Ceramics

“Historical Plates” on view in “The Art of American History”

GL2004_2511DP1DB Plate
Boston Tea Party Plate, 1899. Sold by Jones, McDuffee & Stratton Co., Boston, Massachusetts. Manufactured by Wedgwood, Etruria, England. Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.2511.

In 1899 a notice in The Boston Globe announced that a local glass and crockery store, Jones, McDuffee & Stratton Co., had received “Belated Importations” on a steamship called Ultonia.  The announcement went on to say that, “From Wedgwood we will have open on Tuesday new designs of the series of Historical plates….”  This dessert plate (at left), decorated in dark blue with a scene depicting the Boston Tea Party, was among the fresh offerings.  In 1899, when they added this plate to the roster, Jones, McDuffee & Stratton boasted they had 28 different subjects in their series of historical plates.  By 1907, their series included over 70 subjects. A Boston-based importer, Jones, McDuffee & Stratton, commissioned English ceramics manufacturers to make plates and other dishes decorated with historic scenes. Artists working for the importers created the artwork that Wedgwood and other British companies used to decorate items.  From 1899 to 1904 Jones, McDuffee & Stratton sold and directed retailers to sell plates like this one for 50¢ each. By 1907, the company sold these plates for 35¢ in their 10-story wholesale and retail facility on Franklin Street. 

Unknown potters in Staffordshire, England, crafted this pitcher bearing portraits of American heroes such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Hancock, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Patrick Henry, along with the signatures of some of the fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence. To the design in dark blue, manufacturers also added a variety of scenes from American history including Washington saying farewell to his officers, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and Washington crossing the Delaware.  The largest images on the pitcher were places where important historic events had occurred, Independence Hall in Philadelphia and Faneuil (spelled Faneuiel on the pitcher) Hall in Boston, called put as the “Cradle of Liberty.”  Along the pitcher’s handle, the makers spelled out the words “American Independence 1776.”  The Rowland and Marsellus Company of New York imported this pitcher. They sold it, and a variety of other ceramic souvenir items, to retailers across the country.

GL2004_7122DP1DB Pitcher
Pitcher, ca. 1908. Imported by Rowland & Marsellus Co., New York, New York. Made in Staffordshire, England. Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.7122.

This plate and pitcher, as well as many prints and paintings of scenes from United States history are on view in “The Art of American History,” at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library through November 23, 2019.

 

References:

Ad, “Belated Importations,” The Boston Globe, 24 December 1899, 28.

Ad, “Genuine Wedgwood Old Blue Historical Plates,” The Boston Globe, 28 July 1907, 34.


New to the Collection: A Masonic Punch Bowl

Punch Bowl Inside BottomAs the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library’s current lobby exhibition, “Called to Refreshment,” makes clear, Freemasons often socialized as part of their meetings.  Masonic lodges invested in pitchers, platters, bowls and other kinds of serving ware for the time when they were “called from labor to refreshment.”  Freemasons – then and now – also socialized outside of the lodge.  Using objects decorated with Masonic symbols on these occasions let everyone know that their owner identified with Freemasonry and valued his association with the group.

This bowl, which was recently acquired by the Museum & Library, is almost thirteen inches in diameter and shows a total of eleven transfer-printed images in the bottom and on the inner and outer sides.  Bowls of this size and shape were generally used to serve punch.  The image inside the bottom of the bowl features two classical figures with a series of five architectural columns.  Several Masonic tools are scattered on the ground.  A verse reads “To heavens high Architect all praise / All gratitude be given / Who design’d the human soul to raise / By secrets sprung from heaven.”  This verse appeared as early as 1769 in A Candid Disquisition of the Principles and Practices…of Free and Accepted Masons by Wellins Calcott.

Punch Bowl Masonic SceneThe decorations on the outside alternate between Masonic and non-Masonic.  The Masonic image shows a temple with three figures wearing their aprons and other Masonic symbols.  Another image is American in subject with a liberty cap at the top.  Dating back to ancient Rome, the liberty cap was often used as a symbol of freedom during the American and French Revolutions.  A verse below the cap reads “As he tills the rich glebe the old peasant shall tell, / While his bosom with Liberty glows. / How your Warren expir’d, how Montgomery fell. / And how Washington humbled your foes.”  These lines come from the poem “American Freedom,” written by Edward Rushton (1756-1814) of Liverpool, England. Punch Bowl Liberty Cap

The name of the original owner, Ephraim McFarland, is printed inside the bottom of the bowl.  The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts lists an Ephraim McFarland as a member of Boston’s St. Andrew’s Lodge.  This man was initiated in January 1801 and received the second degree in December 1801, but his membership record does not indicate that he ever received the third degree of Master Mason.  Information given to the Museum & Library with the bowl suggested that the original owner was the Ephraim McFarland who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1763 and married in 1782. 

Further research suggests that the bowl’s owner might actually have been the Ephraim McFarland who lived in Belfast, Maine.  This Ephraim was born in 1765 in Boothbay, Maine, and died in 1849, also in Maine.  This Ephraim was a ship captain who sailed between Maine and Boston.  He both owned and commanded several ships.  His travel to Boston would have provided opportunities to join St. Andrew’s Lodge and to purchase this bowl.

Masonic punch bowl, 1790-1820, England, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase, 2015.029.


Keep Within Compass, or, A Tempest on a Teapot

Teapot, man, smaller Teapot, woman, smaller

 

 

 

 

 

This transfer-printed teapot from the late 1700s is not only charming, it also communicates an important social message. Through slogans and illustrations, it reminds both husbands and wives to abide by a moral code of self-restraint and to “keep within compass.” The prints on each side of the teapot—one featuring a man; the other, a woman—depict the rewards of proper behavior versus the dangers of temptation. A large central image, contained within a compass’s legs (“within compass”), presents an idealized view of the perfect life in the late 1700s.  Around each of these main illustrations, four vignettes provide cautionary tales of the ruin that awaits those who eschew a virtuous life.

In the large vignette on one side, the well-dressed gentleman, bags of money at his feet, is surrounded by bountiful fields, a large mill, and men working on his farm. On the other side, the fashionable lady is similarly surrounded by her elegant home, a trunk of pretty things and her loyal dog. Both sides also feature the proverb, “Keep within compass and you shall be shure to avoid many troubles which others endure,” as well as the brief admonitions, “Fear God. Know thyself. Bridle thy will. Remember thy end.” The vignettes around these central images show dangers that an imprudent person could easily fall into, including ruined reputation, prison, and shipwreck—a metaphor for lost fortune. Biblical sayings—“The end of the upright man is peace” and “The virtuous woman is a crown to her husband,” respectively—appear below each image.

98_007T1 98_007T2 A large percentage of the Museum's collection relates to Freemasonry and other fraternal organizations, so we found the iconography on this teapot familiar. The compass is a central Masonic symbol, representing restraint, but this teapot’s manufacturers may have selected it because its meaning of self-control was familiar to society at the time. The images on this teapot appear to be inspired by, though not directly copied from, a pair of prints made in 1786 by London printmaker Carington Bowles (1724-1793), also in the Museum’s collection, reproduced here. These prints may in turn have been inspired by two series of prints by William Hogarth, “A Harlot’s Progress” (1732) and “A Rake’s Progress” (1735), which depict the downfall of a formerly innocent woman and man through drink and seduction.

In the late 1700s, when this teapot was made, tea-drinking was a socialactivity. According to 1700s French lawyer Méderic Louis Élie Moreau de St. Méry, in America “friends, acquaintances and even strangers are invited” to join the family for tea. How you set your table told your guests something about your financial standing, taste and place in the world. So this teapot not only reminded the family to be honorable people, it also conveyed a message about the family’s moral character to their guests—that they valued—and perhaps aspired to—the morals that the prints' designers highlighted. The Museum’s Public Programs Coordinator, Polly Kienle, selected this teapot to include in the exhibition, "Curators' Choice," which features the staff's favorite objects from the collection. Of this teapot, she said, “I wonder what kind of teatime discussions this pot triggered between the couple who owned it.”

References:

David Drakard, Printed English Pottery: History and Humour in the Reign of George III, 1760-1820 (London: Jonathan Horne Publications), 1992.

Rodris Roth, “Tea Drinking in 18th-Century America: Its Etiquette and Equipage,” United States National Museum Bulletin 255 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution), 1961.

 S. Robert Teitelman, Patrica A. Halfpenny, and Robert W. Fuchs II, Success to America: Creamware for the American Market, featuring the S. Robert Teitelman collection at Winterthur (Suffolk, England: Antique Collectors’ Club), 2010.

 Photos:

“Keep Within Compass” Teapot, 1796–1801. Attributed to Ferrybridge Pottery, Yorkshire, England. Museum purchase, in part through the generosity of Helen G. Deffenbaugh, in memory of George S. Deffenbaugh, 2008.040a-b. Photograph by David Bohl.

 “Keep Within Compass” Prints, 1786. Carington Bowles (1724-1793), London, England. Museum purchase, 98.007a-b.


A Memorable Gift

GL2004_10165DP1 side view At almost two feet high, this pitcher stands out from the crowd of transfer-printed jugs made in the late 1700s and early 1800s.  During this time, English pottery manufacturers designed and sold great quantities of light beige-to-white earthenware, called creamware, to Americans.  Much of it was plain or minimally decorated tableware, but consumers who wanted to splash out could order transfer-printed designs with gilded or enamel-painted decorations to embellish jugs, bowls or platters. 

Some of these surviving objects celebrate accomplishments, GL2004_10165DP4 inscription both individual and national.  This monumental pitcher, personalized with an inscription that says, “From John Walton to St. Paul’s Lodge,” may have marked either the founding of the Groton, Massachusetts, lodge in 1797 or Dr. John Walton’s (1770-1862) term as master from 1806-1808.  Much bigger than typical examples, which are large enough for 2-3 transfer prints, this pitcher features over a dozen different Masonic and floral transfer-printed designs.  Hand-applied gilding decorates the top and base and also highlights elements of the printed decoration. Walton most assuredly gave his lodge a lavish gift.

GL2004_10165DP5 detail cropped Unlike the majority of transfer print-decorated pitchers, this one bears a maker’s mark, WEDGWOOD, impressed on the bottom.  This mark identifies the famous Staffordshire pottery company founded by Josiah Wedgwood as the pitcher’s maker.  Unfortunately, none of the transfer-print designs on the pitcher are signed.  A few of the transfer prints, such as a stanza that begins “The World is in Pain/our Secrets to Gain,” and an image thought to have been derived from different Masonic membership certificates (see illustration), are fairly common on antique creamware pitchers decorated with Masonic themes.  Many other designs on the jug relate to English Royal Arch Freemasonry.  They are less common in the Museum or the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts collections, but do appear other collections.  For example, a 1925 history of the Grand Lodge of Ireland includes an illustration of a 1797 pitcher of the same size and maker with a very similar decoration as the Walton gift. 

How St. Paul’s Lodge used this enormous vessel is an open question.  A rough calculation estimates 75_46_11bDI3 Union Lodge pitcher that, if filled, the jug would hold about four-and-a-half gallons of liquid and weigh nearly 40 pounds.  The secretary of the Union Lodge of Dorchester, Massachusetts, left a clue as to how his lodge used their pitchers.  He described a pair of smaller (11" high) transfer-print-decorated pitchers (see illustration) given to the lodge in 1811 as “punch pitchers.” In 1802 St. Paul’s Lodge comprised 42 members.  If they filled this pitcher with punch (and could lift it!), every member could certainly have a serving. Regardless of its use, this monumental presentation piece ensured the donor was long remembered. 

Part of the collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts housed here at the Museum, John Walton's gift to St. Paul's Lodge is currently on view in Curators' Choice. If you know about other monumental pitchers associated with Masonic organizations, we'd love to hear about them! Please get in touch or leave a comment.

Pitcher, 1797-1810.  Wedgwood, Staffordshire, England. Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.10165.  Photographs by David Bohl.

Pitcher, 1811. England. Gift of Union Lodge, Ancient Free & Accepted Masons, Dorchester, Massachusetts, 75.46.11a-b.

Sources

John Heron Lepper and Philip Crossle, History of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Ireland, Vol. 1, Dublin:  Lodge of Research, 1925.

John D. Hamilton, Material Culture of the American Freemasons. Lexington, Massachusetts:  Museum of Our National Heritage, 1994.

S. Robert Teitelman, Patricia A. Halfpenny and Ronald W. Fuchs II, Success to America:  Creamware for the American Market. Woodbridge, Suffolk:  Antiques Collectors’ Club, 2010.


Made in Japan

77_70_38DI2 With the exceptions of pieces owned by famous people, or particularly rare or valuable examples, ceramics are often overlooked as important aesthetic and historic objects. This is unfortunate because dinnerware, vases, figurines, and the like have much to tell us about the people who made and used them, and their societies. The National Heritage Museum owns a diverse group of ceramics, ranging from commemorative mugs for Masonic events to delicate porcelain teacups. The sugar and creamer set and the vase, seen here, were donated to the museum in 1977, and have been waiting for their stories to be told.

Both the sugar and creamer set and the vase are examples of the so-called "Nippon China" that was popular in American homes between 1865 and 1921.  "Nippon" is the transliteration of the more formal Japanese name for Japan. While Japanese craftsmen had made high-quality porcelain for centuries, the Western world only developed a strong interest in Japanese culture in the late nineteenth century, when many American and European artists began to incorporate Japanese-inspired motifs and imagery into their work. 77_46_1DI1

The end of the Tokugawa policy of seclusion in the 1850s meant that Japanese borders opened to foreigners for the first time since the early seventeenth century. This allowed Westerners to discover Japanese fine art and decorative arts, triggering a new fashion for Japonisme - the influence of Japanese art on Western art and design - that lasted into the early twentieth century. Likewise, Japanese artistic influences inspired many notable decorative artists who were active in the Art Nouveau movement, such as Louis Comfort Tiffany and Edmond Lachenal.

Like most other pieces of Japanese export porcelain during this period, the Museum's objects were hand-painted by Japanese artists with designs that were specifically created for Western audiences. Americans who purchased porcelain tableware and housewares in the early twentieth century were drawn to the ornate and the exotic.  They were also used to the gilded, highly decorative designs hailing from Limoges and Staffordshire. Both the floral motif of this vase and the idyllic landscape pictured on the sugar and creamer set reflect the popular designs of contemporary products from France and the United Kingdom, which had dominated the American market. Ironically, during the Meiji Period (1868-1912), when these objects were made, the Japanese favored simpler designs.  Gilded lusterwares, like this vase, were unfashionable in their country of origin.

77_46_3DI2 The marks on each of these objects provide insight into their history. Both the sugar bowl and the creamer are marked on the bottom with a trademark consisting of an “M” encircled by a wreath, with the words “Hand Painted” printed above and “Nippon” printed below the wreath. The “M” signifies that these pieces were made by the Morimura Brothers factory, which later developed into the Noritake China corporation. Morimura Brothers used this mark from 1911 to 1921. Likewise, the maple leaf stamp on the bottom of the vase was also a trademark of Morimura Brothers, which branded various products with this distinctive mark between 1891 and 1921.  

The year 1921 signaled the end of an era for Japanese export porcelain, as a new American law required that foreign manufacturers mark the country of origin of their products in English. Japanese products designed for the American market began being labeled with the anglicized name “Japan.” In turn, this evolved into the once-ubiquitous “Made in Japan” label that came to appear on everything from toys to electronics sold in the United States later in the twentieth century.

References:

Alden, Aimee Neff, and Marian Kinney Richardson. Early Noritake China: An Identification and Value Guide to Tableware Patterns. Des Moines: Wallace-Homestead Book Company, 1987.

“Japanese Porcelain Noritake Marks.” Antique Chinese and Japanese Porcelain Collector's Help and Info Page. Nilsson, Jan-Erik, 2006, http://gotheborg.com/marks/noritake.shtml, accessed September 29, 2010.

“Nippon China Dinnerware History.” Antique China Porcelain & Collectibles. Nacq Partners, Ltd., 2010, http://www.antique-china-porcelain-collectibles.com/nippon_china_dinnerware.htm, accessed September 29, 2010.

Van Patten, Joan F. Collector’s Encyclopedia of Nippon Porcelain: Identification and Values. Paducah, KY: Collector Books, 2001.

Vase, 1891-1921, Japanese, National Heritage Museum Collection, gift of Dorothy A. and Albert H. Richardson, 77.70.38.

Creamer, 1911-1921, Japanese, National Heritage Museum Collection, gift of Edith V. Carlson, 77.46.1.

Sugar Bowl with Lid, 1911-1921, Japanese, National Heritage Museum Collection, gift of Edith V. Carlson, 77.46.3a-b.