Saturday, July 26, 2014


Davenport (1794-1887) 21 inch by 16 inch platter, ca. 1825 (notice the snake/worm on the left).
As you  know, one of my favorite things about transferware is what I learn from studying it.  I have always thought the animal in this Davenport pattern was an earthworm.  However, I was told that the animal could not be a worm because worms are not that big.  It had to be a snake.  According to Wikipedia, the average earthworm is:  "Depending on the species, an adult earthworm can be from 10 mm (0.39 in) long and 1 mm (0.039 in) wide to 3 m (9.8 ft) long and over 25 mm (0.98 in) wide, but the typical Lumbricus terrestris grows to about 360 mm (14 in) long."

It is also said that the snake or worm is a handle on the vase. It should be remembered that patterns are not necessarily representational.  They can be subject to the whim of the original artist or engraver.  The animals could be handles, but are not centered, and look a bit frail for a handle. 
Davenport 8.25 inch plate (notice two snake/worm "handles").
Davenport water jug (notice the snake/worm on the left).
I just thought a worm fit in with the natural look of the flower arrangement.  I have brought worms and other critters into my house along with garden flowers.  Luckily, no snakes!  However, when I visited my family in the Loire Valley in France a few years ago, I was told to beware of vipers in the garden.  That said, the animal could also be a European viper! 

What do you think?

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Ralph & James Clews (1814-1834) The Advertisement for a Wife 15.25" by 11.5" platter, ca. 1825
The Advertisement for a Wife by Thomas Rowlandson 1821

The Third Tour of Dr. Syntax in search of a Wife, p. 210  (See the link to the entire book below.)
 A lot has been written about Doctor Syntax, possibly the first cartoon.  Or, perhaps, the first time the word cartoon was used to describe two-dimensional caricatures rather than the preparatory drawings for a formal work.  Doctor Syntax was created by the artist Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) and put to verse by William Combe (1742-1823).  He first appeared in The Poetical Magazine in 1809 (published by Rudolph Ackermann).  The caricature was so popular that it was published in book form as The Tour of Dr. Syntax in search of the Picturesque in 1812, and was followed by The Second Tour of Dr. Syntax in search of Consolation in 1820 and The Third Tour of Dr. Syntax in search of a Wife in 1821.  The books were the best sellers of their day, and continued to be published throughout the 19th century and into the 20th century.  The Staffordshire potters, always looking for what seized the imagination of the public, copied Rowlandson's prints onto pottery.  Ralph & James Clews created a dinner service in dark blue (more than 30 different patterns) for the American Market in the 1820s, and the Adams factory sold Doctor Syntax patterned plates from 1900 through the 1970s.  I love the Clews' patterns, but I especially enjoy the Doctor Syntax patterns printed on pottery for children.  Although Doctor Syntax was intended for adults, he clearly was found amusing by children.  I think of him as Bugs Bunny without the ears.

Dr. Syntax Pursued By A Bull on a 5.5 inch plate with a molded dog, fox and monkey border, ca. 1830
Dr. Syntax Pursued By A Bull from the First Tour of Doctor Syntax by Thomas Rowlandson
Dr. Syntax Bound to a Tree by Highwaymen on a 7.5 inch plate with a molded dog, fox and monkey border, ca. 1830
Dr. Syntax Bound to a Tree by Highwaymen from the First Tour of Doctor Syntax by Thomas Rowlandson
Dr. Syntax Sells Grizzle on a 7 inch plate with a molded animal border, ca. 1830
Dr. Syntax Sells Grizzle
from the First Tour of Doctor Syntax by Thomas Rowlandson
Baker, Bevans & Irwin (1814-1838) 6.75 inch Dr. Syntax plate with a molded Rose and Honeysuckle border, ca. 1830
Doctor Syntax Setting Out For London by Thomas Rowlandson/I am not sure which book this print is from.
Doctor Syntax was so popular that he appeared in many incarnations.  I found a Pinterest page titled Dr. Syntax by Rod Wilson that shows some interesting Doctor Syntax pictures.  Take a look.  There is even a quilt!

If you have made it this far in my blog post, you deserve to see a charming use of a Doctor Syntax cheese cradle.  Its original purpose was to hold a stilton cheese wheel, but it has been repurposed here as a fruit stand.  The view is Dr. Syntax Bound to a Tree by Highwaymen by Ralph & James Clews.

Ralph & James Clews Dr. Syntax Bound to a Tree by Highwaymen Cheese Cradle

Thursday, July 10, 2014


On a trip to Mendocino, California in 1972, I found a molded and painted ceramic toilet I thought would be interesting to use as a plant pot.  The ferns I planted have survived on benign neglect ever since.
Old toilet reused as a planter
My curiosity about old toilets was sparked, but I didn't learn anything about them until I purchased a book in 1978 titled Temples of Convenience by Lucinda Lambton.  An expanded version of the book, Temples of Convenience: & Chambers of Delight was published in 2002.   The book features some gorgeous photos of transfer printed toilets, so I hoped I would eventually find one to replace the boring white toilets I had in my house.

Temples of Convenience by Lucinda Lambton St. Martin's Press, 1978
 The opportunity didn't arise until late in the 1980s when I spotted a floral printed toilet at a shop in Carmel, California.   The owner of the shop assured me that the toilet could be plumbed, but when I got it home it seemed a pity to use in the conventional way.  I put it next to my reading chair in the living room.  A friend gave me a piece of glass to transform the toilet into a table.

Dent & Hellyer Pedestal Hygienic toilet, ca. 1884

Dent & Hellyer toilet repurposed as a side table!

Inside the Dent & Hellyer toilet/the registry number places manufacture around 1884
A bit of Dent & Hellyer history

In 2013, the Transferware Collectors Club invited Terry Woolliscroft to give a talk titled The Tale of the Toilet at its annual meeting.  Terry's excellent talk transformed the way I thought about the humble toilet.  It is not merely a convenience, but a disease inhibitor. My toilet just serves as a side table to hold books (and sometimes a coffee cup).  It is also a conversation starter.

For more toilet information read T W Twyford Sanitary Pottery

Lovely old toilets

A lovely toilet!  An oxymoron?

Friday, July 4, 2014


Ralph & James Clews (1814-1834) platter Peace and Plenty, ca, 1825

I wrote about July 4 (Independence Day) last year.  My grandparents called it Declaration Day.  I titled the post Peace and Plenty, but I really wanted to write about my maternal grandfather, Sam Berenson, who told me why he loved America.

Today I am going to show you some transferware patterns that honored some of the heroes of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.   Odd that this pottery was made in British factories shortly after British defeat!  I have to assume you all know about the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) and the War of 1812 (1812-1815).  If not, click on the highlighted words that will take you to Wikipedia.

There are lots of patterns that show George Washington and the Marquis de La Fayette (also spelled Lafayette).  Sometimes both spellings in the same article!

John Harrison (1781-1816) 9.75 inch plate Washington President plus the seal of the United States/An early transferware plate.
Ralph & James Clews (1814-1834) 7.75 inch pitcher Welcome La Fayette The Nation's Guest And Our Country's Glory, ca. 1825

Enoch Wood & Sons (1818-1846) saucer, Washington Standing at His Tomb, Scroll in Hand/An allegorical pattern about which I haven't a clue!

Enoch Wood & Sons (1818-1846) 6.5 inch plate La Fayette and Washington.

Ralph Stevenson & Williams (1825-1827) 10.5 inch plate Welcome La Fayette and Washington and La Fayette/a commemorative made for La Fayette's visit to the United States in 1824

In 1824, La Fayette came to the United States to be honored as "Our Nations Guest." Below are two  patterns that commemorated his visit. 

Ralph & James Clews (1814-1834) 17 inch platter Landing of Gen. La Fayette at Castle Garden New York 16 August 1824, ca. 1824

Enoch Wood & Sons (1818-1846) 19 inch platter La Fayette at Washington's Tomb, ca. 1825/Probably allegorical rather than actual

Some patterns commemorated the War of 1812.

Pitcher, 6 inches by an unknown maker/Success to the United States of America 1812/Remember that the British lost this war, yet British factories made this commemorative jug for the American Market!  

Enoch Wood & Sons (1818-1846) jug with War of 1812 Army heroes (above) on one side and Naval heroes on the other

Enoch Wood & Sons (1818-1846) jug with War of 1812 with Naval heroes (above) on one side and Army heroes on the other

After the wars were won (or lost), it was "business as usual" in the British potteries. If you have enjoyed looking at these American historical patterns, take a look at Patriotic America,  a website that features patterns that celebrate early America. It was created by the Winterthur Museum, Historic New England and the Transferware Collectors Club