Decorative Arts

Telephone

Image of Telephone made by Kellogg Switchboard & Supply Company, 1906.
This phone was made by the Kellogg Switchboard & Supply Company of Chicago in 1906. Known as the Microphone 1, this model was the first telephone in the United States to integrate a transmitter and a receiver into a single handset. Between 1900 and 1910, the number of telephones in use in the United States went from 600,000 to 5.8 million.

Prie Dieu

Image of prie dieu, or prayer kneeler, ca. 1775
This prie dieu, or prayer kneeler, was used by French settlers in the Illinois territory during the late 18th century. During prayer, individuals would kneel on the bottom platform and rest their elbows or place books on the upper shelf. The Roman Catholic Church played a dominant role in the lives of these settlers, who celebrated 27 religious holidays throughout the year.

Hand-Colored “Frolics of Youth” Plate

Image of hand-colored "Frolics of Youth" plate.
The scene in this child’s plate may have been hand colored by a child of less than 10 years old. Children typically started working at the potteries in Staffordshire, England, by the age eight, but some started as young as five or six years old.

Porcelain “China” Doll Head

Image of porcelain doll head.
Like the detailed Staffordshire transfer print plates used for dining, residents on the Illinois frontier also imported other goods from Europe, including toys. This porcelain doll head, along with other pieces, was recovered from a cistern at the Huggins Farmstead Site in Perry County.

New Philadelphia Plate Fragment

Image of plate fragment recovered from excavations at New Philadelphia, an African-American settlement in western Illinois.
This plate fragment came from the home site of Alexander Clark, an African American blacksmith living in New Philadelphia, Illinois, in the mid-1800s. It shows a portion of a bridge and person bridling a horse, an image that can also be found near the center of a transfer print plate with the image “Rural Scenery.”

New Philadelphia Plate Fragment

Image of plate fragment recovered from excavations at New Philadelphia, an African-American settlement in western Illinois.
Rarely are completely intact artifacts found during archaeological explorations. It is up to archaeologists and anthropologists to use their knowledge and skill to find the missing pieces in order to tell the rest of the story. This plate fragment was recovered from excavations at New Philadelphia, an African American settlement in western Illinois founded by Free Frank McWhorter, a former slave.

Pearlware Fragments

Image of Hand Painted Dish Fragments
These fragments were discovered during an investigation of a well that had been filled in at the Williams Fort site in southeastern Illinois. The site was the location of a farmstead occupied by the family of Aaron and Tabitha Williams from about 1811-1838. To defend against the possibility of attack by Native Americans during the War of 1812, a stockade was constructed. A tavern was operated at the site in the years following the war.

Competition Across the Continents

Image of Staffordshire Plates
Although the “Baker’s Falls” plate was made by James and Ralph Clews, and the “Water Works” and “Race Works” plates were made by Job and John Jackson, all three plates are identical in diameter and apparently were made from the same mold. Note that they all share the same scalloped rim edged with raised dots. We don’t know if the Jacksons obtained the molds from the Clews pottery through gift, purchase, or outright theft. The Jacksons were nephews of James and Ralph Clews and trained at the Clews pottery in Cobridge, Staffordshire, England before setting out on their own.

Artistry, Labor Strife, and Cutthroat Competition

Image of Refined Earthenware Plate: Cobridge, Staffordshire, England. Ca. 1823-1835
The transfer plate process allowed producers of Staffordshire earthenware plates to produce ever-more detailed works of art, but that was not enough to stay ahead of the competition. The business was rife with labor strife, cutthroat competition, and theft of artwork and designs. This plate was made by the pottery of brothers James and Ralph Clews, located in Staffordshire, England. Opened at about the time Illinois became a state, the Clews continued in operation until 1835. The Clews pottery was a major exporter to the United States, and its ceramics were a familiar sight in Illinois homes.

The Finer Things

Image of Refined Earthenware Plate from Staffordshire, England
Even in frontier Illinois, families sought out nice things for their homes. This plate is typical of those used on the Illinois frontier in the 1830s. It was produced by the pottery of brothers Job and John Jackson, located in Staffordshire, England. Operating their pottery from 1831–1835, the Jacksons produced a large amount of pottery for export to the United States, and pottery from the Staffordshire region dominated the Amerian market at the time. Fragments of their wares have been found at archaeological sites across Illinois, including Woodlawn Farm outside Jacksonville.

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