Late 18th Century and Early Nineteenth Century Porcelain Handles: Loop, Ring & Wishbone

One of the most striking features of porcelain collecting is the array of different handles used in the early nineteenth century. However, frequently used designs incorporated aspects of the loop, ring and wishbone patterns.

Simple loop handles: these handles are a single loop. These can be plain or adorned. In this example of a Newhall cup decorated in pattern 155, the handle has gilt decoration on the handle sides and down the centre.Figure 1

 

Ring handle – a ring handle has circle within the handle. This example is an Old Derby coffee can dating to about 1810. Figure 2

 

Wishbone Handle – the wishbone handle looks like a J shape. The top part of the handle is often flat for the thumb to hold, then the lower part of the handle forms the second part of the wishbone. This is shown in the lovely Old Derby teacup below. In this instance the handle is undecorated.Figure 3b

 

Meadowlands: An Iconic Art Deco Burleigh Ware Pattern

Of the many English pottery companies Burleigh is one of the great survivors. Established in 1851 as Burgess and Leigh the business has had its ups and downs. One of the greatest periods for Burleigh was the Art Deco period of the late 1920s and 1930s. During this time Burgess and Leigh had an incredibly creative team of modellers and designers, including Earnest Bailey and Harold Bennett. Harold Bennett at this time functioned as the Art Director of the company and was responsible for introducing Art Deco tableware modelled by the Earnest Bailey to the UK market. Many of these designs were revolutionary, such as the wonderfully angular Zenith designs decorated with patterns such as the beautifully colourful and striking Meadowlands which swept the market. It isn’t hard to see why the period between the late 1920s and the Second World War has been described as the golden age of Burleigh Ware.

Today Burgess and Leigh Art Deco pottery is gaining again in popularity. Good examples are rare but do occasionally become available on the collectors market where they achieve quite good prices.

Above is nice example of a Burgess and Leigh Art Deco Zenith design Meadowlands patterned china coffee set consisting of a  coffee pot, six cups and saucers, a milk jug and a sugar bowl. Full sets like this are rare and extremely hard to find largely because dealers often sell pieces individually. As a result of this full sets like this do not stay in a display long. For example this particular coffee set was sold by Gloucester Antiques Centre within a week of being displayed. The buyer intended to display it and occasionally use it.

William Comyns

The silversmiths firm of William Comyns was established in approximately 1859 and by the early 1880s had become notable because of the high quality decorative silver ware the company produced. William Comyns gained particular fame for pieces incorporating highly integrate designs and also for his silver and tortoise shell pieces incorporating William Comynshigh quality silver pique work. The popularity of William Comyns was aided by the company selling its products via prestigious London retailers such as Tiffany and Co, Henry Lewis, etc. The desirability of William Comyns silver and Tortoiseshell pieces was so great that William Comyns became the primary and most desirable producers of items such as the highly ornate tortoiseshell and silver clocks. Examples of these in good condition fetch very good prices at auction. William Comyns also collaborated with good porcelain  manufacturers such as Royal Worcester and Crown Staffaordshire to produce some wonderful silver and porcelain tea and coffee sets consisting of fine china coffee cans held within ornate silver holders presented on matching china saucers (Figure 3).

Figure 3 for Comyns BlogThere are collectors who specialise in William Comyns and because of this good pieces are steadily disappearing into private collections. This of course makes William Comyns silver quite hard to find with a consequent knock on effect in terms of value. However, it is still possible to acquire good pieces at reasonable prices, for example a late Victorian William Comyns Bonbon spoon (Figure 1) may be bought for between £150 – £200 and, a good Edwardian William Comyns silver and tortoiseshell trinket box (Figure 2) may be bought for between £450 – £550.  We try to ensure that  keep a number of Victorian and Edwardian William Comyns pieces in stock.

The History of Cyma Watch Company

Cyma is a watch brand that has long been associated with accuaracy. Even the name Cyma, derived from the French cime for top or summit indicated the aims of the company, that of reaching the pinnacle of of accuracy. Cyma can trace its routes back to the Schwob brothers Joseph and Theodore, who initially established cyma in 1862 as a watch manufacturer that assembled watches from components derived from multiple Swiss sources.  At about the same time 1871, Henri Sndoz established Sandoz & Cie in Le Locle. However Sandoz moved to Tavannes in 1891, just North of Biel where he focused on the manufacture of highly complex repeaters and chronographs. Soon after this move Sandoz formed a developed a business relationship with the Schwob brothers and Cyma was officially registered in 1903. Sandoz used the most modern of manufacturing processes and produced very high quality time-pieces, trademarked as Tavannes, Cyma and Cyma Tavannes. The quality of the product allowed Tavannes/Cyma to develop into one of the largest Swiss watch manufacturers by 1910. Even basic models were very accurate and many were consequently sold as officially tested chronometers. By the 1920s, Cyma had followed a growing trend to standardise watch part manufacture, but typical of the company, it wasn’t enough to just produce parts that were interchangeable, they had to be precision made to ensure long term accuracy.

Early watch movements tended to be very susceptible to damage via physical blows. Thus during the 1930s efforts were made to develop shock proofing systems. The very first effective shock proofing system for watches  (Incabloc) was invented by Georges Braunschweig and Fritz Marti in 1934. These systems were incorporated into many watches by numerous watch manufacturers. However, by the 1950s, Cyma had developed its own shock proofing system, Cymerflex, which it installed in its high grade watches. These proudly advertised the fact on the dial  (Figure 1). It is a bit of a testament to Cyma, that of all of the numerous watches that have passed though our hands as dealers in vintage watches over the years, we have never had a troublesome Cyma.

Cymaflex WristwatchBy the late 1960s and early 1970s the watch industry was changing, the advances of Hamilton and Bulovea in the production of electric watches set the scene for the era of the quartz watch. By 1973 Cyma had produced their first electric watch and they were ready to embrace the new technology whilst other watch manufacturers were decimated by it.  The brand is currently owned by Stelux International, Ltd and continues to lead in the production of high quality quartz watches. Having achieved this it seems that Cyma has met the goals set out by its founders, after all Cyma now produces watches that are always absolutely accurate.

Rudolstadt Porcelain

The antique porcelain market in the UK is dominated by a combination of Chinese porcelain and English porcelain  from Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Derby. Strangely the English buyer of porcelain seems to be less well informed about continental porcelain. Thus in the UK porcelain from France, Germany and Austria is not always fully appreciated. Take for example Rudolstadt porcelain.  Although easily recognized by buyers in Europe and North America, Rudolstadt remains pretty much unrecognised in the UK, with some of the beautiful Rudolstadt blushware pieces being mistaken by British buyers for Royal Worcester!

Figure1aThe history of Rudolstadt porcelain goes back to 1869 when the German company Lazarus Straus & Sons (L.S.&S) was established to sell imported  ceramics. The Younger member of this partnership Nathan Strauss must have had a very good entrepreneurial mind because in 1874 it seems he managed to form a business agreement with none other than R.H.Macy’s & Co. For those not familiar with Macy’s, R.H.Macy is a mid to upper range US chain of department stores initially established by Rowland Hussey Macy who opened 4 dry goods stores between 1843 and 1855. These initial businesses failed but he eventually moved to New York where he opened R.H.Macy & Co on 6th Avenue. The business grew and despite some difficulties along the way gave rise to the huge chain store brand that Macey’s represents today.

This business relationship between Nathan Strauss and Macey’s allowed Lazarus Straus & Sons retail space in every Macey’s store, thus opening up the US export market.  This actually led to the formation of a US company, New York and Rudolstadt Pottery Co. Inc. 1882. This US company traded in the porcelain manufactured in and shipped over from the German factory, which functioned independently from its US partner.

Figure3aTo meet the growing demand of its growing export market Lazarus Straus & Sons expanded, Figure2aopening decorating studios in France and Bohemia giving rise to L.S.& S. Limoges’ and the Austrian ‘L.S.&S. Carlsbad. Both these decorating studios used their own decorators mark. However, the mark used in Germany revolved around a crown over a shield shaped lozenge containing the letters RW for Rudolstadt Works. Variations of this mark were used between 1895 and 1924, with a more ornate version being used between 1900 and 1918.

The quality of the porcelain and the quality of the painting was superb and Lazarus Straus & Sons porcelain rivaled the very best porcelain manufactured across Europe and the US. Take for example the lovely pair of Rudolstadt vases shown in Figure 1.  They are of a classical form  with a long  ovoid body extending up towards a partially fluted  neck. The form of the vases is finished with lovely ornate handles extending from the necks to the vase bodies.  The form of these vases alone is not only pleasing to the eye, but incredibly tactile. However the story does not stop there.  These blush ivory vases have been richly decorated with stunning flowers, and leaves with fine tube lining of the leaf veins in gilt and tube lining of the petal extremities to give the painting a rich almost three dimensional quality (Figure 2). Each vase is truly a work of art and caries the more ornate Rudolstadt  (figure 3) mark indicating a date of manufacture between 1900 and 1918.

History of the Hamilton Watch Company

By Morgan Denyer

Figure 1The history of the Hamilton Watch company goes back to 1886 when Figure 2Abram Bitner bought the Lancaster Pennsylvania Watch Company factory to establish the Keystone Standard Watch Company. The keystone Watch company developed a 18-size, 3/4-plate movement, with 15 jewels that incorporated a patented dust-proofing system (Figure 1) and was accurate enough to for use on the railroads. Unfortunately the company struggled and was eventually auctioned at a Sheriffs sale to a group of Pennsylvanian businessmen (J. W. B.Bausman, John F. Brimmer, Harry B. Cochran, Frank P. Coho, C. A. Fondersmith, George M. Franklin, John Sener, John C. Hager, J. F. McCaskey, H. M. North, Martin Ringwalt, J. Frederick Sener, William Z. Sener, James Shand, Peter T. Watt and H. S. Williamson. Charles D. Rood and Henry J. Cain of the Aurora Watch company) following its bankruptcy in 1892. The new company merged with the Aurora Watch Company of Illinois and was given the name The Hamilton Watch Company in honour of James Hamilton, a local and important historical figure who served as an elected member of the Provincial Assembly, was the Mayor in 1745, and was commissioned by the Penn family to function as lieutenant-governor on a number of occasions between 1754 and 1773. James Hamilton also owned large tracts of land granted to him by the Penn family and he used some of that land to build the State House and surrounding public spaces. He has been credited with founding the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The Hamilton Watch Company was set up with the aim of manufacture watches of the highest quality. The company didn’t have the resources to compete with the American watch making giants of the time (Waltham and Elgin) but what they could do, by producing very high quality watches, was to try and corner the railway watch market. The very first model they produced in 1893, a size 18, 17 jewel pocket watch did just that. This first watch, the Broadway, not only became known as “The watch of the Railway”, but was also the official timepiece of all U.S. Expeditionary Forces by the turn of the 20th century.  It was the Broadway and the later 21 jewel 992 Figure 2) railway grade movement that accounted for the majority of Hamilton sales during the late 19th and early 20th century.

Figure 3WW1 resulted in a need for a new type of watch, the Figure 4wristwatch or trench watch. Hamilton being a provider of watches for the US military very quickly produced its first trench watch in 1917 (Figure 3 & 4). This watch was based around an 0-sized (1 inch) 17-jewel 983 movement which was initially designed for use in ladies watches (see http://www.hamiltonchronicles.com/2013/05/1918-aviators-watch-trench-watch.html), the movements of these watches were even signed Lady Figure 5Hamilton. Hamilton produced 6900 of these movements and only about 1500 were cased as trench/aviators watches. They were quickly replaced in 1919 by men’s watches incorporating the O sized 981 calibre or 985 calibre movements. However, it seems that Hamilton couldn’t manufacture these watches fast enough to keep up with demand. The problem lay in the fact that the Hamilton watches were of an extremely high quality and were thus time consuming and expensive to manufacture. It is possible that Hamilton chose to manufacture high-grade wrist watches because to do otherwise could have damaged their brand and their major market, the railroads (see http://www.vintage-hamilton-wristwatches.com/2013/05/when-did-hamilton-make-its-first-gents.html). Hamilton continued to grow in the 1920s, buying the Illinois Watch Company in 1927/28 and as a result of this expanded its range to include numerous lovely Art Deco wrist watches including the stunning and very highly desirable Piping Rock (Figure 5).

Figure 6By 1939 WW2 had started in Europe and Hamilton Figure 7started to produce wristwatches that by modern standards would be more recognisable. Many of these were designed with almost an anticipation of future involvement in conflict. For example in 1940 Hamilton produced its first watch with a central sweep second hand, the Hamilton Sentinel (Figure 6). This watch contained a 17 jewel 987S calibre hack movement, in which the pulling out of the crown to set the watch stopped the second hand. Figure 8This of course enabled the synchronisation of watches. Talk about reading the market, Hamilton’s timing was perfect. In 1942, following the entry of the USA into WW2, Hamilton ceased producing watches for the civilian market and instead produced a million or more watches for the troops being sent to Europe and the Pacific. These watches were often equipped with movements incorporating the hack mechanism, originally used in the Hamilton Sentinel. After the war many of the designs used in the WW2 military watches were retained in military style dress watches, such as the beautiful 14K solid gold Hamilton Secometer. (Figure 7) The period after the WW2 also saw a return to the manufacture of lovely slim tank watches and Hamilton excelled in the production of some superb watches such as the Hamilton Donald (Figure 8).

The post war period witnessed an increasing wealth and the race to produce the first electric watch. Hamilton, apparently in response to rumours that Elgin were working on the development of an electric watch (http://www.electric-watches.co.uk/make/hamilton/index/), started Project X in 1946. This eventually resulted  in Hamilton unveiling the worlds first battery powered electric watch, the 14K solid gold Ventura in 1957 and soon after the 14 K yellow and white gold filled Pacer (Figure 9). These watches was something new, the design was striking and had its origins in the emerging space age. These watches were incredibly popular, even Elvis had one. Unfortunately the first Hamilton electric movement, the 500 was a bit unreliable, watch makers were un-used to them and refused to service them, so many were sent back to the manufacturer. Modifications of the 500 led to the development of the much more reliable 505 movement in 1962 and this was manufactured right up until 1969, when Hamilton finally admitted the superiority of Bulova’s Acutron. Despite the unreliability of the Hamilton electric watches they are still highly desirable, although there are only a very few specialist dealers/repairers such as the UK Electric Watch Guru Paul Wirdnam (http://www.electric-watches.co.uk/) who can service and repair them.Figure 9

During the Hamilton Electric watch period, Hamilton changed its logo to a stylised H symbolic of the electric watch era (Figure 10). However, Hamilton continued to make very high grade mechanical watches Figure 10during this period. In 1966 hamilton bought the Buren factory in Switzerland giving rise toHamilton Buren. This allowed Hamilton to incorporate the highly inventive Buren micro rotor blade into its automatic watches. Hamilton stopped making watches in the US in 1969, and shifted their watch making to the Hamilton Buren manufacturing base. By 1972, the Hamilton Buren association had dissolved and Société Suisse pour l’Industrie Horlogère (SSIH – Omega & Tissot) bought the Hamilton brand. Via the merger of SSIH and ASUAG (Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhrenindustrie AG) which gave rise to SMH (Swiss Corporation for Microelectronics and Watchmaking Industries Ltd.) in 1984, Hamilton is now a subsidiary of Swatch. Following the success of the film Men in Black (1990) Hamilton re-launched the Ventura design with a quartz movement. Since then Hamilton has gone on to produce very high quality watches for the luxury market. Hamilton currently sponsors Nicolas Ivanoff (Aerobatic pilot) and his plane the Hamilton branded Edge 540, they host the Hollywood “behind the Camera Awards, and are the official timekeepers of EAA AirVenture and sponsor the annual event at Wittman Regional Airport, Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The English Waltham Watches

by Morgan Denyer (Penrose Antiques Ltd)

Here is a bit of a horological heresey, the English Waltham! The Waltham watch company was steeped in American History, the company was founded by David Davies, Edward Howard and Aaron Lufkin Dennison who  in 1850 set up a company in Roxbury Massachusetts to manufacture watch parts. The company was reputedly set up under a cloud of secrecy because David Davies, Edward Howard and Aaron Lufkin Dennison were going to do something quite inventive, set up a watch manufacturing company in which all the components were made in their watch factory subject to strict quality control. This was quite unheard of and pretty much a world first. The watches they produced represented  a revolution in watch making, they could mass produce watches with interchangeable parts.

The first watches were made in 1852, and the company was named the Boston Watch Company in 1853. However the cost of production and retooling took its toll and the company was declared bankrupt resulting in the sale of the factory and larger machines to Royal E Robinns in 1857. He renamed the company Appleton Tracy & Company (ATCo) and retained Aaron Dennison as the factory superintendent. That year the company completed the development of the Model 1857 movement. By 1861 and the start of the American Civil War, ATCo had started to manufacture the William Ellery Model 57 watch. These watches were cheaply mass produced and became popular with Union soldiers who could buy them from roving merchants for a mere $13 or so. It seems that by the end of the civil war in 1865, the William Every Model 57 (Figure 1) accounted for 44.6% of the Waltham sales with the American Civil War Ellery watch serial number reaching around 161,000. (see  “Origins of the Waltham Model 57”   and “A closer look at a Civil War watch “ ).

Figure 1 Blog2Heated debate about the Ellery 57 Model watch represented a turning point in the career of Aaron Dennison. He fell out with Robinns in 1861 and Robinns eventually dismissed him for being a “vocal Dissenter” in 1862. One can imagine that this was a bit of a blow, but the success of the Ellery 57 and the perceived vindication of Dennison’s views seemed to drive him on to his next commercial venture.  In 1864 Dennison took the opportunity to set up the Tremont Watch Company with A. O. Bigelow. The idea here was to assemble watches in the US from fine parts sourced in Switzerland and larger parts sourced in America. Seemed like a good plan, but whilst Dennison was away in Switzerland organising the transport of components, his partners decided to move the company to Melrose and manufacture complete watches there. Needless to say Dennison was not pleased, he left the new company predicting utter disaster and moved to Birmingham England in 1871 where he established a watch case making business in 1872. His timing was perfect because of the opening in 1874 of the London office of the American Watch Company by N.P. Stratton, (assistant superintendant to Dennison in 1857, see “Watches Factories of America; Past and Present” by Henry G Abbott). Here was a ready market for Dennison’s cases and the person he had to convince of the value of his watch cases was none other than his old assistant superintendent at the American Watch Company. Unsurprisingly the majority of  the output of Dennison’s new watch case manufacturing business ended up being used by the London branch of the American Watch Company. What was particularly interesting about this though was that these early Dennison cases did not carry the Dennison makers mark, but AWCo, presumably because Robbins wouldn’t tolerate a Dennison makers mark on his watches.

Fig 2 Blog 2The association between the Dennison Watch Case Company and AWCo and the Later Waltham Watch Company, was maintained long after Aaron Dennison’s death in 1895. The success of this collaborative venture was exemplified by the Waltham Traveler (Figure 2). The Waltham Traveler consisted of a 7 jewel movement and was favoured for the export market in the early 20th century. Tens of thousands were sent to the UK where they were mostly cased in Dennison gold or gold plated cases. These watches were robust and many have survived in good working order. They represent a very good investment for those wishing to buy a good antique watch. The real benefit of these watches is that because they were mass produced, the parts are readily sourced and are fully interchangeable.

By the First World War Waltham had become a major supplier of watch movements in the UK, but the market was changing. Pocket watches were of little use in the trenches of the European battle fields and troops had started to modify their watches by the addition of wire lugs. Dennison, having his business located in the UK was in a prime position to take advantage of this. By 1914/15 Dennison had started to make transitional or trench watch cases consisting of what looked like pocket watch cases fitted with wire lugs (Figure 3). These were designed to fit Waltham movements and were a favorite with British officers heading of to war. The design actually gained such popularity with the conservative British that the Dennison transitional watch cases were made right through the 1920s and into the mid to late1930s. The latest example we at Penrose Antiques Ltd have encountered dated from 1938.Fig 3a

Post WW1 there were also drivers to further refine wristwatch design. This was very much a period of the tank watch, a design first created by Louis Cartier in 1917. Virtually all watchmakers leaped on the tank watch bandwagon, and Waltham, was no different. By the 1920s Waltham was producing a range of movements designed to fit slim rectangular dress watchcases. Many of these movements made it to the UK to be encased in lovely simple but elegant slim lozenge shaped curved art Art Deco Dennison cases.

In the history of watch making, many watch manufacturers had watch movements made to fit their watch cases, for example the American Ball Watch Company used Swiss made Avia watch movement. Thus one could argue that the Walthams assembled in the UK form English made Dennison cases represent a special bread of English Walthams. After all many of the Dennison cases, although designed to fit Waltham movements were also designed for the English market. For example the early trench watch cases made by Dennison specifically met the needs of the British heading off to the trenches. The design was only later adopted by Waltham in the US to meet the needs of American troops post April 6th 1917 when the USA entered the war. So perhaps Britain, via the efforts and perseverance of Aaron Dennison can bathe in a small portion of the glory of the historically great American Waltham Watch Company.

The association with Dennison and the English market may also have played a part in the eventual downfall of the Waltham Watch Company. The British were by nature very conservative, but the UK was a major market for Waltham. Perhaps to meet the needs of this market, Waltham maintained a more conservative output, and it may have been that the English conservative influence led  Waltham watches to be perceived as a bit boring in the home US market. This perception of conservatism was believed to have played a part in a decline of sales and the eventual bankruptcy of the Waltham Watch Company  in 1949 and closure of the American Waltham Watch factory in 1957.

George W Adams and the Chawner Silversmiths

By Rachel Denyer (Penrose Antiques Ltd)

January 1797 in England started with violent winds and stormy seas. January 4th fell on a Wednesday and on that day Jonthan Chawner, a tanner from Horncastle in Lincoln, travelledFigure 1 to London to sign apprentice indenture papers with William Fearn for his son William ChWilliam Chawner salt spoonawner.[1]

William Fearn was a well-respected silversmith known for producing quality flatware. 1797 also saw him begin a partnership with William Eley, and a joint makers mark was registered.[2] William Eley had done his own apprenticeship with Fearn in 1770. William Chawner’s apprenticeship must have gone well, because he joined Fearn and Eley as a partner in 1808, with a triple makers mark (Figure 1) being registered in that year[3]. This partnership continued until 1815, when William Chawner set up Chawner & Co (Figure 2), and moved into silversmith premises at 16 Hosier Street, West Smithfield in London which had formerly been occupied by George Smith.[4] On 16th June that year, William married Mary Burwash at St Bartholomew the Great[5]. The couple went on to have 2 children –  William Chawner (b1817) and Mary Ann Chawner (b1818).

In 1834, William Chawner died aged around 51. His son William was just 17 years old, therefore his widow Mary took over the business whilst William did his apprenticeship, however it was not to be. At the end of the 1830s William Chawner decided against joining the family business, and instead chose to go into the Church. By this time, his sister Mary Ann had married, in 1838, to George William Adams. It was agreed that he would go into the business with her mother, and a joint makers mark was registered from March – November 1840. After this, George Adams took over Chawner & Co, and ran it exceptionally well. He was an exhibitor at the 1851 Great Exhibition and the company became one of the largest producers of top quality silver flatware in Victorian England. The Chawner & Co pattern book was published in 1875, and became the encyclopedia for Victorian flatware patterns. It was heavily referenced by Ian Pickford in his now-standard reference book on silver flatware.[6]

William Chawner Figure1The 1881 census shows that George’s son, George Turner Adams (b1841) had also become a silversmith[7], and the subject of him taking over Chawner & Co must surely have been discussed. Maybe George Adams felt that his son wasn’t up to running the firm, or perhaps his son had indicated he didn’t want to remain in the business, as his uncle had done before him. Whatever the reason, George Adams sold the business in 1883 to Holland, Aldwinckle & Slater, and his son didn’t remain in silversmithing. By 1891, George T Adams had become a commercial handler of timber[8] and by 1901 a commercial traveller,[9] and by 1911 he was a commercial traveller and watchmaker.[10]

George William Adams remained close to his Chawner relatives. His brother in law William graduated from St Johns College Cambridge, and had a string of clerical appointments. He married in 1844 and had 6 children. William’s eldest son, another William Chawner (1848-1911) also went into the Church. A graduate of Emmanuel College Cambridge, he went on to become a Fellow, Tutor, Master then Vice-Chancellor of the college. Another son Alfred (1852-1916) went onto become a surgeon, physician and medical practitioner. The 1871 census shows both these nephews, then aged 23 and 18 respectively, residing with George Adams at 73 Addison Road, London[11] (Figure 3)

It was certainly a comfortable home, as the census shows the household included a cook, a housemaid and a footman. If Jonathan Chawner had foreseen the future family fortunes on that blustery January day in 1797 when he took his son to sign the apprenticeship papers, I think he would have been pleased.


[1] London Metropolitan Archive; Reference Number: COL/CHD/FR/02/1282-1287

[2] Grimwade 3112

[3] Grimwade 3114

[4] London Metropolitan Archive, Records of the Sun Fire Office, MS 11936/468/906890  15 May 1815

[5] Guildhall, St Bartholomew the Great, Register of marriages, 1813 – 1827, P69/BAT3/A/01/Ms 6779/5.

[6] Silver Flatware: English, Irish and Scottish, 1660-1980 ISBN 9780907462354

[7] UK 1881 Census RG11; Piece: 61; Folio: 118; Page: 16; GSU roll: 1341013

[8] UK 1891 Census Class: RG12; Piece: 40; Folio: 92; Page: 31; GSU Roll: 6095150

[9] UK 1901 Census Class: RG13; Piece: 22; Folio: 67; Page: 31

[10] UK 1911 Class: RG14; Piece: 255

[11] UK 1871 Census RG10; Piece:35;Folio: 113; Page: 59; GSU roll:838760

This Blog is also Available via AntiqueStalker.co.uk

Victorian Frog Loving Cup

Victorian Frog Loving Cup

Rachel Denyer (Penrose Antiques Ltd)

A loving cup is a large, two-handled mug usually associated with a wedding. However, in the mid nineteenth century loving cups were used for other purposes. For example there was a tradition of giving loving cups as a christening gift.

Elsmere & Forster Frog Loving Cup 1This loving cup (fig 1) is a particularly unusual one because it gives us an insight into a family of potters and the company Elsmore & Forster, based at Tunstall Staffordshire. Elsmore & Forster was a quality manufacturer of pottery goods, whose production ran from 1851 – 1873[1], One side the cup is painted with a traditional floral decoration (Fig 1) and on the other it is inscribed “A present for William Venables, 25 December 1860 (Fig 2). However, there is a surprise waiting for the user of this cup, because lurking within are three quite charming pottery frogs (Fig 3).

The most probable recipient of this cup was a William Venables born in Wolstanton, Staffordshire, in 1860. His family were an established Potteries family, going back to his grandfather, John Venables (b1806). The 1841 census shows John Venables resisident in Tunstall, a sub-district of Walstanton, with his wife Emma (b1806) and their 4 children.[2] By 1851, John had become an earthenware painter, and his oldest son William (b1831) had become a potter.[3] Another 2 of his children went on to become potters – by 1861, his second son John (b1832) and daugher Sarah (b1839) were both potters.[4] By 1861, William Venables had married, and was living in Burslem with his wife Emma and 2 sons – Alfred and newborn son William[5] who had been born in 1860.

Figure 2Christmas Day fell on a Tuesday that year. 1860 was a very cold December, with Lord Hatherton of Teddesley Park near Penkridge (26 miles from Burslem) recording in his diary that the Figure 3temperature had dropped to minus 10 degrees killing a number of magnolia plants, some of which were 30 years old. [6] Perhaps the loving cup was filled with hot drinks and passed to unsuspecting visitors. William himself entered the pottery industry. The 1881 census shows he was living at home with his widowed mother, and working as a clerk in an earthenware factory.[7] Beyond that date, he is difficult to identify in the censuses with any certainty. It is possible he moved away from the Staffordshire area after the death of his mother.

We will never know if the cup was made or decorated by one of the family, or if a similar one had been given 4 years earlier to his elder brother Alfred. Nevertheless, it represents a fragment of the family’s history, and the loving cup was preserved and handed down through the generations, its inscription bearing witness to its original owner. This cup is currently for sale via the Penrose Antiques Ltd Ruby Lane web site.


[2]  1841 UK Census: Class: HO107; Piece: 993; Book: 20; GSU roll: 474622

[3] 1851 UK Census. Class: HO107; Piece: 2002; Folio: 412; Page: 27; GSU roll: 87404.

[4] 1861 UK Census Class: RG 9; Piece: 1925; Folio: 36; Page: 29; GSU roll: 542888.

[5] 1861 UK Census Class: RG 9; Piece: 1928; Folio: 16; Page: 25; GSU roll: 542889

[7] 1881 UK Census Class Rg11; Piece: 2714: Folio:87; Page: 49; GSU roll: 1341650

The Bulova Watch Company

by Morgan Denyer  (Penrose Antiques Ltd)

The Bulova’s story starts with the immigration of a certain Joseph Bulova to the United States. Joseph Bulova was born in 1851 and emigrated to the US towards the later quarter of the 19th century to establish a small New York jewellers, J Bulova Company. By 1911 Bulova had started to make small table clocks and pocket watches, a venture aided by the opening of Bulova’s first watch factory in Bienne, Switzerland in 1912. Bulova Figure 1This was very much a time of growth and innovation in the watch making industry, partially drivBulova Figure 2en by the needs of the military. The 1st World War, saw Bulova working towards meeting the need for the new fangled wristwatches, and by 1919 Bulova was the first watch manufacturer to launch a full range of men’s wristwatches. At this time Bulova’s business was growing fast and to facilitate continued growth, Bulova, in 1920, moved to 580 Fifth Avenue, where Bulova built the first ever Observatory on top of a skyscraper (Figure 1). Accuracy was everything, thus the observatory was apparently under the direction of a mathematician, whose calculations were reputed to guide the factory’s watchmakers in their efforts towards absolute accuracy. Ever the opportunistic advertiser, the move provided Bulova with an opportunity to re-brand itself in 1923 as the Bulova Watch Company Inc. At this time Bulova’s methods of mass production allowed the production of high precision interchangeable components allowing rapid repair and servicing. The Bulova’s were always ready to support risky projects with the aim of grabbing a headline. For example it was the Bulova Watch Company that made the first ever radio advertisement in 1926, and it was Ardé Bulova, Joseph’s son, who offered a $1000 prize to the pilot who could make the first non-stopBulova Blog Figure 3 single-handed flight across the Atlantic. It seems that those who attempted this feet were all given a Bulova before they took off, and it is reputed that the first pilot, Charles A. Lindberg, who managed the trip wore a Bulova during the flight. It is also believed that Lindberg actually earned himself two Bulova watches and of course a nice large cheque as a result of his efforts. The first watch was given to him before the flight, and the second as a presentation watch after the flight in a blaze of publicity. Not to miss a trick, Bulova capitalised on this my creating the Lone Eagle model, the first ever commemorative watch. This watch seemed to be rather fittingly based on what was called the Bulova Conqueror (Figure 2 – see http://www.watchophilia.com/general-information/bulova-lone-eagle-series/ for more details). Rather perversely, prior to the successful flight the Conqueror didn’t actually sell that well, but on touch down, sales rocketed with the Bulova records showing 5000 sales within the first 3 days of landing. There is still considerable debate as to whether these were actual sales of physical watches to individual customers, or orders from jewellers. The latter seems most likely. The company continued innovating, producing the very first electric clocks in 1931 and making the first ever television advertisement in 1941. During WW2 Bulova dedicated its time to producing timepieces for the US military. After the war Bulova produced some truly lovely watches combining stunningly creative designs with the small sleek look of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Many of these watches were very high quality watches consisting of high calibre movements within 14ct solid white or yellow gold cases (Figure 3). Bulova Figure 4The 50s also saw social changes, this was an era of steadily increasing wealth, and massive technological advances. In the watch industry the race was on to produce the first electric watch. This was perceived as an almost impossible task because it required the miniaturisation of electrical components. However, by 1960 Bulova had developed the Bulova Accutron. This watch was remarkable in that it basically contained a mechanical movement driven by a 360 hertz tuning fork. The concept was brilliant, very ingenious and beautifully simple. Basically what Bulova did was to fabricate a means of driving a 25mm long tuning fork with an electronic unit consisting of a couple of coils, a battery unit and a couple of transistors. The tuning fork was manufactured so that one arm possessed a post from which extended an arm like structure terminating in a jewelled square (Figure 4a-c see http://www.decadecounter.com/accutron/history.htm for further details). The vibrations of the tuning fork allowed the arm to drive a micro-toothed wheel, tBulova Figure 5ooth by tooth. It was this micro-toothed wheel, which drove the mechanical gear chain allowing the hands to move. These watches don’t tick they give of a faint high-pitched hum, and it is down to the micro-toothed drive wheel that in these watches the second hand seems to move with a mystical smoothness. The Accutron was the very first highly accurate electric watches, and this was recognised by the Bulova Accutron wristwatch being the first wristwatch to be awarded the US Railroad Certificate. The value of this accolade should be explained. In the early years of the US railroad, accidents tended to happen because train drivers and signallers had watches that were not terribly accurate. To try and circumvent this, strict standards were set for the accuracy of watches used on the US railways to insure the appropriate coordination of time dependent tasks. Thus Bulova, because of the accuracy of its Accutron wristwatches, could market their wristwatches to the rail industry. To market these new watches, Bulova produced versions without a formalised face, thus the all-new movement could be viewed. These watches were meant to be display items only. However, customers wanted to buy them, and thus the Accutron Spaceview watches were born. These were, and still are, highly popular and when combined with the asymmetrical watch designs of the 1960s resulted in some lovely timepieces (See http://oldfathertime.com/accutron_photo_gallery.htm for details of some of the designs). One of my particular favourites is the so called Tilty (or floppy) Football (Figure 5), which consisted of a tilted asymmetrical almost circular 14ct solid gold case combined with the space view – a real peach of a watch! The Space View versions are very collectable and unsurprisingly kits are available to convert a standard Accutron to a Spaceview Accutron. The 60s also saw the race to the moon. Bulova was heavily involved in the space race. Their main rival in this market was Omega. Both competed to have the first watch on the moon. Unfortunately for Bulova, Omega won that race race, on the basis that Bulova didn’t guarantee 100% dust proofing, whilst Omega did. So the Omega Speedmaster Professional became the official NASA astronauts watch. However, all of the timepieces for the spacecraft, were based around the Accutron 214 movement, because NASA couldn’t be certain how purely mechanical timepieces would function in a zero gravity environment. The Accutron based watches were made between 1960 and 1977. The demise of the tuning fork based movement was driven by the invention of the quartz based movement which could be made much more cheaply. Bulova is still a major force in the watch manufacturing industry. The company was bought by Citizen in 2008 and continues to make watches branded as Bulova, Caravelle, Wittnauer Swiss, Marine Star and Accutron (which are now quartz based, although 1000 50th anniversary true tuning fork based Accutrons were made in 2010).

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