Remember when I did that post a little while back on Emory Upton and the military policy of the U.S.? Well, when I was visiting my friend Dan, Civil War Historian and author extraordinaire, he also let me photograph a few things involving his family history. This little covered sugar bowl was one of them.
His Great Grandmother’s, this floral patterned and slightly chipped sugar bowl sat in the center of the family’s dinner table for years, or at least as long as Dan can remember.
Turns out, this little guy is a late Victorian, and somewhat rare, too.
Manufactured by the Wood brothers of New Wharf Pottery in Burselm, Strattforshire, England, the sugar bowl illustrates the ‘Milan’ pattern of Flow Blue pottery, which is a particular technique utilized from the 1830s to the early 1900s. In attempts to imitate the china and patterns transported during the time of the tea trade of the 17th and 18th centuries, the white and cobalt blue designs were painted on paper, transferred to the ceramic (aptly naming the this style of ceramic transferware), and kiln fired, creating a blurred effect in the design.
This hazy, feathered style was extremely popular, but most production ended before 1915 because of the lack of materials during World War I. In some cases, Flow Blue continued into the 1940s, and is even being reproduced today, but the majority were manufactured in the 1880s and 90s.
The pattern on this covered sugar bowl is extremely well preserved, most likely inherent to the transferring processes and kiln firing. There is very little blurring, unlike in many other Flow Blue styles of china.
I love the little pointillist style dots that cover the top edge of the bowl and the bottom edge of the lid.
I also love the patterns in high relief decorating the lid. I think the dotted line is my favorite; it reminds me of some ceramic items I bought at Pier1 not too long ago.
One thing that’s always helpful in identifying ceramic is the maker’s mark, which can be found on the base of most pieces. This one is particularly informative, as it not only contains the pattern name, but also the company name and mark, the place of manufacture, as well as the material.
Additionally, this particular mark was dates this piece between 1891 to 1894, giving us a four year window when this sugar bowl was manufactured.
As I mentioned earlier, New Wharf Pottery was founded by the Wood brothers, who came from a long line of master potters dating back to the early 18th century. The eldest son, Thomas, purchased a site separate from his father’s pottery business (Absolom Wood’s Villa Pottery) in 1877 along with one of his brothers, coining it New Wharf Pottery. The pretzel-style rope underneath the crown symbolizes the county of Staffordshire, and many potters from the area used the same knot in their maker’s marks, especially between the 1870s and 1880s.
The tag of ‘semiporcelain’ just under the pattern name, dates this piece between 1880 and 1894, as ironstone and pearlware were the ceramic mediums used previously, at least since 1830. Staffordshire is known for this cheaper medium, allowing ceramics to be mass produced. This worked in New Wharf Pottery’s favor, as Absolom and his son Thomas’s markets were primarily American. New Wharf Pottery and the company Wood & Sons continued into the 1980s.
Just as a word of caution, if you happened to have a New Wharf Pottery piece, and it does not contain the word ‘ENGLAND’ after the maker’s mark on the base, it is a recent manufacture (post 1960) and was made in China.
Overall, this was a very well loved sugar bowl (and still is!) I’ll be visiting more of Dan’s (and his wife’s!) family and/or vintage items at a later date. And, if you enjoy American Civil War history, check out Dan’s book Bloody Autumn: Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864, which will be published soon!
Birks, Steve. ‘New Wharf Pottery Co.’ A-Z of Stoke-on-Trent Potters. 20 May 2005. Web. 5 January 2014 http://www.thepotteries.org/allpotters/772a.htm
Chervenka, Mark. ‘More New Flow Blue in Old Patterns with Confusing Marks: Waldorf and Iris Patterns Reproduced.’ Real or Repro. 2013. Web. 5 January 2014 http://www.realorrepro.com/article/More-new-Flow-Blue-in-old-patterns-confusing-marks
Godden, Geoffrey A. Encyclopaedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks. London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1991. Print.
Grace’s Guide. ‘Wood and Sons.’ Grace’s Guide: British Industrial History. 22 October 2013. Web. 5 January 2014 http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Wood_and_Sons
Hogan, John. ‘Top 10 Most Desirable Flow Blue Patterns in All Four Major Categories.’ Passion for the Past: Antiques and Collectibles Magazine. Web. 5 January 2014 http://www.passionforthepastantiques.com/articles/item/article/top-10-most-desirable-flow-blue-patterns-in-all-four-major-categories/
Kowalsky, Arnold and Dorothy Kowalksy. Encyclopedia of Marks On American, English, and European Earthenware Ironstone & Stoneware 1780 to 1980. Atglen: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 1999. Print.
Monet, Dolores. ‘Flow Blue.’ Hubpages. 2011. Web. 6 January 2014 http://hubpages.com/hub/FlowBlueHowtoIDandValuetheCollectibleBlueandWhiteAntiqueChina
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