentation. An account of these discoveries was given in the Art Journal of 1869. All the fragments found were of porcelain, milky-white in color, and relatively heavy for the thickness ; some were ornamented in relief, with the May flower or haw-thorn ; with a little sprig of two roles and a leaf on a stalk; with the basket pattern ; or with vertical bands overlaid with scrolls. Some were painted in blue under the glaze with Chinese landscapes, flowers, and figures. All were hand-painted, none were printed. These hints may serve as guides in the detection and identification of Bow china.
t have seen in America cups and saucers painted with the partridge pattern, which t believe are Bow, though the same pattern is found on Worcester and Plymouth china. The well-known and exceedingly valuable goat milk-jugs that, after forming for years the immovable standard from which streamed defiantly the flag of Bow, are now calmly turned over to Chelsea. These cream-jugs are ornamented with two white goats in relief at the base, and a bee is modelled on the front under the nose. The handle is rustic with raised flowers. These jugs often have the triangle mark. Some are painted with flowers, others are plain white porcelain. Mr. Jewitt says they were sometimes made without the raised bee, but have never seen such an one. Two of these Bow jugs were in the Strawberry Hill collection.
A very excitable young woman came rushing home one cold winter day, in New York, with a demand for the " china books." She had seen in an antique shop, such a funny and pretty little pitcher, with a raised bee on it, and she was sure that there was a picture of it somewhere in the books—and she found it in Mr. Prime's book on pottery and porcelain—a Bow goatcream-jug. Well, it snowed, and was cold, and was late in the after-noon, and the confident young collector deferred a purchasing visit till the following morning. Alas ! such a sickening disappointment—some miserable despoiler had chanced to " drop in" on his way up-town and had carried off the treasure. Worse still, .the small boy who had sold it did not know the purchaser's name.
Deeply did she mourn her ignorance, her indecision, her indolence, her carelessness. The opportunity of a lifetime had thus been lost, to have a goat cream-jug such as was sold at the Cother sale in London, in 1876, for twenty-five pounds, to have such a jug offered for the paltry sum of one dollar, and to refuse it—not to know enough to grasp such a treasure. The bitterness of regret and of self-reproach nerved her to action, and with the friendly and actively interested aid of the antiqueshop-boy, the jug-buyer was waylaid within a month's time and cajoled into reselling his purchase, which he did willingly enough. He had bought it to. keep his shaving brush in, because his father used to keep his shaving brush in a similar one in England. With flecks of dried shaving soap clinging to the goat's horns, and mottling the bee's wings, she triumphantly brought her treasure home. It varies slightly in height and by the turn of a leaf and, twig from my Bow goat cream-jug, which came-from the Cavendish-Bentinck sale in London. The porcelain of the New York captive of the chase is not so pure and clear and it may be of Chelsea manufacture.
Another dainty piece of Bow found by a friend is a creamer or sauce-boat of the overlapping leaf pattern. The handle is formed by a leaf stem ; raised flowers are at the base of the handle, and on the leaves flowers are delicately painted. This is like Number H. 12 " in the Museum of Practical Geology.
The beautiful tall coffee-pot here shown is Ply-mouth with embossed surface and Chinese style of decoration in blue its cover was destroyed, alas ! by some careless Nevburyport housewife. The salt-cellar of pure unpainted porcelain on page 121 is undoubtedly Plymouth also, being clearly marked. The design of vine leaves and grapes is very delicate and perfect. The piece came from an old home in Baltimore.,
Though Bristol china was manufactured only from the year 1768 to 1781, and though pieces are rare and high-priced in England, it is possible to obtain specimens in America. Perhaps some invoices of the ware of the short-lived factory were sent to the new land by Richard Champion, the founder of the Bristol Works, for he was an enthusiastic lover and admirer of America. In the Trumbull-Prime Collection are a large number of pieces classed as Bristol because they have the Bristol cross, but not assigned definitely to that factory.
The few Bristol pieces t have seen in American homes are portions of tea-services, teapots being more plentiful than other forms. Some have an imperfect or blistered glaze, but occasionally fine specimens are found. It is impossible to state the value of Bristol china. In the Governor Lyon sale there were two lovely Bristol cups and saucers decorated with a heavy gold rim and oriental landscape in dark blue, that sold for four dollars each. A plate with the same decoration brought only a dollar and a half.
The most beautiful and interesting piece of Bristol porcelain in existence is in America. It is owned by Mrs. James M. Davis, of Camden, South Carolina. She is a great-granddaughter of Richard Champion and inherited it from him. This lovely piece is a funerary design—a mourning female figure leaning against a pedestal bearing a funeral urn. In one hand she holds a wreath. The beauty of the figure, the grace of the attitude, and the elegance of the drapery combine to make this statue exceedingly exquisite. It was made by the English potter as a memorial for his daughter, Eliza Champion, who died in early youth—a memorial such as was tenderly though crudely suggested by the carefully-made burial urn of the Indian mother. The inscription is so simple and so touching, and is couched in such quaint old-time diction that 1 copy it in full.
Ob. XIII Octob. MDCCLXIX
Nat. XXI Mart. MDCCLXVI
On the cornice of the pedestal are the words :
" OSTENDENT TERRIS HANC TANTVM FATA NEC VLTRA ESSE SINENT."
On the dado this inscription :
" We loved you, my dear Eliza, whilst you were with us. We lament you now you are departed. The Almighty God is just and merciful, and we must submit to His will with the Resignation and Reverence becoming human frailty. He has re-moved you, Eliza, from the trouble which has been our Lot, and does not suffer you to behold the Scenes of horror and distress in which these devoted Kingdoms must be involved. It is difficult to part with our beloved Child, though but for a season. Yet our Interest shall not be put into competition with her felicity, and we will even bear her Loss with Chearfulness. Happy in each other, we were happy in you, Eliza, and will with contented minds cherish your memory till the period arrives, when we shall all again meet and Pain and Sorrow shall be thought of no more. R.C.—I.C."
On the plinth lines altered from Book I., Ode XXIV., of Horace are printed thus :
QVIS DESIDERIO SIT PVDOR AVT MODVS TAM CHARI CAPITIS?---
On the base :
" THIS TRIBUTE TO THE MEMORY OF AN AMIABLE GIRL WAS INSCRIBED ON HER COFFIN THE I6TH OF OCTOBER, 1779, BY A FATHER WHO LOVED HER."
Who could read, even after a century's time, this beautiful and tender tribute to the gentle young girl, who died so many years ago, without feeling deep sympathy with the bereaved father, " who loved her ?" The unsuccessful worker and the patriot speak plainly also in the lines :
" He has removed you from the trouble which has been our Lot and does not suffer yon to behold the scenes of horror and distress in which these devoted Kingdoms must be involved."
Mrs. Davis also possessed some of the beautiful Bristol figures of Spring, Summer, and Winter, and she patriotically sent them for exhibition at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, in 1876. Like many an-other rare and beautiful article sent confidingly there at that time, they were never returned to their owner. This loss must have been hard to endure with patience, not only from the historical and hereditary value and interest of the pieces, but also because the previous year duplicate pieces of Bristol were sold in London for £54 each.
One of the most beautiful of Richard Champion's productions in England or America is the medallion plaque of Franklin.
Mr. Owen's description of Bristol china is very clear and concise. " The pieces are graceful in form and well moulded, the flowers brilliant in colour and skilfully painted ; and the gilding, bright though unburnished, is of that particularly rich and solid character that always distinguished the manufacture. Though it often bears Dresden marks, and is moulded in Dresden shapes, the quality of the paste is so different that it is easily distinguished from the Dresden. The glaze is rich and creamy white, while the Dresden has a cold, glassy surface."
Crown Derby is seldom picked up by the china-hunter — never I believe in country homes in New England. Near New York a few rare pieces have been found.. Miss Henrietta D. Lyon, of Staten Island, has part of an exceedingly rich and elegant Crown Derby dinner service painted in delicate colors and gold, one covered dish of which is here shown. The gilding and painting upon these pieces is in the highest style of artistic beauty and dexterity. They bear the mark used at the Derby factory from 1784 to 1796.
The most common piece offered to the china hunter in New England is what is known as the willow-pattern ware. It was made first by Thomas Turner, at Caughley, in 1780. He manufactured both pottery and porcelain. I often have wished that he had never invented that willow pattern. I have had it thrust in my face for purchase until I could scarcely bear to look at it. I have had visions of dainty Bow, Bristol, and Plymouth china brought before me through vivid but uncertain description, only to come face to face with more printed willow-pattern. I should imagine that a large proportion of all that ever was made was sent to America. And it has been made in vast quantities, too, for it has been certainly the most popular pattern ever printed anywhere on stoneware or porcelain. Mr. Jewitt says : " Early examples bearing the Caughley mark—the cups without handles and ribbed and finished precisely like the Oriental, are rare." Of course they are, in England, but not in America ; as the prices prove at the Governor Lyon sale. Old willow-pattern plates sold there for one dollar each.
Pieces of willow-pattern ware are often of astounding age and fabulous value.. Forty dollars is the favorite price that knowing country owners assert they can get in the city for their willow-pattern platters. I have a favorite formula which I always use in answer to these aspiring traders—my " willow-pattern answer." I reply, gravely, Yes, that pattern is priceless." It does not mean anything and it pleases them, and if you told them that the platter was worth about two or three dollars they would look upon you as a swindler.. Mod-ern willow-pattern ware is also offered at fancy valuations. I have never been able to decide whether an old farmer who brought two willow-ware plates about a year old to sell to me, assuring me (though they bore the visible mark and stamp of modern production) that " this old crockery had been in his. family more'n a hundred year "—I have never decided whether that ingenuous bucolic were a deep-dyed swindler or the innocent tool of some crafty sharper. I answered him soberly with my patent "willow-pattern answer "—" That pattern is priceless," and he went away hugging his antiques with delight. I have seen within a year at a well-known dealer's in New York, a modern willow-pattern platter upon which was pasted this printed inscription : " This platter belonged to Miles Standish, and was often used by him, and is therefore very rare and of great historical value." This was an auction label cut from the catalogue of a sale, and the dealer let it remain as a joke for the knowing ones, and possibly as a bait for the unsophisticated.
" The Broseley Blue Dragon" and the ",Broseley Blue Canton " pieces and their imitations are frequently found. These patterns were also made at the Caughley or Salopian Works. The " cabbage leaf jugs " came from that manufactory..
I have never been able to understand why the willow pattern should have been so much more popular than. the Blue Dragon. The latter is certainly very hand-some and consistent, or rather congruous throughout, while the willow pattern is neither " fish nor fowl nor good red herring "—it is not English, and it is certainly not wholly Oriental. The color is good, as was all blue at that time.
At a later date than the reign of Lowestoft on " company " dinner-tables in New England, the fine " best tea china " of well-to-do people was English porcelain of cop-per lustre and pink and green decoration. Many of these pretty lustre sets are still preserved and can be bought of country owners. A terrible blow has been dealt, however, to the desire to purchase such wares by the fact that modern reproductions showing equal beauty of color and similar designs have appeared in large numbers within the past two years. Pitchers of pottery, " prankt in faded antique dress " of light brown or pinkish purple lustres are now manufactured. They bear no marks and cannot be distinguished from the old ones—and are just as good, perhaps, for every one but a china hunter. The solid lustre teappts, sugar-boxes, and pitchers—copper-colored, brownish lustre or silver on a pottery ground, have not, so far as I know, been reproduced. On many pieces the lustre is diversified by a pretty design in white, sometimes in relief or by painted flowers. The finest old pitcher of this ware that I have ever seen bore a graceful embossed design which was decorated upon the highest reliefs in pink, green, and gold lustre. This was positively affirmed to be part of the Mayflower cargo. Most of these lustre pieces are unmarked, hence it is impossible to assign them to any factory. A few of them, the clearest and purest in paste, and most delicate in decoration are New Hall, for I have plates so marked. The stamp is a cursive New Hall not enclosed in a ring. This stamp is not given in English books of stamps and marks. Mr.Jewitt says such pieces are rare in England. They certainly have not been rare in New England. Some of the lustre pieces may be assigned to Newcastle. The Woods also manufactured them, while at Shelton were made pieces with lustre borders and black printed designs signed " Bentley, Weare and Bourne, Engravers and Printers, Shelton, Staffordshire,"
I have never seen a dinner set of lustre ware—only tea-sets, comprising usually a teapot, sugar-box, creamer, bowl, a dozen tea-plates (often of different design and paste), two cake-plates, a dozen cups and saucers, and sometimes a dozen little cup-plates. Salt-cellars, pepper-boxes, and mustard-pots of similar lustre are seen, and sometimes wine-glasses, or rather wine-cups—but never any of the pieces of dinner-services. Pitchers appear in various sizes. The china is usually clear and fine in quality, but the design is often confused. A few punch-bowls of copper lustre on coarse pottery have also been found in New England, but are curious rather than beautiful.
I have never been able to add to my collection, through china hunting, but one piece of Worcester porcelain, the one shown on page 29, nor have I ever seen in a country home a piece of Chelsea, Coalport, Pinxton, or Nantgawr porcelain, and but one set of Spode, which was seized from an English vessel by a Yankee privateersman in the war of 1812, and brought triumphantly into Salem Harbor. Nor, may I add, have I ever seen a piece of pottery or porcelain of Continental manufacture, save Delft. For any porcelain save that made in China and England, American collectors must turn to china dealers.
( Originally Published Early 1900's )