Friday, March 28, 2014


Shell Edge Plates
 Don Carpentier wrote an excellent article titled Do You Know What the Real Name for this Plate Edge Is?  It turns out that what I have been calling feather edge is actually shell edge!  I even own books about feather edge ceramics that are actually shell edge! 

A feather edge plate has a border that resembles a feather.  


Feather Edge Plate

Close-up of a feather edge

A shell edge plate has a border that resembles the ridges on a shell.

Shell Edge plate

Close-up of shell edge

Shell Edge plate

Close-up of shell edge

Shell Edge plate

Close-up of shell edge

The next time you find a shell edge called a feather edge, please say something!

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Last year, I wrote about one of my favorite fables by Aesop, The Dog in the Manger.  This post seemed to resonate with my readers.  Many of us like to have our behaviors summed up in a moral at the end of an animal fable.  Probably a bit less threatening (and cheaper) than the psychiatrist's coach!  Another of my favorite fables is The Fox and the Grapes.

Brownhills Pottery (1872-1896) Aesop's Fables The Fox And The Grapes 6.12 inch child's ABC plate
One hot summer’s day a Fox was strolling through an orchard till he came to a bunch of Grapes just ripening on a vine which had been trained over a lofty branch. “Just the thing to quench my thirst,” quoth he. Drawing back a few paces, he took a run and a jump, and just missed the bunch. Turning round again with a One, Two, Three, he jumped up, but with no greater success. Again and again he tried after the tempting morsel, but at last had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: “I am sure they are sour.”
Moral: It is easy to despise what you cannot get.

The fable was and continues to be a popular teaching tool for young children (and grown ups).  Below see a children's mug with another example of the pattern.

Unknown Maker Fox and Grapes 2.5 inch high child's mug, ca. 1840
In 1830, the Spode factory introduced a dinner service (definitely intended for adults) that depicted many of Aesop's Fables.  Twenty-seven of these patterns can be seen in the Spode Exhibition Online.  Some of the designs were copied from illustrations in an 1814 edition of Aesop's Fables, printed at the Chiswick press for Carpenter and Son, Old Bond Street etc.  The preface and English renditions of the fables are by Samuel Croxall (ca. 1690-1752).  (See the link to Project Gutenberg eBook.)

Spode Aesops (sic) Fables The Fox And The Grapes 6.25 inch plate, ca. 1830

Spode Aesops's Fables Mark/Notice the impressed Spode mark

The Fox And The Grapes source print, 1814
I always think about the fox and his scorn of the grapes he couldn't reach when there is something I can't have: "I would never want to be young again!"  This is probably an example of (for me) "sour grapes."

Sunday, March 16, 2014


If this plate looks familiar, it is because I used it in a blog post I wrote about my father for Father's Day.  His name was Joseph.  Always called Joe or Joey.  My newest grandson was born on Wednesday night, March 12, 2014.  He is named for my father.  I can't think of a lovelier tribute.

As I said in an earlier blog post, Present For My Dear Boy (written in November 2013 to celebrate the birth of my grandson, Liam), children's patterns with names were often intended as gifts for a new baby.  Joseph is my first grandchild who has a name that was popular in the 19th century, so I hope he likes children's patterns!  Here are a few intended for a loved child named Joseph.

Joseph Terrence (for his maternal grandfather Terry) born on March 12, 2014; 9 pounds two ounces, 21 inches
Joseph Rudolph born on June 26, 1917 ( he may have been about four month in this photo)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

CRIMEAN WAR AGAIN (Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose)

A 6.6 inch child's plate that celebrates the alliance of Britain and France during the Crimean War.  The three battles in the banner, Alma, Inkerman, and Balaclava were British/French victories.
I often wondered why there were so many transferware patterns that commemorated the Crimean War (for example, there are 25 Crimean patterns in the Transferware Collectors Club Pattern and Source Print Database.)  In the last few weeks, I have learned a lot of Crimean history as well as current events.  An excellent article by David M. Herszenhorn in the N.Y. Times titled Crimea's Bloody Past Is A Key to Its Present helped me understand more clearly the importance of the mid-19th century Crimean War.

Where is Crimea? I have to admit that I wasn't sure where it was.  I did think it was part of Russia or the Ukraine (all four of my grandparents were from the Ukraine and they used the article the when speaking about their homeland). You can see that Crimea and Ukraine in the map above are part of Russia. They are not part of Russia in the map below.  Ownership seems to change often.

The Crimean War (1853-1856) pitted Russia against the alliance of Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire (the Kingdom of Sardinia is somewhere in there too).  It is considered the first modern war.  Nearly a million men were killed, and it  was the first conflict to use photography, the telegraph and newspapers.  I read that the seeds of many of the 20th century wars were sown in the Crimean War.  Twenty-first century wars too.

Map showing Crimea during the Crimea War

Now for some transferware. Below is a jar showing The Landing of the British Army At The Crimea.

John Thomas & Jos Mayer (1842-1855) jar illustrating The Landing Of The British Army At The Crimea (notice the article the is used before Crimea/I have some idea about this.  Your thoughts?
The pot lid below is titled Alma which was one of the first major battles of the Crimean War.  The men were some of the major players (an odd word for warriors): Omar Pasha, an Ottoman general; Lord Raglan, commander of the British forces; Marshal St. Arnaud, commander of the French forces; and the Duke of Cambridge, Prince George, the grandson of George III.

Polychrome pot lid, Alma, by John Thomas & Jos Mayer (1842-1855)/Clockwise from the bottom; Prince George, Lord Raglan, Omar Pasha, and Marshal St. Arnaud
The jar illustrates a scene from the battle of Balaclava, and the plate shows Sebastopol, also spelled Sevastopol, which was the site of a year-long siege.

John Thomas & Jos Mayer (1842-1855) polychrome jar with a scene of the battle of Balaclava. 
F. & R. Pratt (1818-1920) 8.6 inch plate, Sebastopol.  In 1854-55, the city withstood an eleven month siege by French, British, Turkish and Sardinian forces.  The city endured another siege by the Germans during WWII.
Below is a jug that shows two scenes from the Crimean War; Alma and Sebastopol.
Maker Uknown, Alma 7.5 inch jug

Maker Uknown, Sebastopol (other side of the above jug)
As I have mentioned in prior posts, British potters capitalized on popular culture.  Although not transferware, there are many Staffordshire figures that feature Crimean War subjects. 
Turkey England And France/Made to commemorate the Crimean War/Turkish Pasha. Queen Victoria, Napoleon III


Thursday, March 6, 2014


A modern quagga, October 2013
I recently read an article about cloning in the New York Times;  The Mammoth Cometh or Bringing extinct animals back to life is really happening!   It reminded me of my post on April 16, 2013 titled Visit To The Quagga.  You may remember that a quagga is a subspecies of a zebra that was extinct by the end of the 19th century, but was reintroduced this century by selective breeding.

Photo of a quagga in the London Zoo circa 1870
My interest in clonning and selective breeding began with a 19th century child's plate with an image that didn't quite look like a zebra.  It set me off on a quest to discover something about this unusual looking animal.  I had never heard the word quagga before.  I didn't know the animal existed.  You might want to click on these links to learn more about The Quagga Project and about Khumba, the quagga foal seen above.

Child's plate Visit to the Zebra, circa 1840/Looks more like a quagga to me!