I picked up a desert plate at a flea market last week with an image of the Richard Derby House of Salem on it, part of a series of 13 “Colonial Heritage” plates produced in 1976 by the Ridgewood Fine China Company in association with the Early America Society. The artist Robert Franke was commissioned to paint a historic house for each of the 13 colonies in that bicentennial year, and the Derby House represented Massachusetts. I have cabinets full of plates, even after selling off the transferware of my early collecting days, but this plate was cute, $7, and associated with Salem, so I did not hesitate very long. Now that I have it, I’m thinking I need two more, as I always like to have three of everything, if possible. I like Connecticut’s Webb House (center), and the Moffatt-Ladd House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire was quite important to me growing up nearby, so maybe I should have that too.
But then again, what would I do with these plates? They are a bit cutesy/ye oldey; I better refrain and just stick with my one Salem plate. Of course, this big decision got me thinking about houses on plates in general, and in history, as I remembered that most of my “romantic” transferware plates had houses on them, generally famous or fantasy houses, in bucolic settings, similar (but not nearly as nice) as these two examples from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Both plates were produced around 1830 by Job and John Jackson in the English Midlands for the American market: nineteenth-century Americans loved their house plates, if survivals are any indication. I guess the English did too. Below is a delftware plate made in Bristol in the 1760s and an early nineteenth-century French plate made for the British market, both clearly presenting houses, simple and grand.
Back to the present, some “modern toile” plates with houses by the great Scottish design firm Timorous Beasties, who make amazing wallpaper and fabrics, but also china. Their “London Toile” pattern, while not exactly centered on a single house, certainly focuses on structures. Somehow it reminds me more of the eighteenth-century delftware than the nineteenth-century toile-like transferware, as does the Juliska “Country Estate” charger below.