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Table Furnishings - China, Useful And Ornamental

( Originally Published 1902 )

OCCASIONALLY, one hears it said that there was little or no china in New York before the Revolution ; but whoever will pause to think for a moment will know that this could not be true. The Dutch, as is well known, were among the very first collectors of china in Europe. It is not likely that the Dutch ships constantly arriving in New Amsterdam should fail to import wares of this nature. Indeed, china and porcelain were to be found in Dutch homes on this side of the Atlantic, in great quantity, before the English satirists attacked the china-mania.

The home of Cornelis Steenwyck, who died in 1686, was profusely decorated with china. In one room alone—the Great Chamber—there were no less than " nineteen porcelain dishes," besides two flowered earthen pots. Margarita Van Varick was an-other person who possessed a vast amount of china. She had three East India cups and three East India dishes, three " cheenie pots," " one cheenie cup bound with silver," " two glassen cases with thirty-nine pieces of small chinaware," and eleven " Indian babyes."

Besides this, there were 126 pieces of chinaware, consisting of cups, saucers, tea-cups, dishes, basons, jugs, flower-pots, toys and images.

Mr. Jacob De Lange, who died in 1685, had a magnificent collection that would be priceless to-day. It included 164 separate pieces.

Francis Rombouts (1692), had one Holland cup-board furnished with porcelain and earthenware, worth £15 ; and another, valued at £5-13-0.

Cornelis Jacobs (1700), owned a china lacquered bowl and a parcel of chinaware and earthenware, twelve new plates and nine earthen dishes. Abraham Group of ornamental earthenware, owned by Mrs. F. H. Bosworth. DeLanoy (1702), had 120 dishes, cups and saucers ; Colonel William Smith of St. Georges (1705), had chinaware worth Z5 ; Joseph Nunes (1705), had " one small Delph plate " ; Joseph Bueno (1709), had an earthen woman and a dog ; seven china cups ; twelve cups and saucers ; and five images in glasses.

Capt. Giles Shelly (1718) owned much china, including a punch-bowl, "six chaney lions," eleven images, three " chaney basons," a red teapot, a sugar-box, an image and much earthenware ; George Dun-can (1724) possessed much earthenware and china, among which were seven images and a box with images ; Governor Burnet's china and glass amounted to £130–16—0 ; and Governor Montgomerie had a set of china valued at L75.

The people of this period valued their china highly. They kept it in cabinets and cases with glass doors, on shelves, and in racks made especially for it, besides decorating with it mantel-pieces and the tops of cupboards, cases, presses and chests-of-drawers. Much of the china was purely ornamental, such as birds, animals, figures, and images. Specimens of the china images of the period are shown on page 361. These horses are white with trappings of the brightest colours. They are owned by Mrs. F. H. Bosworth.

Much of the china of the day, having come from the Orient, was exceedingly handsome, and was disposed of in special bequests. For instance, in 1684, Judith Stuyvesant left to her son, Nicholas, all her china " except the three great pots." These she left " To my cousin, Nicholas Bayard" and " My black cabinet of ebben wood with the foot or frame belonging to it, together with the three great china pots before reserved."

There is no reason why these three great pots should not have been similar to those shown on page 77, which have been for many years in the Beekman family. This covered jar and two beakers are of the famous old Hizen ware, and were probably made about two hundred years ago. It may be said here that in the province of Hizen were two ports, one of which, Nagasaki, was the seat of the Dutch trade after 1641, and the other, Imari, the port from which most of the china was exported. One peculiarity of Hizen ware is that it somewhat resembles Chinese art. From Imari were sent two kinds of china: one, decorated with red, blue and gold; the other, merely with blue. The style of decoration consists of medallions representing landscapes or figures framed in branches of chrysanthemum, peony, fir, or bamboo. The jars on page 77 are of the red and blue variety. They were in the home of the Beekmans at " Rural Cove," New York and are still owned by the family.

A specimen of the ordinary Dutch cabinet filled with china, brass and copper-ware of the period, showing exactly what might have been found in the simplest home of New Amsterdam, is, with its con-tents, shown on page 356. People of such wealth as Cornelis Steenwyck, Jacob De Lange, and Margarita Van Varick owned much handsomer cases and cabinets for the display of their curios ; but such a cabinet as the above was not beyond the reach of any one.

From the arrival of the English down to the Revolution, china was imported in increasingly large quantities from year to year. Among the largest importers were James Gilliland in Wall Street and later in Canon's Dock ; John J. Roosevelt, Maiden Lane ; George Bell, Bayard Street ; and Henry Wilmot, Hanover Square. Every now and then, they advertised large assortments of china and earthenware of the "newest fashion," and very frequently they de-scribed their goods.

It must be remembered that the various English potteries were in their full glory. The Elers were working near Burslem, producing a red ware similar to Japanese pottery, salt-glaze and black ware ; at Burslem, Aaron Wood, Thomas Whieldon and John Mitchell were turning out yellowish white and cream-coloured salt-glaze, tortoiseshell, cauliflower and melon ware, and agate ware, and Wedgwood was improving every variety in partnership with Whieldon and later with Bentley. Liverpool, Worcester, Leeds, Yorkshire, Chelsea, Plymouth, Bow, Lowestoft, Swansea, and other noted English potteries were at the period of their greatest activity, so that when we read such a simple announcement in 1757 as that James Mc Evers has for sale "china ware by the chest, newest fashion," or that Gregg and Cunning-ham at their store in Queen Street have " a few hogs-heads of earthenware, containing punch-bowls and plates, crates containing cups, saucers and tea-pots ; also a parcel of common earthenware" (1756), we can tell very well what kind of articles went into New York homes. The following advertisement of 1757 is a little more detailed :

" To be sold by Edward Nicoll on the New Dock crates of common yellow ware, both cups and dishes; crates of white stone cups and saucers; crates of blue and white ditto; crates of white ware ; crates of blue and white; crates of black ; crates of tortoise shell and crates of red, all well sorted ; crates of pocket bottles, boxes of glass, consisting of wine glass; salts, sugar dishes, cream pots and tumblers; tierces and hogsheads of Delft ware, consisting of punch-bowls, dishes, tea-cups and saucers; with a large and good assortment of earthenware and glass; and a parcel of fine mosaic dishes and plates by retail."

Nothing throughout our period was more popular than cream-coloured earthenware glazed with salt, upon which Wedgwood experimented until he produced the famous cream between 1761 and 1765. It attracted the attention of Queen Charlotte and thence-forth became known as Queen's Ware. It constantly appears in the New York advertisements after 1765.

Cream-coloured ware from Leeds, similar to the Staffordshire Queen's Ware, was also popular. It occurred most frequently in the basket, or wicker, pattern and was exceedingly light in weight. A choice group of this kind of ware appears on page 124. It belongs to Mrs. F. H. Bosworth. Here we find basket and perforated plates, a fruit-dish with a cover imitating various fruits, and a sauce-boat in the shape of a melon resting on a leaf, with a stem gracefully twisted to form a handle.

Lowestoft ware was made as early as 1752. Chinese patterns and floral patterns (particularly the pink rose), were the designs in most universal use. Very frequently, fine tea-sets and dessert services were decorated to order with coats-of-arms, crests, or cyphers, accompanied by a floral or scroll border. This ware was also imported into New York. A tea-set that was given to Gen. and Mrs. Hezekiah Barnes, in 1780, on the occasion of their wedding, appears on page 126. It might, however, be of earlier date. This set is now in the Museum of the Colonial Dames at Van Cortlandt, New York.

A good idea of the china that was used in 1762 may be obtained by referring to the stock of Keeting and Morris, who had removed from Beekman's Slip to the New Dock and announced " a compleat assortment of the most fashionable kinds of Glass and Stone-Ware." This included " table plates and dishes both of the oval and round shape, black tea-pots, mugs and bowls of all sizes, tortoise, table plates and dishes of the newest patterns, green and tortoise tea-pots, milk pots, bowls, cups and saucers, Venice flower vases and horns, glass quart, pint, and half pint decanters, wine glasses, enamelled stone teapots, mugs, bowls and tea-cups, and saucers of all sizes and of the newest patterns, with a great variety of plain white ware."

There was no less interest in quaint figures of animals, birds, images and curious objects than there was in the days of the Dutch. Ornamental china was made in great quantities, particularly at Chelsea, Plymouth and Bow. Busts also grew in popularity.

These were generally of earthenware brightly painted. Shakespeare, Milton, George II., George III., Wolfe, Chatham, and all the popular heroes, poets and actors of the day could be had. Other ornaments for chimney - pieces, tops of bookcases, chests - of - drawers, shelves and cabinets, included brightly painted birds, cats, dogs, lambs, shepherds and shepherdesses, mythological figures, figures of Britannia seated on a lion, Minerva with shield, owl, .and books, Neptune with trident on a base of shells and rock-work, lovers, pastoral figures, allegorical figures, such as the Seasons, etc., etc. A typical group of such ware appears on page 120. This belongs to Mrs. F. H. Bosworth.

A few citations of importations will show how popular was this form of decoration ; for example : "some beautiful ornamental chimney china" 1766 ; " white stone-ware, including complete tea-table toys for children, with a great collection of different kinds of birds, beasts, etc., in stoneware, very ornamental for mantle-pieces, chests-of-drawers, etc.," 1767 ; " one set of image china," 1768 ; "the greatest variety of ornamental china, consisting of groups, setts of figures, pairs and jars just opened," 770 ; and " birds and baskets of flowers for the tops of bookcases," 1775.

Oriental ware never declines in popularity. Dinner services, tea-pots, cups and saucers, vases, etc., come from Canton and Nankin as in modern days. A few dishes, with a salad-bowl and soup tureen that belonged to William Denning about 1765, are shown on page 93. They show the kind of Oriental china that was in common use in the best New York houses.

A tea-table set of Nankin china was mentioned among the private sales in 1773.

The taste for Eastern art was not shared by every one, however, for in a long fable in 1754, we read the following description of a teapot that was evidently the fashion :

" A tawdry Tea Pot a la mode
Where Art her utmost skill bestow'd,
Was much esteem'd for being old,
And on its sides with Red and Gold
Strange Beasts were drawn in taste Chinese,
And frightful Fish and hump-backed Trees.
High in an elegant beaufet
This pompous Utensil was set.
And near it on a Marble Slab
Forsaken by some careless Drab
A veteran Scrubbing Brush was plac'd
And the rich Furniture disgrac'd."

Some of the families that inherited old china always kept it jealously. A few examples still survive. They have conquered every change of fashion. On page 129 is a pair of " Mandarin vases," originally owned by William de Peyster, who died in 1784. He also owned the richly decorated Oriental bowl that appears on the same plate. These three pieces were buried for safety, during the Revolution. Between the vases is a plate that belonged to Margaret Livingston in 1758.

In 1767, we note that Breese and Hoffman, of Wall Street, had imported " India china, enamelled and blue and white bowls, caudle cups, blue and white cups and saucers, with small sets of service china, and Nankin china mugs." Among the lists of importations from 1750 to 1775, are found English Delft, blue and white earthenware, japanned, gilded, green, agate, tortoiseshell, Tunbridge, Portobello, cream-coloured, brown edged sprig, enamelled burnt china, quilted china, cauliflower and melon, black, pencilled, Dresden, Staffordshire and flint ware. Pine-apple and " Golly flower coffee pots," white tortoise mugs and jugs, black ware and agate and melloned ware were advertised in 1765—'6 ; while white and enamelled tea-table sets, white and burnt china bowls, blue and white enamelled china, blue and white landscape china, enamelled white and gilt landscape, nankin, brown edged sprig and duck breakfast cups and saucers, black and white ribbed and engraved china, burnt china, and white, quilted and plain china were imported in 1767 ; burnt china jars and beakers, fruit-baskets, sauce-boats and " pickel " leaves in 1772 ; " burnt china, quilted china, pencil'd china, blue and white Queen's ware, Delph, and stone enamelled black," in 1773 ; blue and white, blue and gold, purple and gold and enamelled and burnt, in 1774 ; " elegant sets of Dresden tea table china and ornamental jars and figures decorated and enriched in the highest taste," in 1775 ; and " very handsome red china tea-pots, Wedgwood's," in 1778.

In view of these importations, it may be interesting to define a few of the varieties mentioned. The tortoiseshell ware was covered with a mottled glaze, brown, purple or green. Frequently, wine cups and drinking-glasses were made of this. A specimen cup with the head of Bacchus appears on page 120.

Agate was variegated ware, imitating agate or marble, and was made by mixing different clays together. Cauliflower ware imitated that vegetable in form and colour, and was especially attractive to potters of the day who prided themselves on their green glaze and cream-coloured body. Pickle-leaves were dishes in imitation of the leaf ; the pineapple was imitated, for jugs and tea-pots ; the lettuce was used frequently for bowls and jugs ; and the favourite melon ware included melons and other fruits. The Porto-hello ware was made by Astbury in 727 after the expedition of Admiral Vernon, who took Portobello.

There was also a great demand for the decorated painted and enamelled china. The china was ornamented with portraits of George II., Queen Charlotte, William Pitt, George III. and Shakespeare, and pictures of the Four Seasons, Freemasons' Arms, Masonic Emblems, Milkmaid and other pastoral scenes after Watteau, Milkmaids and May Dance after Gainsborough, Garden Scenes, Tea Parties, Landscapes with Ruins and River Scenes, Chinese Landscapes and Figures, Fishing and Garden Parties, Haymakers, Architectural Ruins after Panini, and pictures after Angelica Kauffman, Cipriani, Cosway and Bartolozzi. Much of this came from Worcester, Liverpool and Battersea.

In all probability, this ware was the " pencilled " china so frequently mentioned among the late importations. Quilted china was done somewhat after the style of the pineapple and cauliflower ware, and much of it was made at St. Cloud in France.

The most famous of the many famous English potters, however, was Josiah Wedgwood, who made every kind of ware that we have mentioned and adapted it to every article, including snuff-boxes, candlesticks, inkstands and the handles of knives and forks. The first ware that brought fame to Wedgwood was the " cream coloured," which, as we have seen, became the Queen's Ware. Then he made a kind of red ware after the style of the Elers ; and, in 1766, the black ware, which he called basaltes, or black Egyptian. In 1773, he made a fine white terra cotta of great beauty and delicacy fit for cameos, portraits and bas-reliefs, and in 1776 the famous jasper ware that could be made of any tint,—such as light and dark blue, pale buff, salmon-pink or sage-green. An interesting group of Wedgwood specimens appears on page 130, owned by Mrs. F. H. Bosworth, of New York. There are upon this illustration several pieces of black basalt, jasper ware of pale blue, lapis lazuli, sage-green and buff enriched with cameos and festoons, and a white vase. In the centre is a tea-pot of black basalt.

Although the New York families were constantly buying china of the latest fashions, they took great care of the pieces that had long been in their homes, as is shown by the number of men who made a business of repairing. One of these, Jacob Da Costa in Batteau Street, advertised in 1769, that he " mends broken china with rivets and cement, mends all sorts of marble or china furniture, such as is used for ornamenting chimney-pieces, chests-of-drawers, etc., mends the necks of decanters that have been broken, hoops glass and china mugs that have been cracked and mends ladies' fans."

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