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Great Canadian Portraits

Ceramic Antiques: Probably the most popular collectibles are ceramics. They come in all shapes and sizes and in every kind of artistic style. Some are made small and cheap for the souvenir crowd like the thousands of crested china pieces created by Goss at the end of the nineteenth century. There are also others that are extremely valuable to collectors. We feature those that were made to celebrate people, places, or events of importance to Canadian history.

Great Canadian Memorabilia Discovery (Dec. 2002)

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Lustre Plaque, The Great Eastern Steamship, c 1863
Orig. Sunderland ceramic plaque c 1863 - Size - 20 x 22 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
Estate of Elizabeth Collard
Another Great Canadian Treasure

At the recent estate auction of the fabulous ceramics collected by renowned Canadian authority on the subject, Elizabeth Collard of Ottawa, we found this rare Canadian treasure. Things did not bode well for us when the very first item in the sale, a gravy boat from 1740 got $8,000, and a gasp from the crowd. Prices went sky high.

Mistakenly, we believe, the fabulous lustre plate, left, labelled "The Great Eastern Steamship" and dating from 1863, and probably from the Sunderland pottery, was mixed in among scores of fine flow blue china in the "English and Other Transfer Ware" category. It was the only memorabilia item among them all and being out of its proper category was overlooked by bidders intent only on snagging some rare fine English china.

The auctioneer, unaware of what the Great Eastern was, and so unable to hype her role in Canadian history, got only tepid bidding on this rare Canadiana item. Had he - and the other bidders - only known of her history and had the plate been put in the Canadiana section of the auction, it would no doubt have gone extremely high as did the other platters with identifiably Canadian scenes, some of which went for thousands of dollars.

Unlike the other auction attenders, we knew that the Great Eastern was the largest boat in the world from 1858 till 1899, and that she had laid the first Atlantic cable from Ireland to Heart's Content in Newfoundland, in July 1866. This event, connecting the Old World with the New, for the first time through an electrical link, was, according to science writer Arthur C. Clarke, the Victorian equivalent of the Apollo moon project.

We had visited the cable station in the remote village of Heart's Content, which operated till 1965, and is today a museum. Emerging at the water's edge you can still see the strands of cable that the Great Eastern delivered.

The lustre plate above, was issued to commemorate this phenomenal scientific achievement and milestone in Canadian history. It is also one of the first gloriously coloured ceramic plates ever made, at a time when most fine China was flow blue, grey, or brown, the only colours that could be kiln fired at the time.