Thursday, January 12, 2012

Artifact Spotlight: Liberty China, c. 1918

---Amy King, Curatorial Volunteer

Liberty Queen's Ware sugar, teapot, cup and saucer, and creamer
The museum recently acquired a "Liberty" Queen's Ware tea set consisting of a teapot, creamer, sugar bowl, six cups, six saucers, and six small plates. Shortly after America entered World War I,  American socialite Lillian Gary Taylor devised a unique fundraising strategy to support Allied charities and aid the war effort.  She designed a porcelain china pattern called "Liberty China" and commissioned England's world famous pottery firm Josiah Wedgwood and Sons to refine and manufacture the pieces. The pattern, designed by Mrs. Taylor, contained the shield of the United States flanked by the flags of eleven Allied nations. The British and French flags are placed on either side of the Belgian flag. The other flags depicted are Cuba, Romania, Montenegro, Italy, Russia, Japan, Portugal, and Serbia. A narrow band of gold adorns the edges of these pieces.

The pieces were a “private order” and were never advertised or sold to the public. Select clientele who ordered and received Liberty China included President Woodrow Wilson, former President Theodore Roosevelt, King George V and Queen Mary of the United Kingdom, King Albert and Queen Elizabeth of Belgium, General John Pershing, Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Admiral and Mrs. William S. Sims. Sims, most recently President of the Naval War College, had recently departed the U.S. and was now serving as Commanding Officer of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe.

Eventually, additional pieces such as breakfast trays and various size plates were produced. As Taylor reported in her privately-printed book on the subject, $14,203 was raised and donated to various Allied charities all over the Europe and the United States. Beneficiaries and causes included the American Red Cross, Argonne Auxiliary, Belgian Children’s Fund, YMCA, Russian Refugee Relief, Occupational Therapy for Ex-Service Men, Italian Orphans, and the International Serbian Education Committee.

After the war ended in 1918, Frank H. Wedgwood destroyed the copper plate of the engraving at Mrs. Taylor's request to insure no more could be produced. This set came from the estate of Vice Admiral John T. Hayward, President of the Naval War College (1966-1968).

Museum Purchase                                                                                                                     2011.19

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