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Painted Floral Tea Saucer

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Artifact Description

The sample of 60 underglaze painted whitewares recovered from the 87 examples recorded on the surface of the Jacksonville "Blue China" wreck incorporate three different variations of a floral motif. Based on the quantity found these British products of c. 1845-55 were a component of the vessel’s cargo. They have been identified as elements of a tea set and include 19 tea bowls (cups in the London shape), 27 saucers, 9 creamer jugs and 4 sugar bowls in two different sizes as well as one lid. No teapots were recovered or observed, although these items would have likely been included in such shipments.

Blue-painted teawares with floral motifs became popular in the 1820s and a decade later witnessed the introduction of new colors that included red, black and lighter shades of green and blue. Further stylistic changes occurred in the floral painting, which included the introduction of sprig-painted wares bearing simple stylized floral motifs – isolated flowers, sprays and leaves – such as those represented by the Jacksonville “Blue China” wreck examples examples. These new painted teas, called “sprig” or “sprigged” patterns in advertisements and invoices of the period, were common from around 1835 to the beginning of the Civil War.

These “sprig” pattern wares required limited color and very few brush strokes, and thus relied upon artisans with only minimal skill to duplicate patterns. Sets of matched pieces could be assembled faster than any of the previous floral patterns and were thus relatively cheap compared to the much higher quality painted wares produced by more skilled artisans. These painted wares are amongst the less expensive wares of this class and are commonly found on North American sites after the late 1840s.

Four different impressed marks characterize the tea bowls and saucers, and are probably tally or workmen’s marks to pay for piece work. Workers’ wages were frequently based on the number of vessels that came out of the kiln in good shape. However, it should also be born in mind that merchants not only bought seconds, but also thirds. “Send the best thirds”, an 18th-century Portsmouth merchant of New Hampshire wrote in a letter to a ‘Liverpoole’ supplier of earthenware. These tally marks unfortunately do not help identify a particular manufacturer because similar marks were used at a number of different factories.

Other Details

D. 14.9cm