A Child’s Tea Cup:


The Object -

This piece is made of a white earthenware ceramic with a clear glaze, and a black transfer printing on both sides. While only a fragment of the original cup was recovered, the design is visible.  The exterior pictures two women and the inside features a floral design. 

Figure 1: utside of Tea Cup








The object was found in a layer with many other objects dating to the 18th century.  However, the dress that the ladies are wearing is of a later time period, and transfer printing did not become popular until about 1820.  These inconsistencies led to questions.  How could this piece have found its way into the ground before it was even made?  The answer is that it didn’t.  There was a fire on the street where the George Read II House is located in 1824.  After this fire, the soils were mixed and redeposited to help level out the ground after the burned house next to the Reads had been destroyed.  This piece was then mixed in with soil containing the older objects. 


This all means that the object was probably produced between 1820 and 1824.  Most of transfer printed ceramics, such as this piece, were produced in Staffordshire, England.  Blue images were printed at first and later black and other colors were introduced.  Therefore, this piece was most likely made closer to 1824 because of its black color.


Why was it there? -

In an article in 1825, a woman named Maria Edgewood said, “it is surprising how much children learn from their playthings when the habit of reflection is associated with amusement.”


By the early 1800’s, different toys were designed for boys or girls.  They were considered tools for teaching children their behaviors in society and how to act as adults.  Tea was an integral part of female behavior during this time.  Miniature tea sets could teach little girls this important social activity.  And, in 1824, there were four little girls living at the Read House.


In 1850, in Godey’s Ladies Book, a popular woman’s magazine, an author wrote that “each sex has a use in society particularly its own.  A boy takes the hammer, the whip or any other plaything that calls for strength and action while the girl, as natural, busies herself with her doll or cups and saucers.”  This quote seems to sum up the function of toys.


-Researched by: Kristen Leahy


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