Thursday, February 28, 2019


 "The Sower" child's 3.5 inch teapot, ca. 1820*

I recently purchased a very damaged small teapot with "The Sower" on one side and "The Reaper" on the other. I have long been interested in these patterns because I have entered so many in the database of the Transferware Collectors Club. They are part of a series titled "The Progress of the Quartern Loaf." There are six different patterns: the Ploughman, The Sower, The Thrasher, The Reaper, The Miller, and The Baker. All are in the Transferware Collectors Club Database of Patterns and Sources.

The patterns are based on illustrations* that accompany the poem "The Progress of the Quartern Loaf"* by Mary (Belson) Elliott (ca.1794-c.1870). The poem describes the labor involved in the genesis of a loaf of bread from the preparation of the earth by the ploughman to the making of the bread by the baker.

"The Ploughman" is one of the illustrations from the "Progress of the Quartern Loaf" by Mary (Belson) Elliott, ca. 1820. You can click on the photo to make it larger.

Child's plate, 7.44 inches. The verse reads: "The Ploughman's labour first prepares/The bosom of the earth for seed:/This done he has no further cares/Then other labourers succeed." You'll notice that only the first verse is used on the plate.

"The Sower" is another of the illustrations from "The Progress of the Quartern Loaf" by Mary (Belson) Elliott.

Child's plate, 5.5 inches. The verse reads: "With steady hand the Sower throws/That seed on which so much depends/Following the Ploughs deep track he goes/And plenty every step attends."

"The Reaper" is another of the illustrations from Mary (Belson) Elliott's "The Progress of the Quartern Loaf."

Child's plate, 6.2 inches, The verse reads: "The ruddy Glow and sun-burned Cheek/The harvest Labourer bespeak./The sweeping sickle clears the Field./Whose warming Rows resistless yield."

"The Thrasher" illustration from "The Progress of the Quartern Loaf."

Child's plate, 5 inches. The verse reads: "And see another Friend appears./ With active flail the corn to thrash./To separate the clustering ears./And clear the Grain from stalk & trash."  Today we would call this threashing, which is the separation of the corn (wheat) from the trash.

The mark on the back of the plate above is the title of the poem.

Mark on the back of "The Thrasher" plate.

 I haven't been able to find a print of "The Miller." We will have to make do with the print on the plate.

Child's Plate, 6.5 inches. The text reads: "It is now the Millers (sic) turn we find/Who into Flour the Corn must grind,/The husk or shell is used as Bran/The flour is general Food for Man."

Below is the mark found on the back of the "Miller" plate.

Mark found on the back of the plate above.

"The Baker" is the last illustration from "The Progress of the Quartern Loaf."

Child's Plate, 7 inches. The text reads: "With yeast the baker forms the dough/ Kneading it into loaves of bread/ When baked, their use we too well know/ To need much comment on that head."

There are 17 "Progress of the Quartern Loaf" patterns by many different makers in the TCC database.  I think the popularity of the series is due to the importance of bread as a staple of the 19th century diet. The plates were made at a time when the Corn Laws made the import of grain from Europe and elsewhere too expensive. Many people starved. I wonder if the poem was a subtle reference to the unpopular law.  Just a guess.  The law was repealed in 1846.

One more thing. The poem and patterns usually appear on children's plates and mugs, but I own 9.25 inch plates printed with four of the patterns surrounded by a Canova border! They all are marked Canova and have the initials J T.  I'd love to hear some of your thoughts as to maker and owner.

A set of four 9.25 inch plates with  a Canova border and the "Progress of the Quartern Loaf" center: from left, Ploughman, Reaper, Thrasher, and Sower.

The back of the plate shows the printed mark, Canova, and the initials J and T (I think). The plates were probably made by George Phillips (1834-1847), as the urn mark is similar. However, the Phillips name is not printed under the mark.

Shown is the Phillips' mark from another item.

*The illustrations are from the Toronto Public Library,

*According to the dictionary (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary), a quartern loaf weighs about four pounds. A quartern, a traditional English unit of weight for bread, is made from a quartern of flour, equal to 1/4 stone or 3.5 pounds. The finished loaf usually weighs about 4 pounds; as a result a quartern is sometimes described as a weight of 4 pounds.

*The other side of the teapot which shows the "Reaper."

"Reaper" child's 3.5 inch teapot, ca. 1820