“The Art of American History”

“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.



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

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

"Washington's Reception on the Bridge at Trenton in 1785" Designed by John Ludlow Morton

85_8_2DS1 print
"Washington's Reception on the Bridge at Trenton in 1785," 1845-1849. Designed by John Ludlow Morton (1792-1871), New York, New York. Engraved by Thomas Kelley (b. ca. 1795), probably New York, New York. Special Acquisitions Fund, 85.8.2.

In 1789, President-elect George Washington (1732-1799) traveled from his home in Virginia to New York City for his inauguration. On his journey, well-wishers gathered along the road to fête him and to celebrate an important moment—the swearing in of the new nation’s first president. This print, Washington's Reception on the Bridge at Trenton in 1785, (at left) shows an event that took place during Washington’s journey. The image was created at least 50 years after Washington traveled to New York.

In 1776 Washington had won an important battle in Trenton, New Jersey.  Later called the Battle of Trenton, during this conflict on December 26, 1776, Washington routed Hessian soldiers from Trenton, where they had established their winter quarters.  Washington and his troops surprised the Hessians.  After a brief fight, the Continental Army captured over 800 Hessian soldiers.  Historians credit this victory with improving colonists’ moral and helping the Continental Army sign on more recruits in the following weeks and months.  A week or so later, Washington fought a smaller battle at Assunpick Creek, near Trenton.  At this battle, Washington and his troops defended a position near the bridge over the creek and kept the British soldiers from crossing the creek.

As Washington journeyed to his inauguration over ten years after the battle, Trenton residents called attention to Washington’s battles in the area. At the bridge over the Assunpick, townspeople built an evergreen arch decorated with flags for Washington to pass through. This lithograph shows Washington in Trenton as a group of young girls in white dresses pay him tribute by strewing flowers in his path.  In the distance, men doff their hats. The print shows the arch draped with a banner that reads, “The hero who defended the mothers [in] Decem 26, 1775 will protect the daughters."  The motto linked Washington’s work as a military leader with his future role as United States President.

This print, designed by New York artist John Ludlow Morton (1792-1871) for Columbian Magazine, may have been based on the watercolor pictured below.

85_8_1DS1 watercolor
“The Hero who Defended the Mothers will Protect the Daughters,” 1845-1849. John Ludlow Morton (1792-1871), New York, New York. Special Acquisitions Fund, 85.8.1

If you are interested in this and similar prints of scenes from American history, be sure to come to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library to enjoy a new exhibition, “The Art of American History,” which opens to the public Saturday, November 17, 2018.