If you are a fan of an elegant tea table, then an antique English Staffordshire tea canister is an accessory that you may have or are looking for. These beautiful storage containers not only still make excellent tea holders, they are beautiful additions to your china collection.
About English Staffordshire
English Staffordshire was produced by several different potters, all from the Staffordshire district of England. These artisans produced a variety of beautiful items from 1820 to 1850. During these three decades, the demand for Staffordshire pottery was at its peak. Interest and sales dwindled as America prepared for the Civil War and the import of this china slowed for a time, but the beauty of the china brought it back into favor by the end of the 19th century.
Staffordshire was created by the potters who used a technique called transfer printing. While previously the decorations on china had been hand painted, the transfer process caused the china to be affordable to the middle classes as well.
Although transferware had been being produced for decades, potters began to woo American consumers by creating more affordable china that utilized scenes by American artists. These scenes depicted important historic American events, symbols, and places. For example, some common designs depicted:
- Liberty Bell
- Philadelphia scenes
- Well known churches
- Niagara Falls
Identifying Antique English Staffordshire Pottery
Staffordshire pottery is relatively easy to identify. It will generally have a potter's mark on the bottom of the piece with the name of the pottery that produced the china as well as the title or description of the scene depicted. The marks are usually bordered with some sort of decorative border such as roses, shells, etc. Each border is different depending on which pottery the piece was produced in.
With a little practice, a collector can easily identify a fake antique Staffordshire china tea canister from an authentic one. Real Staffordshire has subtle colors and distinct lines. Some names to look for are:
Finding an Authentic Antique English Staffordshire Tea Canister
During the 18th and 19th centuries, tea was one of the most popular beverages in Europe and America. Manufacturers of Staffordshire china created tea sets that consisted of several pieces. The pieces varied depending on when they were made.
In the late 1700s and early 1800s, tea cups did not have handles, but the tea was poured from the cup into a saucer to cool. The empty cup was placed on a tiny cup plate while the tea would be sipped from the saucer. The diminutive cup plates are very rare and hard to find. Included in these sets would often be a tea canister, a container to hold the precious tea and keep it safe from bugs, rodents, and humidity. A tea caddy spoon would be used to remove the tea.
Tea canisters were often round with sloping shoulders, wide necks and a cork or ceramic cover on the top. Since the tea canisters were used every day, they were subjected to a lot of wear and tear. Many of these old tea canisters may be missing the top or the top may be cracked, chipped, or otherwise in imperfect condition.
Tea canisters are sometimes labeled as ginger jars, tea caddies, and tea tins. Generally these terms are not used for the Staffordshire canisters but sometimes they are. It won't hurt to do a quick search of each of the terms.
Examples of Staffordshire Tea Canisters
You can see examples of antique English Staffordshire tea canisters on the following sites:
Collecting Antique Tea Canisters
Antique English Staffordshire tea canisters are not inexpensive, nor are they easy to find. Beware venues like eBay where you are dealing with pieces that you can't examine closely. There are many reproductions and fakes out there and sometimes even the dealers are unaware of having a fake unless they are very experienced in Staffordshire.
It is best for the new collector to read as much as possible about the tea canisters and other Staffordshire items. Attend shows and museums that feature these items and examine them closely. Try to purchase from antique shops that have been in business for a long time and have built up a reputation for integrity.
Once you have your treasured tea canister in your possession you will want to keep it displayed safely behind glass. Always keep out of direct sunlight as well. If you need to clean the piece dust it with a soft cloth. If the canister is very dirty they you can wash it in a very mild soap diluted with plenty of water. Allow to dry in a safe place away from direct heat, rapid changes in temperature, or sunlight.
You can never really own an antique; you can only become its caretaker until the next generation takes over. Enjoying Staffordshire is a unique opportunity to experience history.