Dawson platterThis is a transferware platter, in an unknown pattern, that belonged to James MacKall Dawson (1775-1867) and his wife Annie Allnutt Dawson(1779-1854).  They lived in a home called “Mother’s Delight” in Dawsonville.  (James was the uncle of “our” John Dawson, who lived with his wife Amelia at the Beall-Dawson House, now our historic house museum.)  It was donated by Ellen Allnutt Elgin.

In 1781, English potter Josiah Spode introduced underglaze transfer printing to a public always hungry for new styles and fashions. Transfer printing, as opposed to hand painting each piece, was an economical way to create highly decorated ceramics. Designs were engraved onto copper plates, and a print was made onto treated tissue paper, which was then pressed onto the ceramic body. The piece was fired, sealing in the ink, and then glazed. By 1833, hundreds of different designs in this style were created by English potters, mainly in the Staffordshire area. Many designs featured Oriental scenes of pagodas and the like, but images reminiscent of Turkey, India, Italy and other ‘exotic’ locales were also popular (the Dawson platter shows a Mediterranean-looking house). This was part of the Romantic Movement (late 18th through mid 19th century), which emphasized emotion over thought and idealized the natural landscape. 

This platter is an example of how irritating it can be when there’s no maker’s mark.   Our volunteer curator for the glass and ceramics collection was unable to identify the pattern or maker (if anyone reading this blog has a thought, let me know).  One of these days I’ll check for inventories from “Mother’s Delight,” although the likelihood of the inventory taker conveniently noting “Transferware platter made by [X] in the pattern of [Y]” is pretty slim (darn those inventory takers!) – I’ll be lucky to find any kind of platter at all.  On the other hand, it’s a lovely piece (I’m personally quite fond of green transferware) and we have a great provenance for it, so who am I to complain about inexpensive potteries neglecting to mark their work?

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