Ceramics Page 6.5

Great Canadian Ceramics

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Platter - "Quebec Views" Pattern by FT Thomas, c 1880
Orig. earthenware platter - Size - 32 x 41 cm
Found - Simcoe, ON
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...

Go to Great Canadian Beaver

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. The estimate had been $200-300.








FT Thomas "Dufferin Terrace" Platter - c 1880

Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Where has one ever seen a more fabulous or huge Canadiana pitcher than this amazingly rare example from FT Thomas?

Capitalizing on the growing population of patriotic immigrants that were spreading across eastern Canada in the middle of the 19th century, potters in the UK, and Canadian importers, like FT Thomas, by the 1880s, prepared entire dinner services featuring Canadian scenes taken from photos.

Earlier in the century, Davenport, J Heath, and Masons, had also made dinner services featuring Canadian scenes, but these were done from sketches, paintings, or lithos made from them.

With the growing portability and availability of the pocket camera, photos of Canadians scenes offered to give a more realistic picture of the favourite scenes that made Canadians so passionate about their country.

In the nineteenth century people used the beaver as a sign of all encompassing patriotism, a much more honest and heart-felt tribute to a nation and its people than the extremely offensive "Support our Troops" ribbon so commonly pasted about, these days, by the less literate members of society. Where, and when, have they ever found a single Canadian who does not, most sincerely, support Canadian troops with all their hearts. There is no such citizen anywhere in the country. Not one... Shame on the label brains...

Maybe we will try that ribbon... FT Thomas has not exactly chosen a Walt Disney beaver to grace the pitcher...

Pitcher, Quebec Natural Steps - FT Thomas c 1880
Orig. pitcher - Size - 28 cm
Found - Champlain, NY

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous memento of what passed for the nineteenth century television, the stereo viewer and the stereo view it carried.

It was invented in 1838 by Sir Charles Wheatstone, the same British professor who invented the concertina.

It was based on the principle of human vision, which sees depth because two eyes, slightly offset, see the same picture from different angles so the brain combines them into a 3 dimensional view.

The camera therefore used two lenses, slightly apart to take two nearly identical pictures, letting you see any view in three dimensions when placed in a viewer.

The operator holds the viewer with the handle and places the stereoview in the clips on the rack which is moveable, in and out to allow the viewer to adjust it for his/her eyes.

The wooden partition between the two eye ports is to ensure that each eye only sees the picture on its side, or the 3 D effect would be lost.

Stereo Viewer c 1880
Orig. stereo viewer - Image Size - 23 cm
Found - Burlington, ON

"Oh, goodie! A ViewMaster!" - Valerie Pringle

It is patently not a 1950s ViewMaster, which the unfortunately irrepressible Canadian Antiques Roadshow Host, Valerie Pringle, called it, as she demonstrated an antique Stereoscope Viewer above to her audience, most of whom knew better.

But then it's only one of many gaffes which have made Canadian antique collectors wince with embarrassment since this host started her job saying that she was never interested in antiques before someone offered her a paid gig...

Since then she's proved over and over she meant what she said - this time not being able to tell the difference between a genuine wooden antique from 1850 and a plastic kitsch item from the 1950s...

PS - She did it the same week her publicist arranged to have her infested with the Order of Canada.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Stereoscope View - Quebec Canada, Natural Steps, QC - LM Vallee c 1880
Orig. stereoscope - Size - 30 x 40 cm
Found - Halifax, NS

Probably the very photograph from which the transfer was made. It's certainly the exact location. LP Vallee had, "Always on hand" a lot of similar stereoscope views of "Places of Quebec, of all Sizes." These limestone steps are 3 kms above Montmorency Falls.

The label on the back of the stereoview also marks an interesting departure for professional photographers. They had been doing portrait work for years, even hand painting them to make them more attractive to buyers.

With the spread of railway tracks and better roads across eastern Canada, after 1850, landscapes were easier to get access to than in the past. And after cutting down all the trees Canadians wanted a respite from staring at acres of stumps..

Tourists now wanted to see the sights they had heard about, and those that went wanted to bring back a memento to show off to friends back home. How about a nice stereoview of those fabulous "Natural Steps" at Quebec?

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 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 left 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..

2 - FT Thomas "Quebec Natural Steps" Pitcher - c 1880

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