Saturday, December 3, 2016


"The Commandments/Thou shalt do no murder" 19th century child's plate.

I rarely see transferware patterns that feature murder.  I shall qualify this statement by saying I did write a post about the sixth commandment: "Thou shalt do no murder."  Arguably, the murder of Abel by his brother Cain is the first and most famous murder.  It appears on a plate intended for a child, one of a series illustrating the Ten Commandments.  However, the pattern of a unattractive building with a sign over the door, seen below, was an enigma.  Luckily, the words on the sign were a key to searching the Internet.  I learned that the  pattern showed the Bills o'Jacks pub or inn, where a double murder was committed.

"Bills O Jacks April 2nd 1832" 3.12 inch souvenir child's mug

Old photo of the Bills o' Jacks Inn (later called the Moor Cock Inn).  The Inn was demolished in 1937.

On April 2, 1832, the landlord of the Bills o' Jacks Inn, Thomas Bradbury, and his son, William,  were violently murdered.  The popularity of the murder, or shall I say infamy of the murder, was  because it was so grisly, and the crime was never solved.  After nearly two hundred years, the mystery of the murders is still exciting interest.  I know this because I have seen many sites on the Internet dedicated to the Bills o'Jacks murders. The inn no longer exists, it was demolished in 1937, but the grave of the victims can still be seen in the churchyard of St. Chad's Church in Saddleworth in Yorkshire, England. 

If this mug was really intended for a child, I could add it to my list of inappropriate patterns for children.  (For other examples of inappropriate patterns,  you might like to see my blog post titled "Inappropriate Or Frightening Patterns For Children.")  If you are interested in more history of the murder, take a look at the blog post, "Bills o'Jacks" from the blog titled "Wessyman."

I wrote this post because after collecting and studying transferware for more than 30 years, I am still surprised by some of the patterns.   Please let me know about patterns that have surprised you. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Enoch Wood & Sons (1818-1846) "Cape Coast Castle on the Gold Coast Africa" 16.5 inch platter, ca. 1825.  Although hard to see, the title of the pattern is printed on the left near the bottom of the center of the pattern.

One of the reasons I started writing this blog was to share what I have learned from studying transferware patterns.  I was always curious about an Enoch Wood (1818-1846) pattern, "Cape Coast Castle On The Gold Coast Africa."  It is part of a series known as the Irregular Shell Border Series, which mainly includes American and British views.  An African view didn't seem to fit in.  I learned that Cape Coast Castle was a major British trading post located in the Gold Coast (a British Colony) from the 17th through the 20th centuries.  As such, the pattern falls into a British colonial category, rather like a lot of transferware patterns with views of India.   I learned that merchants from all over the world, including America, came to Cape Coast Castle to trade.  If you look carefully, you'll see that the ship in the foreground is flying an American flag.

Cape Coast Castle functioned as an important British market between the natives of the Gold Coast (now Ghana)* and British, American, and other merchants.   Some of the major commodities exchanged were slaves, gold, and mahogany for blankets, spices, sugar, and silk.  The castle was also a notorious prison for the slaves who were waiting to be exported.  For many reasons,  it seems odd (to me) that a slave trading post is featured on a transferware platter.  Although the platter is beautiful, its subject is morally repugnant. Also, by the time the platter was made around 1825, British slave trading had been abolished.   Still, perhaps the pattern was used because Cape Coast Castle, however infamous, continued to be a major trading post for nearly another hundred years.

Cape Coast Castle today. It is now a tourist attraction.
I thought I'd add a second pattern in the Irregular Shell Border Series that depicts a Gold Coast trading post.  The pattern features a Danish-Norwegian trading post, "Christianburg on the on the Gold Coast Africa."  Christianburg Castle was the headquarters for Denmark-Norway's** commercial activities on the Gold Coast:  presumably, slaves as well as gold.

Enoch Wood & Sons (1818-1846) "Christianburg Danish Settlement on the Gold Coast Africa" 20 inch platter, ca. 1825.

I'm reading a novel, "Homegoing" by Yaa Gyasi, that begins in the late 18th century at Cape Coast Castle.  The book is the impetus for this post.  Although I had knowledge of the slave trade between Britain and its colonies, the book fleshes out the story of the actual business of slavery.  It is painful to think of people as commodities.

Obviously, this is a transferware blog, not a slavery history blog, but I thought I would direct you to some slavery information.  If you want to know more about British slave trading, follow this link.  An interesting history of slavery in America is found here.  For more information about Cape Coast Castle, visit "Ghana's Slave Castles: The Shocking Story of the Ghanaian Cape Coast.

*The Gold Coast was a British Colony that became the independent nation of Ghana in 1957. The Gold Coast is to the left of Nigeria.

The Gold Coast is printed in red to the left of Nigeria.

** Denmark-Norway was one country from 1523-1814 except 1533-1537.

Thursday, November 3, 2016


"Jefferson" 2.35 inch by 2.5 inch child's early 19th century child's mug.

I recently visited Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826).  Among his many illustrious accomplishments,  Jefferson was the main author of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the United States.  He was also a slave owner.  It is still difficult for me to fathom a slave owner writing: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."  What I learned at Monticello, is that Jefferson was in debt, and his slaves were an economic necessity.  While he was alive, his slaves were needed to run the plantation. When he died, his slaves were sold to pay his debts.

Jefferson wasn't the only American Founding Father and President to own slaves: George Washington and James Madison were also slave holders.  However, this is not going to be a post about the evils of slavery, that too is self-evident.  My visit to Monticello inspired me to look at anti-slavery transferware.  Much of anti-slavery or abolitionist transferware patterns were meant for children.  Remember, that children's pottery was intended to instruct as well as delight.

"Perish Slavery/Prosper Freedom" child's mug.  "Perish Slavery" indeed! 

Early 19th century mug illustrating a slave sale.

The other side of the mug above includes the poem: "Like cattle to a fair,/They sell us, young and old/From mother too they tear-/For love of filthy gold."
Here is a close-up of the slave sale.  The child on the barrel has been asked to dance.  This was to demonstrate to buyers that he was in good health.

Close-up of the scene on the mug above.
At the Reeves Center at Washington & Lee University, I saw an interesting juxtaposition of the pattern above with a creamware jug commemorating Jefferson.

An interesting juxtaposition

Also seen at Washington & Lee University.

"Remember them that are in Bonds" child's plate.

Not all anti-slavery transferware patterns were intended for children.  Here is one of my favorites. The poem on the other side of the jug was written by William Cowper (1731-1800) in 1788. 

"Am Not I A Man And A Brother" jug with lustre decoration.

The other side of the above jug includes the words of William Cowper's "The Negro's Complaint: Fleecy locks and black complexion/ Cannot forfeit nature's claim;/ Skins may differ, but affection / Dwells in white and black the same./ Slaves of gold whose sordid dealings/ Tarnish all your boasted powers:/ Prove that you have human feelings/ Ere you boldly question ours." Here is a link to the entire poem.

When I visited Monticello as a child, there was mention of slavery, but no condemnation of it.  Luckily, times have changed.  Sort of.


Monday, October 17, 2016


I recently purchased a transferware egg.  My first.  They are rather uncommon.  I wrote about transferware eggs in an article for the Transferware Collectors Club in 2012.  It was titled "Transferware Darning Eggs."*   The egg shaped transferware items were used for darning, but they were also bell pull handles,** and, perhaps, love tokens.  They were, arguably, mainly gifts for children, as the patterns found on many of the eggs were also used on nursery plates.

John Wilkinson's (1820-1867) "Our Early Days" is the name of a series of children's patterns.  The specific pattern here is "Now I'm Grandmother."  The  4.35 inch darning egg includes the name of the child for whom it was meant, as well as a pattern on the other side.
Notice that the series name, "Our Early Days," is printed above each pattern. In the center, see the name and initials of the child for whom the egg was intended.

The other pattern on the egg is "The Pet."

Below are "Our Early Days" patterns found on children's plates.  The Transferware Collectors Club Database of Patterns and Sources includes 10 patterns from this series.

John Wilkinson 6 inch child's plate "Our Early Days/Now I'm Grandmother."

John Wilkinson 5 inch plate "Our Early Days/The Pet." Notice that the plate was too small for the print, which runs over the molded border.

Here is a pattern on a transferware egg that is copied from George Cruikshank's popular illustrations for Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 edition of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." The patterns appear as a series on children's plates and mugs.

A 2.38 inch darning egg with an illustration from "Uncle Tom's Cabin."  The illustration shows "Eva dressing Uncle Tom."

The other side of the egg shows the title of the book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

Child's plate illustrating "Eva Dressing Uncle Tom."

Illustration by George Cruikshank from "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852.

The TCC Database of Patterns and Sources shows 15 patterns from "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

One of my favorite children's patterns is associated with the London Zoo, "Visit to the Zebra."  It is found on both a child's plate and an egg.  The egg below was intended as a gift for a girl.

Darning Egg with the "Visit to the Zebra" pattern.

The egg above is also printed with a floral group (see a bit of it on the right) and the words"A Present For A Good Girl." 

"Visit to the Zebra" 6 inch child's plate. 

Boys were also given darning eggs as gifts.  Perhaps, the egg below was intended to be used by the boy's mother to darn his socks!  I think the girl's egg above was probably used to teach a little girl how to darn.  I am not being sexist.  I am thinking about the egg in the context of its time.

Child's 2.5 inch long by 2 inch diameter darning egg.

"A Present for A Good Boy" printed on the egg above.

Another pattern on the above egg.

I couldn't find the patterns on a child's plate, but obviously, they were made for a child.

Here is one more egg.  It is illustrated with patterns copied from "The Mother's Picture Alphabet," which was published in London in 1862. 

John Wilkinson (1820-1867) Darning egg, 4.25 inches. The pattern illustrates the letter "N."  See the picture sheet below.

Initials between the two pattern on the egg.

Train pattern on the other side of the egg above.

"Mother's Picture Alphabet N begins News-boy, etc."

Here is the egg I purchased.  It has a rather utilitarian design.  It doesn't appear to have been made for a child.  Perhaps I'll use it to darn socks.  Does anyone darn sock anymore?

Transferware 2.25 inch by 1. 75 inch darning egg

*Many thanks to Tony Calvin of Cumbria, England for sparking my nascent interest in transferware eggs.

**See p. 137 in "West Cumberland Potteries, Volume II" by Florence Sibson. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Notice the Shipping Series plate inside the small display table.

I was thinking about calling this post "You Never Know!"  I recently visited Filoli, a property of The National Trust For Historic Preservation, with my sister, my brother-in-law, and my husband.  The house is filled with many treasures, but no transferware (I thought).   Suddenly, my sister said "there's one of your things!"  A "Shipping Series" plate was nestled in a display table intended for small objects d'art, not a 19th century blue transferware plate. I wondered what this plate was doing in a house filled with more formal items.   Luckily, my brother-in-law knew that the former owner, Lurline Matson Roth, was the daughter of William Matson, who founded the Matson Shipping Corporation. 

The pattern known as "The Shipping Series" is one of my favorites.  It is a serial pattern printed with  a different ship or ships on nearly each size and shape.  Here are a few items from the series (the collection is not at Filoli).

A collection of the circa 1820s Shipping Series transferware pattern

Below is a larger photo of the pattern that is displayed at Filoli.  By the way, the name Filoli is derived from the first two letters of each of the following sentences: Fi/Fight for a just cause, lo/love your fellow man, li/live a good life. 

Shipping Series dinner plate, ca. 1820

The former breakfast room at Filoli is now known as the Ship Room.  It is filled with shipping memorabilia as well as model ships. 

The Ship Room (Breakfast Room) at Filoli is filled with ship memorabilia.  Notice the ship behind the glass.  It is carved from ivory.

Model ships in the Ship Room. 
I could stop here as this is the end of "you never know," but I thought I'd show you a bit more of the house.


Dining Room

Drawing Room/Notice the display table with the Shipping Series plate.

Dishes and Me!  I am reflected in the glass. The plates appear to be Chinese.

The End for now.  The gardens are magnificent, so I may do a post about them someday.

A tiny bit of the gardens at Filoli

Friday, September 23, 2016


I have written about recognition of the familiar before.   So I was happy that I immediately recognized the fox stealing a goose on a pattern posted by Rob Hunter on the British Pottery And Porcelain Discussion Group facebook page.

Shell edge plate printed with a fox carrying off a goose, ca. 1810

As the editor of the Animals Category for the Transferware Collectors Club database, I also knew the source print.  It is from "The Cabinet Of Quadrupeds" by John Church, which was published in 1805.

"The Fox" print is from "A Cabinet Of Quadrupeds" by John Church, 1805.

Look carefully on the right, and you'll see the fox making off with the goose.  The larger fox has already killed a hen, and the rooster is calling for help!   Now, take a look at how the source print was used by different manufacturers.

Enoch Wood & Sons (1818-1846) vegetable tureen from the Sporting Series, ca. 1825.  Here you only see the fox making off with the goose.
Job Meigh (& Son) 1805-1834 "Zoological Sketches" tureen lid.  Here, you see most of the source print.  But where is the rooster?

Plate, 5.5 inches, shows only the large fox, the rooster, and the dead chicken.

"A Present For My Dear Boy" child's 2 inch mug shows the fox carrying off the goose.  This seems like a unsuitable pattern for a young child.

John Hall (1814-1832) "Quadrupeds" basket. Only the fox and rooster were used.  No dead chicken! No fox in the background.

Thomas Elsmore & Son (1872-1887) 7.5 inch child's plate with a molded alphabet border. This pattern may be a much later interpretation of the source print.  I wonder if the manufacturer was even aware of the source.
One of my greatest transferware pleasures is recognizing patterns used by different manufacturers.  Such fun!