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Antiques Considered - December 2, 2009

A writer from Northumberland County asks about her Staffordshire gravy boat, which is a family heirloom.  It is blue on white, and both stenciled and labeled by the maker, Brown, Westhead, Moore & Co. with a shield and crown, along with the pattern designation, "Meissen."  It is in perfect condition, and is one piece, that is, the dish and platter were fired together.
This piece is a fine example of mid-nineteenth-century Staffordshire production.
As most readers know, Staffordshire is a county in England that was found to have extensive clay deposits, which were suitable for being the molds into which Plaster of Paris could be poured and fired in kilns.  The resulting products became the staples for British and foreign middle class tableware.

Exports of Staffordshire, particularly to America, grew rapidly in the nineteenth century, and as trade increased the Staffordshire factory owners constantly were seeking new patterns and designs to offer to their customers.  Their competition in Germany centered in and around the city of Meissen, which gave its name to this particular blue-on-white design.  Clearly BWM & Co determined that this was a popular pattern with a market that they decided to enter.
The specific Meissen design, which they copied in this piece, is known as Blue Onion, which was the most in demand of all Meissen dining china.  This piece reflects the growth of international competition to attempt to garner the biggest market share.  It is worth $145, whereas one of similar age from Meissen or from the Dutch city of Delft, would be $100 higher.
As I always do when a writer asks about a piece of nineteenth-century pottery, I suggest not using the item for food unless one is certain the glazing is lead-free.  This gravy boat is a splendid cabinet piece, or would be fine for flowers, but I advise against using it for gravy.
Happy Antiquing..

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