I love china. Most of all I love the pieces which have belonged to my family, some for generations. Each one, whether I have others to match it or not, has a special place in my heart. The plate, cup and saucer of the Lenox “Harvest” pattern below belonged to my Great-Aunt Elsie, who grew up in rural Steuben County but moved away when she was married. I think she chose it because it reminded her of the farm.
Elsie’s mother, Maria (pronounced with a long i), had a soup tureen which passed into my mother’s hands and then mine. It is heavy, white stoneware. I can imagine holiday dinners when Great-Grandfather lifted the squash handle and dished out hot food to his strapping sons.
Delicate Depression Glass, like this fruit bowl of my dad’s mother’s, to me suggests a charmed life with tea parties and society ladies. Far from it. She did hard physical labor inside and outside the house. But she liked pretty things.
Because I inherited her name, my maternal grandmother’s place setting of her grandmother’s transferware came to live in my china cabinet. It traveled from England to America on a sailing vessel in 1843, according to a handwritten note taped to the bottom of the saucer. I photographed it (as well as the fruit bowl) on a linen tablecloth which Margaret Edith Beck tatted before she was married. The transferware pattern is Canova, named for a sculptor; in the center of the design is always a large urn.
Before I was married, I chose a china pattern. Had I been a little older I may have selected something different. But it was what I liked then, and so I cherish it because of those special days of looking forward to house and family and making more memories. Are brides today choosing good china? Is it practical to have a special set of dishes when time is so limited and schedules permit only the fastest ways to get things done, so time may be better enjoyed? I don’t know.
I had planned to include research about the source of Early American china, and how manufacture and sale of dishes have changed throughout the years. But I think I’ll leave these photos as they are, with their special owners attached, and let them speak for themselves. It is my history. That is enough for now.
2 Replies to “Good Dishes”
Your china is really pretty! I did choose china, and we use it (and have broken a few pieces), but I’m glad we are. I lived in Alabama right after college and worked part-time at a department store. Down there, brides often registered for fine china, everyday china, and Christmas china. Craziness! I love all your photos and really love that one of your daughters is decorating in a style that utilizes some of the old treasures.
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Judging from the popularity and longevity of the Antiques Road Show on PBS, I think that many people still value their families’ things. It doesn’t really matter what the appraisers say — if you love it, you find a place for it. I like looking at the First Ladies’ china patterns, too. At the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace in Manhattan, there is a delicate white and aqua child’s cup and saucer which TR’s mother brought home from Germany to give to Teedie’s little friend, Edith. He later married her!