Thursday, January 31, 2013

DAME TROT AND HER CAT

In keeping with my blog theme of "what have I learned from transferware," I present here "Dame Trot and Her Cat."  The following is an except from an article I wrote for the Transferware Collectors Club Bulletin in the Spring of 2006.  If you are interested in learning more about the TCC, go to http://www.transcollectorsclub.org/.

The purchase of two pearlware children’s plates sent me on a Google rampage of many hours.  The plates feature a cat and a dog, along with a nursery rhyme depicting the cat in a position of superiority!  What a clever cat, I thought.  How unusual to have a cat featured on a piece of English pottery from the first third of the 19th century.  It was easy to figure out the date of the plates, as there is a Clews mark (1813-1834) clearly impressed on the back.

Dame Trot Nursery Plate, c. 1825

Dame Trot Close-up

Clews Mark found on the back of Dame Trot plate

Old Dame Trot Nursery Rhyme book, 1820

Page copied by Clews to use on Old Dame Trot plate
Each plate has a different verse, which led me to believe the verses were part of a nursery rhyme.  Being a cat lover, I was delighted and intrigued.  As an English literature major in college and a teacher of young children for 25 years, I wondered why I had never heard the verse before.  After the aforementioned googling, I discovered the verses were part of a nursery rhyme in the mode of “Old Mother Hubbard” titled, with various permutations, as “ Old Dame Trot And Her Cat.”  “Old Mother Hubbard” and “ Old Dame Trot And Her Cat” are two of the earliest nursery rhyme books.  “Old Mother Hubbard” was published in 1805 and “ Old Dame Trot And Her Cat” was published in 1806, each by J. Harris, corner of St. Paul’s Church Yard, London.  While we all grew up knowing and reciting “Old Mother Hubbard,” I doubt few of you have ever heard of “Old Dame Trot And Her Cat.”  Dogs were the domestic pet of choice in the 19th century, so it is really no surprise that a nursery rhyme that features an intelligent and definitely alpha cat was not so appealing.  I’ll venture that cats didn’t gain in popularity as a cartoon hero until the advent of Felix and Garfield in the 20th century.

The plate seen here illustrates the rhyme "Another time the Dame came in,/When Spot demurely sat,/Half lather'd to the ears and eyes,/Half shaven by the Cat."  The source print for the plate is found above.   So far, there are five different "Dame Trot"  plates in the TCC database, along with their source prints.


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