Sunday, March 12, 2017


Pap boat, ca. 1830

What is a pap boat?  It has taken me quite a lot of time to figure this out, and I'm still not totally sure.  It appears to be a small boat shaped item that was intended to supply pap to babies and invalids.  What is pap?  I have found more than one recipe (Robert Copeland* says it is a mixture of bread and flour soaked in milk with perhaps a small tot of rum!), but is is basically a mixture of flour and boiled water plus, on occasion, sugar or bread.  Pap was intended as a supplement for milk if a child failed to thrive.  Most of the pap boats have a spout on one side and a curved area on the other side instead of a handle (although some do have handles).  The curved area would make the small item easy to rest in the palm of the hand.  

My interest in pap boats in part of my interest in medical items.  For example, I have already written about toast water jugs and baby or invalid feeders.  But, it was a gift of a small teal printed object that led me to learn about pap boats.  I thought the object might be a butter boat because of its small size, 2.5 inches by 1.25 inches by 1.5 inches high, or a creamer from a child's service.  Once I learned it was a pap boat, I still wondered if it was intended to be a  plaything for a child.  I may be wrong, but I think it was just made to be used for infants and very young babies. 

Romantic pattern teal printed 2.5 inch x 1.25 inch x 1.5 inch high pap boat, ca. 1835

This photo shows the other side of the pap boat (anyone know the pattern?) plus how small it is.  For example, the mug on the left is 2.5 inches high.

Here are some more examples of pap boats. 

John & Robert Godwin (1834-1865) "Crete" pattern 5 inch by 3.5 inch by 1.25 inch high pap boat.  The Transferware Collectors Club entry for this pattern says "Pap was a glutinous mixture of flour or bread and water sometimes with egg or beer." 

Unknown Maker, 19th century sheet pattern pap boat.

William Ridgway Son & Co. (1838-1848) "Humphrey's Clock" pattern 3 inch by 2.25 inch by 1.5 inch high pap boat.

I found more information  about pap boats in "Antique Medical Instruments" by Elisabeth Bennion, which was published in 1979 for Sotheby Parke Bernet Publications by Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd. Russell Chambers, Covent Garden, London.  Notice that pap boats were made in silver and other materials, not just ceramics.

If you want to know even more about pap boats and baby feeders, here is a link to an excellent article titled "A History of Infant Feeding" by Emily E. Stevens. 

As much as I love pap boats, I'm glad we don't have to use them today!

*Robert Copeland, "Ceramic Bygones," p. 37

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