Digest>Archives> August 2003

Collecting Nautical Antiques

Staffordshire Commemorative China

By Jim Claflin


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In the 1890’s pictorial souvenir china was introduced to the United States from Europe for the enjoyment of vacationers throughout the country. Because of their beauty, and the fact that cameras were not readily available to capture the scenes, such Victorian pictorial pieces were in great demand as keepsakes to take home. From pharmacies to card shops, general stores to photography studios, hotels and merchants across the country began to offer these pieces to visitors.

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Staffordshire ware, common during this era, has become a generic term for various products of the Potteries district in Staffordshire, one of the most famous areas in England for the production of pottery. Following the production of slipware and stoneware in the 17th and early 18th century, the end of the 18th century saw the advent of porcelain manufacture in the area. Among the famous Staffordshire potters were Josiah Wedgewood, Thomas Minton, and Josiah Spode, whose names have all become synonymous with ceramic ware of the period.

The beautiful red transferware cup and saucer shown (thanks to Maureen Petrie for the lovely photos) were made as a souvenir for Portland Maine. It features Portland’s Longfellow Monument, Portland Head Light on Cape Elizabeth, and the Longfellow Home built in 1875, on the cup. The saucer features a view of Casco Bay from Fort Allen Park, City Hall, the birthplace of Longfellow, and Cape Elizabeth’s “Two Lights” and Life Saving Station. The circular center of the saucer features the Maine state logo and is adorned with a floral motif. The bottom is marked “Jonroth” and has the company logo.

Jonroth Company eventually became prolific importers of Stoke-on-Trent pottery into the United States. They specialized in blue and pink historical or souvenir designs on the traditional blue (and pink) Staffordshire prints. In 1884 John H Roth had entered the ceramic trade as a clerk for importer C. E. Wheelock Company in South Bend, Indiana. In 1892, John H Roth made his first visit to the Factory of William Adams & Sons, which would begin a 61 year relationship with that factory that was to last up to and after the time of the Wedgwood takeover. As you look on the bottom of your china pieces you will see many of these importer and distributor’s names imprinted.

In 1891, the McKinley Tariff Act required that the country of origin be shown on all imported items. As an added marketing incentive, importers began offering merchants the opportunity to have their shop’s name imprinted on the bottom of the piece. Therefore, pieces without such markings on the bottom probably date prior to 1891.

Like our column? Have suggestions for future subjects? Please send in your suggestions and questions, 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. In addition to authoring and publishing a number of books on the subject, Jim is the owner of Kenrick A Claflin & Son Nautical Antiques. He may be contacted by writing to him at 30 Hudson Street, Northborough, MA 01532, or by calling 508-393-9814. Or by email: jclaflin@lighthouseantiques.net or visit his web site at www.lighthouseantiques.net

This story appeared in the August 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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