Ceramics Page 6

Great Canadian Ceramics

Great Canadian Historical Platters 3 - 1835-1900

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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
The Anonymous Gentleman

English and Scottish potters, produced virtually all of the dinnerware and toiletware used in Canada in the nineteenth century, including the portrait plates of the main political celebrities, like this one, whom few people recognize when he - rarely - turns up at auctions. So you can get this anonymous gent cheap! (Better make that cheaply, for my old English teacher.)

Canadian potters, lacking high end skills, and the proper types of clay, in the amounts necessary for chinaware, restricted themselves to making heavy and clunky earthenware jugs and spittoons, to cater to the needs of the local worthies of the time, who spent an inordinate amount of their time drinking and spitting... You would too if you had to live in the Canada of those days: cold, remote, desolate, culturally bereft. Now hand me that jug... Eh!

Come to think of it, this sounds a lot like Canada in the 20th century, too... Just ask Michael Ignatieff... Now where's that spittoon...?

What to do when the upper classes had their fill of politician plates, and Blue Willow?

Why not load them up with Canadian scenes? And the rest, they say... follows on the platters, below...

Sir George-Étienne Cartier (1814-1873) - La Patrie, c 1907
Orig. plate - Size - 26 cm
Found - Simcoe, ON
Prov - Marjorie E Larmon Coll
Really, more people should know this man; after all he is named after a major highway, Ontario's biggest expressway - the 401 - officially called the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway, in honour of the two men - the anglophone Prime Minister John A Macdonald, and his French-Canadian lieutenant, George-Étienne Cartier - who are given joint credit for being primary movers in overseeing Canada's transition from British colony to independent nation by establishing the Dominion of Canada in 1867.

George is Canada's most famous French-Canadian politician who never became Prime Minister. In fact for 30 years after Confederation only a succession of Anglophones were entrusted with the top job in Canada. Sir Wilfrid Laurier changed all that in 1896; today he is also widely regarded as Canada's best ever Prime Minister.

This plate was probably made in 1907 to help mark Quebec's and Canada's Tercentenary Celebration in 1908. It features Canada's leading emblems: a border of maple leaves and a beaver on top of the heraldic crest near his vest.

Other 19th Century Great Canadian Platters
The 1820s began an earnest exploration of the frozen wasteland to the north of Canada, as British sledging parties trekked hither and yon to try to map out a possible route for ships to go to the Pacific, to avoid the long detour around the bottom of South America, and the storms off Cape Horn.

The books they wrote, the pictures they drew, were a gold mine for the British potters who made transfers such as those illustrated here. Though only platters are shown, entire dinner services once accompanied them, with the identical pictures put on pitchers, cups, bowls, serving dishes, plates, even vases and soup ladles.

Canadian potters could never produce the sophisticated kinds of table services shown here, so all Canadian scenic wares were made in Britain and imported.

Arctic Scenery - c 1835
- Maker unknown
Arctic Scenery - c 1835
- Maker unknown
Arctic Scenery - c 1835
- Maker unknown

In the 1830s WH Bartlett travelled through the eastern Canadian colonies sketching views of towns, bridges, and traffic on lakes and rivers. These were published in large books in 1842.

From the illustrations many British potters took images which they put on their dinner services surrounded by proprietary decorations, the whole then, usually, given a pattern name.

Below a sample of Bartlett images on antique platters from the main potting firms active in producing for the Canadian market.

Brockville - Canada Scenery, c 1843
Halifax Harbour - British America Series, c 1843
- Podmore, Walker & Co
The view from the Dartmouth side out the Halifax harbour mouth. Below, the marks used on the backs of the PW & Co platters.
Windsor, Nova Scotia - British America Series, c 1843
- Podmore, Walker & Co
Windsor, deep inside the Bay of Fundy, was the location of Fort Edward, from which the British ejected the Acadians to Louisiana, in 1755 below.

The Acadian Expulsion - The cannon reminds us that in the 1750s the British used military power to wrest economic advantages from weaker, non-British populations. Poets like Longfellow wrote weepy poems - Evangeline - about what happened here, the forced separation of lovers and families, split from each other and their homes. Often forever. But the Acadians were lucky; their transplanted heritage is the pride of Louisiana today; and quite a few would filter back, with the passing years, and build a new life for themselves in their old haunts, in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.

250 years down the road, American are still using guns, and anything else that shoots, burns, kills, or maims, to get what they want from helpless Muslim countries who possess the vast oilfield reserves they want. But there is a big difference. 250 years of advancing civilization have, if anything, only increased the American lust for blood.

And there will be no homecoming for the 650,000 Iraqui men, women, and children who have been killed, since 2003, in the American orchestrated Holocaust (British medical journal Lancet estimate) that has destroyed what once was a prosperous Iraq.

The US will have spent a trillion dollars to kill hundreds of thousands (1 out of 40 Iraquis living in 2003) and to purposely destabilize a country - which even former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says was better off under Saddam Hussein - so it would be easy pickings for their corporate cronies from the oil patch.

Like the Acadians, the Iraquis were hopelessly vulnerable and weak; in fact during the late war, the Iraqui military failed to launch not a single plane into the sky to defend their country. Making talk, let alone charges, of Iraqui WMD nothing less than a colossal hate crime to excuse genocidal attacks on a nonwhite Muslim people.

As Tony Benn - among many others - has mused: If Saddam was hanged for 148 murders... what should be done with Bush, and Cheney, and Rice?

In the bay below this fort, the ships gathered in thousands of French-speaking Acadians for deportation to Louisiana, so that English-speaking colonists could take over the rich agricultural properties that 150 years of backbreaking toil had created along the Annapolis Basin and the shores of the Bay of Fundy.

Clifford & Henrie Shand House - Standing in the same spot, overlooking the bay, as the house shown on the platter, sits one of the finest houses in Nova Scotia, the glorious Shand House built by Clifford and Henrie Shand, in 1890-91. It is a splendid late Victorian spindlework Queen Anne style house, featuring some 23 different types of decorative work on its front facade, many being Eastlake - mechanically squarish, straight-line, flattish - in inspiration.

Built when the town below was a bustling manufacturing and ship-building centre, the house boasted all the most modern advances: closets - instead of standing armoires - indoor plumbing and toilet, central heating, and electric lighting.

Clifford Shand, back centre was a famous bicycling champion and promoter in late Victorian and Edwardian Nova Scotia, when the bicycle overtook the horse in popularity just before the automobile transformed everything.

Hallowell, Bay of Quinte, Ontario - Lake Pattern, c 1843
- Francis Morley & Co
This part of Prince Edward County, off Lake Ontario, was the first area settled by United Empire Loyalist who fled the US in the 1780s.
Lake Memphremagog, Quebec - Lake Pattern, c 1843
- Francis Morley & Co
The view to the lake, in the background, from present day Magog across a narrows where the fourth successive bridge now crosses..
Kingston from Old Fort Henry, Ontario - Lake Pattern, c 1843
- Francis Morley & Co
That's the Royal Military College, across Navy Bay, in a transfer taken from a Bartlett print of the 1840s below.

Navy Bay is one of Canada's most historic bodies of water, where, in His Majesty's Dockyard, on the point, right beside the parade ground of today's RMC, was built - in 1814 - the largest war ship ever to sail Lake Ontario, the 112 gun St. Lawrence. But landfill is being snuck in, year by year, on the right side, to provide more surface area for RMC playgrounds and buildings.

RMC - Canada's West Point - was established in the 1870s by Alexander Mackenzie, Canada's second Prime Minister, to train officers for the Canadian Army who were gradually supposed to take over defence responsibilities from the British regulars.

Fort Henry, is probably Canada's finest original remaining fort, dating from 1832 when it was dug into the ground as a casemated redoubt, so designed to present no walled surfaces, above ground, that could be knocked down by artillery pieces shooting over the land or from ships in the bay.

The casemated or arched domes on all the rooms prevent damage from bombardment from above, as well.

Every summer, since 1938, the Fort Henry Guard, of some 100 of the finest specimens of manhood from Canadian universities, dress up in period costumes, parade, fight mock battles with artillery pieces, and shoot guns off the walls for tourists.

Today the enemy is no longer the Americans, but the RMC cadets across Navy Bay, with whom the Guard competes - entirely successfully - for the affections of the ladies of the town beyond, hose sterling reputation for propriety is not as well known as their favourite song, "I've Never Let My Guard Down.
Les Cèdres, Quebec, St. Lawrence River - Lake Pattern, c 1843
- Francis Morley & Co
Les Cèdres - or the Cedars - was a historic portage location used by fur traders to get around rapids in the St. Lawrence River.
Les Cèdres, Quebec,St. Lawrence River - Lake Pattern, c 1843
- Francis Morley & Co
Platters were often octagonal or oval and available in blue of pink.
Quebec from Lévis - British America Series, c 1843
- Podmore, Walker & Co
The fort at Quebec seen from the Lévis side.
Beaver - The Maple Pattern, c 1884
- T Furnival & Sons
The Maple and the Beaver were the national symbols for Canadians of French and English backgrounds in the nineteenth century.
Quebec Harbour & Lévis - Quebec Views Pattern, c 1881
- FT Thomas
The view from the Citadel (fort) at Quebec, across to Lévis and down the river to the Ile d'Orleans in the distance.
Quebec, St. John's Gate - Quebec Views Pattern, c 1881
- FT Thomas
Old Quebec was a walled city pierced by seven main gates.

By the 1880s photography was in full swing and potters used photographic transfers instead of the old sketches from Bartlett prints. Left the Porte St.-Jean in 1880 and 1939.

The seven old gates of Quebec were high maintenance - like Barbara Amiel, whom CBC interviewers, out of respect for her old boyfriends there, refer to deferentially, as Lady Black - and had to go. The upkeep was too great, for anyone's purse - no word on a parallel development, yet, from Conrad Black. Sorry CBC, we mean His Lordship, Lord Black. (Whom Pierre Berton referred to much more accurately as Lord Dudley of Squat.)

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Porte St.-Louis, FT Thomas, c 1884
Orig. plate - Size - 23 cm
Found - Napanee, ON

Lord Dufferin (Governor-General of Canada, 1872-1878) campaigned to restore and protect the gates - which businessmen, never ones to let cemeteries or heritage buildings get in the way of progress, wanted to remove to trim maintenance costs and facilitate traffic flow. Most were torn down; four were rebuilt as glorified arches, for passing wagons, trams, then cars.

Today, arches like the Porte St.-Jean (St. John's Gate) and the nearby, and much more famous, Porte St.-Louis (St. Louis Gate) are still used to go in and out of Old Quebec, the only completely walled city in North America, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, whose charm is increased immeasurably because of the gates of the city.

You could actually get an entire dinner set all bearing the picture of the Porte St.-Louis left. Today, sets like that are impossible to find; single plates are much easier to come by, and were probably bought as souvenir items by those visiting Quebec at the end of the Victorian era.

Just a few yards from here, in October, 1899, Canada's First Contingent assembled for a rousing send-off by the Prime Minister of Canada, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and a huge crowd, to fight the Boers in South Africa.

The South African Memorial is just out of frame on the right..



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