Ceramics Page 6.1

Great Canadian Ceramics

Great Canadian Historical Platters 1 - 1835-1900

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Davenport "Montreal" Platter - c 1835

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Platter - "Montreal Pattern" by Davenport, c 1835
Orig. earthenware platter - Size - 38 x 45.5 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
Signed Montreal

Transfer Ware

Before the 19th century, images on earthenware had often been painted on by hand. Others - like those on the wildly popular blue Willow pattern had been put on with paper transfers.

Then, around 1800, British potters picked up, with a vengeance, a process that had been known before, but sparingly used, namely, transferring by printing wet ink images via paper on to earthenware, before the glaze was applied. The process was multi-phase and used a progression of workers.

Etch - The original images, probably done in watercolour, were etched into a copper plate.

Ink - Colours, a mix of inks and linseed oil, were then applied, on top of the copper plate, it then being temporarily placed in a stove to make the colours more fluid.

Imprint & Press - A dampened tissue paper was carefully placed on top of the coloured image, and together with the copper plate, passed through a press to transfer the image from plate to paper.

Trim - A second woman trimmed the excess ink spots and paper from around the borders of the desired image.

Apply - A third woman took the cropped image, wet with ink, and pressed it lightly and carefully on to the unglazed pottery surface, whether plate, pitcher, or vegetable dish.

Press - Then, another woman, using a tightly rolled piece of woollen cloth, would press the transfer, tightly, into every nook and cranny of the piece. In the case of the platter, right, there were a lot of crannies because of the furrows to let the gravy flow away.

Dry - The piece would then be let stand for an hour to let the coloured inks from the image be absorbed by the bisque.

Soak & Peel - The piece would then be immersed in water, to soften up the paper, so it could be peeled off more easily, leaving the earthenware sporting its new image.

Dry - The piece was then left to stand till dry, and then placed in an oven to warm it gently to let the oil, mixed in with the original inks, dissipate.

Glaze & Fire - The glaze is then applied, the piece fired, resulting in transfer ware. The platter right, being known as blue transfer ware.

The term blue transfer ware was, for a long time, used generically for all colour printed wares, because at first only blue inks could be successfully used. The term remained in general usage even later, when other inks, like brown, pink, lavender, and grey were used instead.

Transfer ware - ink images printed under the glaze by British potters - took the market by storm, and became the most popular type of chinaware in the world during the 19th century.

All the pieces on this page were decorated in this fashion, though today we differentiate between brown and blue, etc., transfer ware.

This huge and spectacular platter, featuring the British America, a noted steamship from the time, is from a dinner service introduced by the English Staffordshire firm of Davenport (1794-1887) in the mid 1830s.

Steamship transportation on the St. Lawrence River dates from 1809, when the Montreal brewer, John Molson, launched the Accommodation and began the St. Lawrence Steamboat Company. She, and subsequent steamers he built, acted as tow boats and passenger ships. They transported so many immigrants along the waterway to Ontario that, in 1820, a paper in Kingston warned, "They set this way in such o'erwhelming floods, Canadians! take your last look at the woods!"

The British America, built in 1829 for the Torrance family, was much more powerful than the early steamships; in fact Bourne, tellingly, shows her battling upstream against the treacherous St. Mary's current which earlier ships could not do.

Like on most Canadian historical chinaware from the 19th century, the scene was copied from a real image of the time, which in this case, was drastically changed.

Elizabeth Collard believed this view was originally copied from an image of Montreal from St. Helen's Island, painted, in 1830, by Robert Sproule, and published as an engraving by Adolphus Bourne, who was also an importer of earthenware and porcelain.

But so much is altered - all the ships and foreground have been changed beyond comparison - that the transfer is more accurately the result of a lot of collage work, borrowing from other prints, as well as the imagination, to represent the scene one might see from a spot which remained a popular viewpoint all during the 19th century. (The rollover gives you another version of the engraving.)

Below is an old watercolour of the same scene, signed and dated 1830, but obviously owing a lot to the 1830 engraving.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Montreal From St. Helen's Island - Wood, 1830
Orig. wc - Size - 24 x 34 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
Mystery at Ile Ste.- Hélène - A fascinating sidelight of this old watercolour is that it strongly mimics the Sproule/Bourne engraving of 1830. But in one significant way it is different. Whereas Bourne cheated, by depicting Notre Dame Cathedral, from plans he saw of the way it would look when completed with two towers, later, in the early 1840s, on this watercolour dated 1830, Notre Dame really looks like it was in 1830, with only one stumpy north tower that was under construction then.

If this original watercolour was painted from the engraving, why select the church for such special attention, and bother to change its towers so drastically, and draw them accurate to the way they (one) really looked at the time? Who, indeed, would ever know, or care?

Dark blue printing had been all the rage for dinner services in the 1820s, like in the ubiquitous Willow pattern pieces.

Then, in the 1830s, china in pale blue - like this platter - became popular, as well as grey, pink, lavender, black, and brown.

This platter, commonly known as a "well and tree" type, because it has a gravy "well" on the right side, a dip in the platter, to allow the drippings to drain away from the meat, along the shallow furrows - like branches of a "tree" emanating from the "well" - in the bottom of the plate. This well necessitated a big bulge under the platter, overcome by raising the plate slightly, on large ridges.

The mark for the Davenport "Montreal" pattern on the back.

One can only dream of how many sparkling conversations it has eavesdropped on during over 170 years of service.

Below, sold 2002, at auction, from the Elizabeth Collard Estate for $3000 including premium.

"Blue Willow" Platter - c 1851

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Classic blue transfer ware, had been typified by the Blue Willow pattern much beloved by 18th and early 19th century British high society.

Each piece looked exactly the same, you know: the bridge, the boat, the birds, the pagoda, the willow trees. One word describes it all, really... boring!

I mean, what can you say about it, besides pretty? Well I guess, pretty boring...

Around 1800, Great Britain started putting up barriers to pottery imported from China and overseas to give the local lads a chance. They began to produce transfers of foreign scenes to attract new customers from around the world.

And that is how British transfer ware started to dominate the market in the nineteenth century.

Platter - "Willow" Pattern, c 1850
Orig. earthenware platter - Size - 32 x 39 cm
Found - Cookstown, ON

Mason's "Lake Memphremagog" Platter - c 1851

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Platter - "The Lake" Pattern, by CJ Mason, c 1851
Orig. earthenware platter - Size - 32 x 39 cm
Found - Napanee, ON
Signed Mason's C

This antique Canadian scenery platter feels like it is going on 150 years old or more.

It features a scene commonly found on the Canadian "Lake" pattern china produced by Morely in the mid 19th century.

It is one transfer from some 20 scenes drawn by William Henry Bartlett in this area of Quebec in the late 1830s, when he painted scores of images of towns and scenes in the four provinces Upper & Lower Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Bartlett prints graced untold thousands of Canadian homes in Victorian times and became the most widely used images for Canadian transfer ware in the early Victorian era. This print shows the opening to Lake Memphremagog in Quebec's Eastern Townships, and the location of Magog, PQ. Today the fourth generation of bridges crosses this spot.

The plate does offer a mystery because of a smudged back mark it contains.

The mark says Mason's C..., as well as Made in England, and US Patent No, followed by a four digit number, starting with 780..., which would date it to 1851. This was the period from 1851-1854, when Mason traded on his own and used only his own name without the company's following.

Yet this is not a Mason's standard mark, or any other we have been able to trace. Since Mason used a variety of different marks from time to time it could be that this is one.

FT Thomas "Dufferin Terrace" Platter - c 1880

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Platter - "Quebec Views" Pattern by FT Thomas, c 1880
Orig. earthenware platter - Size - 32 x 41 cm
Found - Pasadena, CA
Signed FT Thomas, Prov - Marjorie E Larmon Collection
Francis T Thomas of Quebec started a china importing business in 1874.

About 1880 he commissioned ivory toned table ware and toilet services, featuring views of Quebec taken from photographs, from the Britannia Pottery in Glasgow, Scotland. He would remain the only Canadian china merchant, in the 19th century, to commission china with Canadian topographical views. The views bore the names on the front, in two official languages.

The Dufferin Terrace is probably FT's first issue, its appearance coinciding with gala opening of the walkway, in June, 1879, by the Marquis of Lorne, the Governor-General of Canada, who dedicated it, with his wife Princess Louise, in honour of his predecessor, Lord Dufferin. It was, and remains one of the premiere promenades in the entire world.

It can also be considered the location of the birthplace of Canada - the exact spot where permanent settlement by French colonists took place with the establishment of Champlain's Habitation, in 1608, where the church Notre Dame des Victoires is located on the extreme right of the picture above. Louis Hébert's historic farm - Louis is considered Canada's first, make that cash crop, farmer - was located to the left of the steepled building at the far top left. In time the Chateaux of the French Governors of Canada were built just to the left of the far end of the promenade, complete with the Governor's Garden, in which you can still follow in the footsteps where Frontenac once walked in the 1600s (the woods to the left of the hotel left). The site was razed, in the 1890s, to put up the Chateau Frontenac, Canada's most famous hotel, on Canada's most historic site, offering the finest hotel view of any in Canada.

The FT Thomas service was decorated by a border of maple leaves, shamrocks, roses and thistles, and a lurking beaver.

For some reason Francis introduced the world to his unique male view of the Canadian beaver as a nasty beastie. He - like many others - must have had a bad run in with one or two.

The FT Thomas beaver would as soon snap at you as let you stroke it...

Anyone who has experience stroking a Canadian beaver will tell you that they seldom bite; to the contrary, most seem to encourage you to keep on doing it, purring most appreciatively, provided, of course, that you approach it the right way. To be successful, the advance must be slow, careful, and, above all, sensitive. Else you might never get close. And even be snapped at... Obviously FT Thomas did not have the right technique...

So there it is, in a state of full arousal, looking most unsatisfied, gracing his table service for the ages. And giving most Canadian beavers an undeservedly bad rap as uncooperative...

In the case of FT Thomas, his mark on the back, identifies him as the importer, not, as in the case of most other marks, as the maker of the potted piece.

Below sold 2002, at auction, from the Elizabeth Collard Estate for $5750, with premium.

Wallis Gimson & Co "Parliament Buildings" Platter - c 1884

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Platter - "The World" Pattern, by Wallis Gimson & Co., 1884-1890
Orig. earthenware platter - Size - 32 x 39 cm
Found - Napanee, ON
Signed Wallis Gimson & Co. The World Pattern, Rd May 27, 1884
This fabulous antique platter is from a dinner service introduced to Canada in the middle 1880's by the Staffordshire firm of Wallis Gimson & Co. as a multi-scene pattern they called "The World," which intermixed Canadian views with others from around the world.

The scenes which sought to reflect and promote pride in country, were titled, in line with the belief that a little education wouldn't hurt even those simple souls who generally only showed interest in the merely "pretty" in pottery.

The design of the plate echoed the "Japanese mania" in art design that was popular at the end of the nineteenth century, using an asymmetrical overall layout, featuring a main scene with echoes of other little views offset and intercutting the main frame. A sprig of flowers in the Japanese style, completed the look for the series.

The firm went out of business in 1890 so restricting production from 1884 to 1890, though stored stock sold for some years after.

The plate features two important Canadian buildings, the Centre Block of the original Parliament, which burned down in 1916, and Notre Dame Cathedral, in Montreal, where Céline Dion, in a media frenzy, married her elderly baby sitter.

Other scenes featured views in Ottawa, Quebec, and Toronto.

The Rd number often found on the back of Victorian and Edwardian ceramic items can be referenced to a book with the dates when that number was used to copyright a pattern on a potted piece.

This number shows the pattern was registered sometime early in 1884 with the platter being made probably shortly thereafter.

Elizabeth Collard - 1917-2001

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
No one has done more, to sleuth out the background to Canada's potted past, than has Elizabeth Collard (1917-2001).

Much of what you find on our pages, regarding historical Canadian pottery, has been cross-checked with information she compiled over decades of research, and published in Nineteenth Century Pottery and Porcelain in Canada (1st ed. 1967, 2nd ed. 1984), and The Potter's View of Canada (1983), and elsewhere..

Her books are widely available and give all Canadians a highly readable, down to earth account of Canadian antique (Victorian and Edwardian) pottery, that, in the hands of lesser mortals, often sounds pedantic and boring.

It is a wonderful treat to find a book which was once held in Elizabeth's own hands and bears her personal autograph above.

When she passed on, antique collectors from all over North America came to the auction of her estate hoping that they might be able to pick up a precious item from a collection which contained many priceless Canadian antiques.

The Potter's View of Canada, 1983, &
19th Century Pottery & Porcelain in Canada, 1967

by Elizabeth Collard


Orig. book - Size - 17 x 25 cm
Found - Winnipeg, MB
Signed Elizabeth Collard

Right some prices realized from Elizabeth's collection of Canadian pottery: $3400, for a ceramic bank from 1859, $4000 for a pottery picture frame from 1862, and $19,000 for a pair of pottery picture frames, from 1863 - pictures not included! Well they are 11 inches high!

All in Canadian dollars. Buyer's premium of %15 must be added to these hammer prices as well as taxes.

Picture frames anyone, for $22,000? Better not drop them now children...

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Lustre Plaque, The Great Eastern Steamship, c 1863


Orig. Sunderland ceramic plaque - Size -24 x 24 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
Prov - Estate of Elizabeth Collard

We were fortunate to be among the lucky ones and acquire this rare Canadian Heritage Treasure.

This fine Sunderland plaque, dating from c 1863, was a prize possession of Elizabeth Collard, and among the hundreds of choice Canadian pottery pieces that were auctioned off in 2002, to many collectors who sought to own a piece once selected for her own collection, by the premier authority on Canada's 19th century chinaware and pottery.

The Great Eastern Steamship laid the first successful transatlantic telegraph cable from Ireland to Heart's Content, in Newfoundland, in 1866, allowing instant Morse Code signals to travel from Europe to North America.

This, says Arthur Clarke, was progress akin to the Apollo Moon Project, allowing a message that had formerly taken an iffy two weeks or so, by ship, to be sent from Europe to America, to go now, in only seconds...

When launched, in 1858, she was the first big ship built out of iron, the first to use screw propellers, and, being five times larger than any other vessel afloat at the time, remained the world's biggest ship (displacement) until the Lusitania was built in 1906.

She was the creation of engineering genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who ushered in the age of iron construction, for ships and bridges, and so much fired the English imagination down through the years, that he was voted #2 in a UK BBC poll to pick the Greatest Briton of All Time. (He even beat Princess Di, but was edged out by Sir Winston Churchill. Quite an achievement for a guy who had already been dead for 150 years...)

By the time he died at 53, in 1859, Brunel had built three ships, 25 railway lines, and over 100 bridges.

This plaque celebrates a Great Man, a Great Ship, a Great Canadian Event, and a Great Canadian Historian and Chronicler of our Potted Past, Elizabeth Collard.

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