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Archive for Sunday, December 9, 2001

Ironstone a durable design

Dishes’ practicality popular during 19th century

December 9, 2001

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Dishes that break have been a problem since ceramic plates became popular in the 17th century.

Potters tried to find new ways to make pottery and porcelain that were hard to chip or break. They mixed ironstone slag, flint, Cornish stone clay and sometimes other clays and minerals to find a durable white ceramic.

This Green Wheat pattern ironstone coffeepot marked "Elsmore &
Forster" sold for $578 at a Conestoga Auction Co. sale in
Pennsylvania.

This Green Wheat pattern ironstone coffeepot marked "Elsmore & Forster" sold for $578 at a Conestoga Auction Co. sale in Pennsylvania.

In 1813, "ironstone" china was first made. The inexpensive ware was heavy and off-white, and it did not easily chip, stain or crack. It could be made with raised, molded decorations or could have transfer or hand-painted decorations.

The name "ironstone" suggested how strong it was. Other names like "stone china," "white granite" or "granite ware" were used. Flow blue, historic blue, Gaudy ironstone, tea leaf and other designs were often made of ironstone.

About 1875, plain white ironstone with raised decorations became popular. One hard-to-find pattern is called Green Wheat. The molded pattern featured wheat heads and leaves that were painted with the appropriate green and brownish-yellow colors. A recent auction featured pieces of this pattern that sold from $35 for a luncheon plate to about $580 for a coffeepot.

My sewing cabinet is signed "Betsy Ross." Could it be the flag maker Betsy Ross?

Sorry. In the 1930s, a furniture maker in Grand Rapids, Mich., made some cabinets with a signature in the wood and a paper label that read "Betsy Ross, Born 1752, died 1835. Maker of the first American flag. This piece of furniture is respectfully dedicated to her memory." You might have a sewing cabinet without the paper label.

I have a heart-shaped ice-cream dish. I have heard there was a heart-shaped ice-cream scoop that was used with it. The bottom of the dish is marked "Patent Pending J.M." Do you know about these?

John Manos was a Greek immigrant who had a soda fountain called "Candyland" in Toronto, Ohio, in the 1920s. He designed the heart-shaped scoop and matching heart-shaped dishes. Both were patented in 1925.

The scoops were made by a machinist in Cincinnati. The dishes were made in New Cumberland, W.Va. Two dish designs were used. One had a bird, the other had a Greek motif. Only about 1,000 scoops were made.

I bought a brass spittoon at an antiques store for very little money. I have tried the Internet, books and other sources, and I can't find any information about it.

The spittoon is 10 inches tall. It's embossed on both sides with a rider on horseback and the words "Pony Express Chewing Tobacco."

It's a good thing you didn't spend too much money for your spittoon. It's not old. Brass spittoons like yours were advertised for $10 in a 1980s wholesale giftware catalog. The spittoons were probably made in Asia and imported by wholesalers here.

Can you tell me which U.S. glass companies first made milk-glass serving dishes with animal covers? I inherited three of these dishes and would like to learn more about them.

These popular dishes were first made in the 1880s. Their design was inspired by ceramic animal-covered dishes made at potteries in Staffordshire, England.

The Atterbury Glass Co. of Pittsburgh and Challinor, Taylor & Co. of Tarentum, Pa., competed for sales during the 1880s and early 1890s. By the mid-1890s, other U.S. glassmakers joined the competition.

McKee Glass Co., also of Pittsburgh, and Westmoreland Specialty Co. of Grapeville, Pa., produced animal-covered dishes that were small enough to serve condiments. The larger dishes made by Challinor and Atterbury were usually used just for display.

Covers featured a variety of animals, including cats, rabbits, dolphins, hens, fish, eagles and even boars and steers. Production of the original dishes ended around 1915. Reproductions have been made since the late 1930s by several companies, including Westmoreland.

I bought a souvenir spoon when I visited Niagara Falls last month. How long ago were souvenir spoons first made?

Souvenir spoons were first made in the late 1800s in Europe. They were engraved with views of European cities. The engraving on early spoons was often on both the spoon's bowl and its handle.

American souvenir spoons date to 1890, when Daniel Low, a silversmith in Salem, Mass., decorated a spoon with a witch to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Salem witch trials. Souvenir spoons are still popular, although their heyday was over by 1920.

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