Digest>Archives> June 2003

Collecting Nautical Antiques

U.S. Revenue Cutter Service China Patterns

By Jim Claflin


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Over the years we have been collecting a number of pieces of vintage US Revenue Cutter Service dinnerware and have noticed a number of different patterns emerge. Unfortunately there is no one reference on the subject that would help us to date these patterns but with research we can draw some conclusions. Such china was manufactured in the nineteenth and twentieth century for use in ships’ wardrooms. Made of heavy white institutional type china, a never ending variety of pieces can be found including six or seven different size plates and saucers, demi and regular cups, two styles of egg cups, bouillon cups, bone plates, pickle dishes, cream and sugars, gravy boats, two sizes of platters and much more. Given time one could put together a wonderful dinner service of these attractive pieces. Manufactures include Jackson China, Walker China, Bailey Walker China, Nathan Straus & Sons, Mayer China and a number of others.

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Dating most of these pieces can generally be accomplished by studying the backmarks Companies changed their names and markings often and by referencing these markings date ranges can be determined. Sometimes date codes were also used. Combinations of letters and numbers were used to indicate date of manufacture. A good eye combined with a detailed reference on the subject can help you to decipher these codes. An excellent reference on the subject is: Conroy, Barbara J., RESTAURANT CHINA - Identification & Value Guide for Restaurant, Airline, Ship & Railroad Dinnerware. Volumes I [1998] & II [1999]. Collector Books. I am sure that many of our past or present readers can shed more light on this subject and we would look forward to hearing from you with your thoughts.

There were a number of different patterns used over the years and sometimes we are able to date them by their backmarks or by similarity to other patterns. The last pattern in used seems to be a rare intertwined “U.S.R.C.S.” pattern. This pattern is the later pattern used just before the service was combined with the Life Saving Service to form the Coast Guard. The pattern is done in rust and brown, and consists of one green stripe around the perimeter bordered by two thin rust stripes. Beneath, in a green shield, are the letters “USRCS” in an intertwining pattern. This pattern would be continued into the early Coast Guard with only the letters changed to “USCG.” The dish shown in this pattern is in a lovely fluted design, and is in wonderful condition. The dish is round, and measures 6 5/8” in diameter by 8 1/2” x 1 1/2” deep. This pattern is especially difficult to find.

Another pattern found occasionally is a rust colored “U.S.R.C.S.” flower pattern. This pattern is in rust, brown, green and blue, and consists of a floral pattern around the rim. In the center of the rim is the United States Revenue Cutter emblem in rust with crossed anchors behind.

Still a third pattern found is in rust or brown, and consists of a border line of rust outlined by turquoise. Within the border is a shield in shades of rust, with the letters “U.S.R.C.S.” within. As of yet we have not been ablt to put dates on these patterns, but no Revenue Cutter piece should be passed up as all can be considered extremely rare.

Next time we will take a look US Lighthouse Establishment and Service flags. Please continue to send in your questions and photos on the subject or a photograph of an object that you need help dating or identifying. We will include the answer to a selected inquiry as a regular feature each month in our column.

Jim Claflin is a recognized authority on antiques of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, Life-Saving Service, Revenue Cutter Service and early Coast Guard. He may be contacted by writing to him at 1227 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA 01602, or by calling 508-792-6627. You may also contact him by email: jclaflin@lighthouseantiques.net or visit his web site at www.lighthouseantiques.net

This story appeared in the June 2003 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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