Sunday, November 30, 2014

DISCOVERING AMERICA THROUGH HISTORIC CALENDAR PLATES

Here is a history of the expansion of America as seen through the giveaway plates of the early 20th century.  Although they are not transferware, they are dishes!


Guest Posting by David Hoexter

Those of you who know me are aware of my passion for advertising ceramics. Up to three or so years ago, this passion had been limited to 19th Century English transfer-printed containers.  Then one day I discovered a plate featuring a 1910 calendar and nice center pattern, offered as a complimentary gift to customers by a merchant in Berkeley, California.  Berkeley is my home town; a new passion was created! 

Charles Hadlen Berkeley, CA plate, 1910
These plates are American, produced primarily in East Liverpool Ohio and nearby towns, were all complimentary from local merchants, and were primarily distributed between 1906 and 1921, peaking in 1910.  I have documented approximately 1,300 plates from 1910 to date, mainly from eBay.  The patterns are printed from decals; I have identified 191 patterns thus far.  

Ringing Out the Old, Ringing in the New Year
However, to me the fascinating aspect of these plates is not their patterns or method of manufacture, but the stories one can elicit by researching the merchants and the towns where they sold their wares.  I have learned about the settlement of North Dakota by the railroads, who laid thousands of miles of track across the state in just a few decades, and then provided free passage and often free land in exchange for the expectation that the farmers would ship their goods to market by rail (there was no alternative!).  Hundreds of towns were established along the rail lines, and not a few no longer exist or at best have managed to maintain the same minimal population as existed soon after they were founded. 
1910 Ludwig Dorr, Gardena, ND plate

North Dakota railroad map

Google Satellite and map views of Gardena, ND
I learned about the French Arpent system of land surveying, employed in Louisiana to provide maximum river access to growers so they could ship their crops by barge.  All of the rest of the US is surveyed under the Public Land Survey System, based on square sections and townships.  

1910 Adrien Gonsoulin, Loreauville, LA plate

Nearby Mississippi River seen in a Google Satellite view

 Loreauville, LA vicinity
I’ve observed the devastation of coal strip mining in West Virginia, and the huge influence of petroleum in 1910 Wyoming.  

Guyan Furniture Co, Logan, WV 1910 plate

Google Satellite view of the Logan vicinity; gray areas denote strip mining

Image of Logan, WV ca. 1910

Greybull Bank 1910 plate, Greybull, WY

Google Satellite image of the Greybull vicinity
And I have “discovered” Snelling, a quiet, lovely town at the far eastern side of the Central Valley here in my home state of California, with tree-lined streets, historic Gold Rush era (1849-1860s) buildings, and a history of gravel tailings dredging of gold.  

J.R. Horsley & Son 1910 plate, Snelling, CA

Google Satellite view showing town and dredge tailings

 Historic Gold Rush era building in Snelling, CA
And finally, the Silva Store, Eleele, Kauai, Hawaii, decades before Statehood.  You couldn’t get more remote!   

J.I. Silva, Eleele, Kauai 1913 plate

Silva store ca. 1900

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