What pieces would have been included for a complete tea table?

Q: From: Pam D.
What pieces would have been included for a complete tea table?
A:

Pam, you've asked about one of my favorite areas of research and collecting! All of the objects that we associate with the tea table were introduced to Europe (and the colonies) in the late 17th and early 18th centuries as Europeans discovered tea from China, coffee from the near east, and chocolate from South America. Various shapes for serving and drinking these exotic new hot beverages were "codified" so that ladies came to expect that a specific shape had a designated function. Those in the social know understood the use of new equipage for the tea table. This secret code of etiquette and equipage served as a social screening device as a rising middle class wanted to partake of the tea ceremony.

Tea was served in a globular vessel (inspired by Chinese wine pots), and coffee was served in tall slender pots, often in a lighthouse shape. Tea cups were in a bowl shape, with no handle. Coffee and chocolate cups had handles, and were usually cylindrical (very much like demitasse today.) Saucers for all kinds of cups were usually interchangeable, so a set might have twelve tea cups, twelve coffee cups, and only twelve saucers. Sugar bowls (which held pieces chipped from a sugar cone) had covers, as did most jugs for milk or hot water. The "slop" bowl, larger than the sugar bowl or tea cups, was for discarding tea dregs. The spoon tray was a lozenge-shaped dish. You'd need silver sugar tongs and small tea spoons. For boiling water, you'd use a tea kettle in the first half of the eighteenth century, gradually replaced by a hot water urn. Expensive tea leaves were stored in a tea canister, often kept in a wooden or japanned tea chest.

Early in the 18th century serving pieces were usually silver, and the cups and saucers were Chinese export porcelain. By the 1760s English manufactories were beginning to make matched tea sets in porcelain and pottery. The demand for fashionable tea wares was a huge impetus toward the Industrial Revolution, providing inexpensive ceramic dining wares and "Sheffield plate" (silver plated serving pieces.)

Would it be correct to serve Syllabub in the afternoon?

Q: From: Cassandra M.
Hi Liza -- I am entertaining some gals who are big 18th century fans--I got a recipe for Syllabub--would it be correct to serve it in the afternoon? Before, with or after luncheon? Thanks for any info--I would love to impress my knowledgeable friends.
A:

Hi, Cassandra. Syllabub is a treat! It was a dessert, and would be a perfect way to culminate your luncheon with a showpiece of your cooking and 18th-century table decorating skills. Ideally, it's served in stemmed glasses with an extended sort of rim that holds up the froth, but our shrub glasses are a good substitute. It's classic to serve syllabubs on tiered glass stands—a "dessert pyramid." If you don't have a glass pyramid, consider several sizes of cake plate, topped with a champagne coupe filled with candied orange peel. 1770s fashion was to alternate little vases of flowers between the syllabubs. Rolled sugar wafers are a nice period-style accompaniment. You'll be dining like Lord Botetourt at the Governor's Palace here! [Will you use an authentic straw whisk to whip, or save your arms by using an electric mixer?]

How were ceramics and glassware cleaned after dinner?

Q: From: Kim A.
I enjoyed reading your Q&A on the tableware & how the pieces were beginning to get more elaborate. I'm interested in the soaps & cleaning solutions used at the time. How were the ceramics and glassware cleaned after the dinner? Were they rinsed only with hot water to protect any designs or did they use strong soaps to cut the grease? Thanks!
A:

Kim, you stumped me. I couldn't imagine those fragile gilded teacups being scrubbed with lye soap or sand along with the stew pans in the scullery, but I hadn't thought through "how they did that." Luckily, Colonial Williamsburg has a wealth of specialists, so Frank Clark in our historic foodways program came to the rescue. He advises that they washed fine china in the house, not the kitchen, using a soft liquid Castile soap made with olive oil.

Was the Wedgwood Chinese Tiger pattern ever produced with black tigers in the 18th century?

Q: From: Carole S.
My Mother and I share a Chinese Tigers tea set, and dinnerware. Our Tigers are green, I love the blue, and red as well, but the green is exquisite. I was once told, that in the 18th century for a short time the tigers were painted in black. I have searched, to no avail, is this just a fabrication? I think black Chinese Tigers would be gorgeous! But I imagine it is only wishful thinking.
A:

Hi, Carole. You and your mother are lucky girls! I loved Colonial Williamsburg's Wedgwood "green tiger" pattern for years, and wanted to register for it. I still regret that--foolish bride that I was--I let my mother talk me out of it because I had my grandmother's Limoges. "Chinese Tiger" has been discontinued for years, so you have treasures.

When the pattern was reproduced, Colonial Williamsburg owned one antique plate in the pattern, which Wedgwood introduced about 1814. [I've heard it was made for the Prince Regent for his Brighton Pavilion, but can't put my finger on that reference.] The Wedgwood Museum had a full tea service, and even their original pattern books, so we used their resources to develop the full service of tea and dinnerware. Try to find a copy of The Dictionary of Wedgwood by Robin Reilly and George Savage, (1980.) On p. 71 they show a color picture of a green WILLIAMSBURG "Chinese Tiger" teacup and saucer on top of an original page in the Wedgwood pattern book, showing black tigers as pattern #622!

Did they actually drink tea from the saucer in the 18th century?

Q: From: Winnie M.
Colonial documents refer to a saucer of tea - did they actually drink tea from the saucer? Thanks.
A:

From my research in Virginia documents and British prints and paintings, I suspect that some people of lower social rank drank from saucers, but that an 18th-century "Miss Etiquette" would not consider it "the done thing." There is a satirical print called "Lady Nightcap at Breakfast" that shows a young woman sipping from a saucer. Her costume hints that "Lady Nightcap" might not be received for tea in the best London drawing rooms. I've never seen someone sipping from a saucer in more formal period "conversation" paintings, which often depict gentry families or parties taking tea.

Did colonial ladies bring their own teacups with them to tea parties?

Q: From: Alice W.
From time to time, I taught my elementary students about Colonial America, and used my various materials from Williamsburg as references. In other publications, occasionally we'd see that Colonial ladies were in the habit of taking their own teacups with them, since many hostesses didn't have enough of them for a tea party. We also read that, at first, cups had no handles. Were these two practices followed in Williamsburg? Also, when did the "five o'clock" teaspoons come into use? They are the size (5"-5 1/2") that we saw in England in the 1970s-80s as their regular teaspoon size, something we hadn't previously known. When did we adopt the larger size?

Is this question-and-answer feature a regular thing now?
A:

In my research on tea customs in Virginia, I've not come across a reference to colonial ladies being invited to "BYOC." Probate inventories from Virginia reveal that most people who could afford tea had at least six tea cups and saucers. More evidence as to the standard number is found in sales catalogs from the Chelsea and Worcester porcelain manufactories in England, which list sets that usually have six, eight, or twelve cups and saucers.

Tea cups did not have handles through most of the eighteenth century, and in many tea sets, well into the nineteenth century. These "tea bowls," (as they are called today to differentiate them from coffee cups, which were more cylindrical, and had handles) echoed the shape of Chinese porcelain tea cups. About 1770 the English began to add handles to the bowl shape, creating the tea cup we know today, but it was not standard till about 1850.

I'm sorry, but I'm not familiar with "five o'clock spoons"—my table top knowledge tapers off around 1800. 18th-century tea spoons are about 4" to 4 1/2" long—similar to what we'd use for demitasse today. 18th-c. dessert spoons were about 6" long, and table spoons around 8 ½".

The Question and Answer feature is new with this spring catalog. So far, we have scheduled the following Ask Our Expert Sessions:

February 9-13, Linda Baumgarten, Textile and Costume Curator
March 2-6, Cindy Cragg, Home Stylist
March 16-20, Susan Dippre, Landscape Supervisor
April 13-17, Alice Watkinson, Merchandise Buyer

We would love to hear feedback from our customers, as to whether this is a feature they would like to see continue!

What is the proper verbiage for "High Tea"?

Q: From: Alice Van F.
As a southern girl, I've often been sent an invitation for "High Tea" at 2 in the afternoon. I thought high tea was in the evening and was different in its menu composition than an afternoon tea...which would be at 2. As a linguist and cultural studies teacher, I'd love to know the proper verbiage from an expert.
A:

Ah, Alice, this is a sticky one, and one of the pet peeves of "curatorial weenies." [Probably not proper verbiage, but a name we chinaholic types call ourselves.] Our Southern mothers taught us that it would be horribly rude to correct our hostess's usage on her invitation. So we'll accept graciously, but know among ourselves that "High Tea" has been trying to take on pretenses of elegance. Those who use it would probably be horrified to learn that in England "high tea" is the working class term for supper. 18th-century dinner was a large meal taken in the early afternoon. Ladies retired afterward to take tea in the parlor. In the late Victorian era, the midday meal was a light luncheon, and dinner was at eight. Ladies added light sandwiches and sweets to four o'clock tea to tide them over, but it was, and is still, properly called just "tea."

How would Mr. Nobody have been used in the 18th century?

Q: From: Karen B.
Hi Liza, I bought my husband the Mr. Nobody delft statue for Christmas of  2007. Would you be able to tell me how he was used back in the 18th century as we have been having a hard time trying to find some history on him.
A:

The original of our WILLIAMSBURG mascot "Mr. Nobody" was made in London in 1682 (dated on the base), probably as an ornament for mantel or table. Our former curator of ceramics John Austin built Colonial Williamsburg's extraordinary collection of British delft; he acquired Mr. Nobody as a rare example of a delft figure. In his British Delft at Williamsburg (1994) he explains that the word nobody had been punned with since the Middle Ages. Austin cites that a play called No-Body and Some-Body, published in London in 1606, had a frontispiece that illustrated "Nobody" in the form of our figure.

Please visit the original Mr. Nobody in the Masterworks Gallery of Colonial Williamsburg's DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum!

Did almost every colonial household own a soup tureen?

Q: From: Bob R.
I am a big fan of soup tureens and have enjoyed viewing the collections at Williamsburg and at the Campbell soup museum. Was soup truly a staple of colonial life that nearly every household would  have owned one? Thanks for your time!
A:

Have you seen the Derby tureen in the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum with the ruins painted in the bottom? I love the story that John Austin, former curator of ceramics at Colonial Williamsburg, tells about his light-bulb moment when--rather than wondering why they hid that exquisite decoration beneath pea soup—he envisioned it beneath a clear consommé, looming like Atlantis!

While virtually everyone in the eighteenth century ate something soup-like, not everyone could afford a soup tureen. If you think of a hierarchy in Williamsburg, middling sorts such as successful tradesmen could afford salt-glazed stoneware tureens in the 1740s to early ‘60s, replaced by various lead-glazed wares (under glaze oxide "tortoise shell" wares and cream ware) in the 1760s and 1770s. Peyton Randolph and others in the gentry had Chinese export porcelain. Poor white colonists and enslaved African Americans and were cooking hominy in an iron pot [it could cook all day while they tended other chores], and ladling it into gourd or wooden bowls.

How do you determine which sort of china belongs to what socio-economic group represented at CW?

Q: From: Amy H.
Dear Ms. Gusler,
When I was in Williamsburg in December, I noticed that the Powell House was displaying plain Queensware as the appropriate china for the house. How do you determine which sort of china belongs to what socio-economic group being represented at CW? That is, what evidence do you have that causes you to consider Queensware the likely china for an upwardly-mobile middling home? What a wonderful opportunity to ask you a question, a great idea! I only wish that I threw large dinner parties on a regular basis so that I could constantly be buying china from CW -- your products are so beautiful! And  thank you for carrying a large selection of creamware, it is a pleasure to look forward to adding to my collection of it bit by bit.
A:

Amy, sounds like we're kindred spirits! We're delighted that you like our china. Have you seen our new "Lady Charlotte's Lily" from Mottahedeh? Let's vow to entertain more and do the dishes up right. Just last night I chatted with one of my dearest childhood friends, and loved hearing how she had entertained her supper club the night before using her WILLIAMSBURG Mottahedeh "Duke of Gloucester" china. It was so much fun to hear how she mixed and matched her tables to bring out various colors. Can't wait to see pictures.

When I was in graduate school at William and Mary I was lucky to have a dream internship in Colonial Williamsburg's department of collections, researching every item listed in the 1770 inventory of the dining room at the Governor's Palace. That led to twenty years on the curatorial staff, much of it spent researching what's appropriate to show for dining and tea wares in various exhibition sites in the historic area. Scholars here spend a lot of time studying probate inventories and wills, orders for goods from London, shipping and store records, newspapers, and travelers' accounts. We don't just look in Williamsburg, but compare evidence from all over eastern Virginia, other colonies, and Great Britain. We look at the archaeological evidence and pieces that survive intact with local histories. We pore over British period paintings and prints to see how objects were used.

Colonial Williamsburg's eminent former chief archaeologist Ivor Noel Hume writes in Pottery and Porcelain in Colonial Williamsburg's Archaeological Collections that creamware was the most popular tableware in Williamsburg in the last thirty years of the eighteenth century. In England they called creamware "Queen's Ware," in honor of Queen Charlotte, Wedgwood's patron, but in Williamsburg it was usually called "Queen's china," indicating the esteem in which it was held.

It's a real bonus that at the Powell House, where we have interactive programs for children, we can use reproduction Queensware. Children have a hands-on experience setting the table with dinnerware the Powell family would recognize!

Could you gives more information about Posset Pots and include a recipe?

Q: From: Pamela R.
Ms. Gusler, Recently visiting the DeWitt Wallace Museum I was intrigued by the Posset Pots. Named after the drink I understand was used to help heal the sickly. I would like to read and learn more about the pots and also find some recipes for the drink. Can you help?
Thank You.
A:

Posset pots reached their peak of popularity in the late 17th century, when British delft production was in its heyday. Colonial Williamsburg has many outstanding delft examples. My favorite, a dated 1676 example made for the London Company of Carpenters, is in the masterworks gallery at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. It has four vigorous coiled handles that just exude the energy so characteristic of baroque design. While some small posset pots were used for medicinal purposes, this one was obviously designed for passing around the table in good company, and feeling good, not sickly!

Hannah Glasse published The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy in 1745, and revised it in 1796. It was the 18th-century equivalent to The Joy of Cooking. The United States Historical Research Service reprinted the 1796 edition in 1994. On page 214 she gives three recipes for sack posset. Here is one of them:

To make an excellent Sack-Posset.
Beat fifteen eggs, whites and yolks very well, and strain them; then put three quarters of a pound of white sugar into a pint of canary, and mix it with your eggs in a bason; set it over a chafing-dish of coals, and keep continually stirring it till it is scalding hot; in the meantime grate some nutmeg in a quart of milk and boil it; then pour it into your eggs and wine, they being scalding hot: hold your hand very high as your pour it, and somebody stirring it all the time you are pouring in the milk; then take it off the chafing dish, set it before the fire half an hour, and serve it up.

Can you describe a typical 18th or 19th century dinner party experience?

Q: From: Maureen S.
Can you describe a typical 18th or 19th century dinner party experience?
A:

You all have asked such good questions! You've sent me scrambling to my files from my years as teaching curator. I remembered a fabulous description I used in an exhibit on dining at the DeWitt Wallace Museum. It gives mouth-watering details of a dinner at the Carter family's Shirley Plantation on the James River in Virginia in the 1830s. Here is Henry Barnard's description, in "The South Atlantic States in 1833, as Seen by a New Englander," published in the Maryland Historical Magazine in December 1918, pp. 319-20.

" . . .dinner . . .is usually at 3.. . . about a half hour before dinner, the gentlemen are invited out to take grog. When dinner is ready (and by the way Mrs. Carter has nothing to do with setting the table, and old family servant, who for 50 years has superintended that matter, does all that) Mr. Carter politely takes a Lady by the hand and leads the way into the dining room, and is followed by the rest, each Lady lead [sic] by a gentleman. Mrs. C. is at one end of the table with a large dish of rich soup, and Mr. C. at the other, with a saddle of fine mutton, scattered round the table, you may choose for yourself, ham—beef—turkey—ducks—eggs with greens—etc., etc.—for vegetables, potatoes, beets—hominy—This last you will find always at dinner, it is made of their white corn and beans and is a very fine dish—after you have dined, there circulates a bottle of sparkling champagne. After that off passes the things and the upper table cloth, and upon that is placed the desert [sic], consisting of fine plum pudding, tarts, etc, etc,--after this comes ice cream, West India preserves—peaches preserved in brandy, etc,--When you have eaten this, off goes the second table cloth, and then upon the bare mahogany table is set, the figs, rasins [sic], and almonds, and before Mr. Carter is set 2 or 3 bottles of wine—Madeira, Port, and a sweet wine for the Ladies—he fills his glass, and pushes them on, after the glasses are all filled, the gentlemen pledge their services to the Ladies, and down goes the wine, after the first and second glass the ladies retire, and the gentlemen begin to circulate the bottle pretty briskly. You are at liberty however to follow the Ladies as soon as you please, who after music and a little chit chat prepare for the ride home."

What would have been the proper way to host a colonial tea and dinner party?

Q: From: Mary Jo M.
As a living historian and re-enactor, I would like to know the proper way one  would have hosted a tea and a dinner party in colonial times for my fellow living historians and re-enactors. We spend a great deal of time together in camp doing the same thing each day. A tea would be a great way for the ladies to spend an afternoon and a dinner party would be a wonderful entertainment for the entire camp one evening. Your time and consideration in this matter is greatly appreciated.
A:

Hi, Mary Jo. First, take a look at my response to the question about the components of the tea service. That will help you put together your "kit." Black (particularly bohea) and green teas were popular in the eighteenth century. No tea bags allowed! You might see if a blacksmith re-enactor can make you a sugar hatchet so you can knock pieces of sugar off a sugar cone to get a more authentic experience. If you are re-enacting the non-importation period, when patriotic colonists had sworn off imported tea as a means of persuading parliament to repeal the tea tax, you can drink politically correct coffee. There are period accounts of ladies sneakily putting tea in a coffee pot [knowing that iconography of the tea table was important!] so that they would appear to be complying with the restrictions.

For the dining table, symmetry is the most important element. The table was laid out with food on the serving pieces before the diners sat down. Presentation trumped congealed gravy. If there weren't footmen to help serve (not likely in camp), diners helped each other to the food near them, but dishes were not passed around the table. I've done some 18th-century style dinners with students, and it was a lot of fun – enjoy!

Is there any reference that Oolong tea existed in the colonies?

Q:

From: Deborah P.
Greetings Ms. Gusler,
I noticed that in the tea exhibit in the DeWitt Wallace Gallery there was mention of Oolong tea. Do you know what the source is for that? I cannot find any reference for Oolong being in the colonies. Is it possible it had another name?

A:

You are obviously a serious museum student! I wanted to see the label you're referring to in the Revolution in Taste exhibit, so I popped over to the museum, which is conveniently across from my office. My sense is that label addresses kinds of tea as a general overview, rather than citing types that were used in the colonies. It reads:

A Tea Leaf for Tea Lovers

Tea is made from the leaves of the evergreen Camellia sinensis. After picking, the leaves are dried in a variety of ways to produce either black, oolong, or green tea. Black teas, such as souchong, bohea, and pekoe, are allowed to oxidize, or ferment, fully during processing. Oolong teas are only partially fermented, and green teas, such as hyson and gunpowder, are steamed before drying to prevent fermentation. Both black and green tea was drunk in England during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. . . .

I did a quick search in my references to teas used in 18th-century America. They used bohea, hyson, congo, gunpowder, green, souchong; I didn't find a reference to oolong. It seems that the Chinese kept its small production for themselves, and that it was later grown in Taiwan.

What was the Jefferson Cup used for in the 18th century?

Q: From: Isobel L.
I have always wondered what the "Jefferson Cups" were actually used for. Was it a particular kind on beverage, or just more of a punch cup? Could you also bring me up to date on the practice in the mid 1700's of offering two saucers with the tea and coffee cups - one deep for "saucering and blowing" and the other shallow for setting the actual cup in while using the deep one. Did they also use tea cups and coffee cans? If you have any suggestions about a really good reference book on 18th C dining wares - both porcelains & silverware - could you please pass them on to me.
A:

"Jefferson cup" is a modern term for what Mr. Jefferson would have called a tumbler. Like a beaker (which we call today a "julep cup"), it was used for strong alcoholic beverages.

I'm not familiar with a special saucer for "saucering and blowing." Most 18th-century sets have one set of saucers that were interchangeable for use with tea cups or coffee cups. [Please see other Q & A about drinking from saucers.]
Tea cups were bowl shaped, with no handle till about 1770, when they began to appear. Many tea cups were made without handles well into the 19th century, however. Coffee cups were cylindrical (can shape), and had handles. They were small by comparison to today's coffee mugvery like our demitasse.

Here are some excellent reference works on 18th-century dining practices and tablewares:

Peter B. Brown and Ivan Day, Pleasures of the Table: Ritual and Display in the European Dining Room, 1600-1900, York, England: York Civic Trust, Fairfax House, 1997.

Louise Conway Belden, The Festive Tradition: Table Decoration and Desserts in America, 1650-1900, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., and The Henry Francis duPont Winterthur Museum, 1983.

Sara Paston Williams, The Art of Dining: A History of Cooking and Eating, London: National Trust Enterprises, Ltd., 1993.

Sarah D. Coffin et al, Feeding Desire: Design and the Tool of the Table, 1500-2005, New York: Assouline Publishing, in association with Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 2006.

Did one use their napkin to wipe their wine rinser clean after it was rinsed?

Q: From: Virginia L.
I have a set of 8 individual cobalt blue wine rinsers (coolers). I would like to know if the individual used his napkin to wipe the glass clean after being rinsed or was there a special cloth to do this? I have seen large rinsers where the hostess cleaned the glasses but have not been able to find much about the individual rinsers. Any information would be appreciated. I use these glasses for 18th-century dinner parties and have brought them into the 21st century using them for other things such as wine bottle coasters and vases.
A:

It's fun to hear how you are enjoying your tabletop treasures for 18th-century and 21st-century-style entertainments and decoration, Virginia. I suspect that in households that could afford wine rinsers, there was a butler or footman who wiped off the rinsed glasses with a towel so diners didn't need to dampen their napkins. I hoped that Robert Roberts, butler to the Gore Family in Waltham, Massachusetts, would have mentioned this practice in his 1827 House Servant's Directory [1977 facsimile edition published by the Gore Place Society, Waltham, Massachusetts]. He advised on arrangement of glasses around a cruet frame on the sideboard, and on changing glasses at table, but didn't cover wine rinser etiquette. The reprint of his servants' manual is available in the Foundation library. It's fascinating reading for anyone like you who wants to recreate the ambience of an 18th-century dinner party.

What sorts of centerpieces would an 18th-century hostess use on her dining table?

Q: What sorts of centerpieces would an 18th-century hostess use on her dining table?
A:

Just as today, symmetry and imagination were the most important ingredients in tabletop design. Floral centerpieces were not used in the 18th century, so the hostess wanted to create a pleasingly balanced arrangement of her delicacies and serving pieces. Food was on the table when diners sat down—presentation was more important than food temperature! A particularly handsome roast goose might crown the table's center, with sauce boats off each corner. Play with your own serving pieces, and combine some surprises. Try balancing complementary-shaped serving pieces, candlesticks, sauceboats, and something unexpected on your table and find how much fun it is to design an 18th-century-style tablescape.

The dessert course allowed the host to have real fun with the table setting. Let's look to the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, which, of course, set the high water mark for elaborate tables in Virginia. Lord Botetourt owned several glass pyramids, 21 glass salvers, and dozens of jelly and syllabub glasses, flower stands, and sweet meat glasses to use on them. A store room held a "Chinese temple," which may have been used as a table centerpiece. Talented cooks could make sugar temples, set them on mirrored ponds or plateaus, and decorate them with ceramic or marzipan figures.  Another popular dessert centerpiece was the silver epergne, a basket on stand for fruit, with arms holding small dishes for nuts and sweetmeats. Pyramids of fruit, such as the classic apple cone with pineapple as its crown, were a festive treat for dessert. 

Dessert plates were likely a different material or pattern from that used for the first two courses. In the 1760s, for instance, the fashionable hostess might serve dessert from English porcelain dishes enameled in fruit or floral designs at the Chelsea, Worcester, or Bow manufactories. Originals of WILLIAMSBURG dinnerware patterns such as Mottahedeh's Duke of Gloucester, Chelsea Bird, or our new Lady Charlotte's Lily were probably all made for the dessert table. Carry on an 18th-century dining tradition by choosing your favorite pattern and start by collecting dessert plates. [Could be first step toward chinamania.]

Did fashions in tablewares change as frequently in the 18th-century as they do today?

Q: Did fashions in tablewares change as frequently in the 18th-century as they do today?
A:

One of the most fun things about ceramics in the 18th century is appreciating the pace at which fashion trends for the table developed. British potteries were determined to keep pace with the demand for new, different, and gorgeous dishes! Delft and pewter dominated the early decades of the century.  From the 1740s to the early 1760s, salt glazed stoneware was the most popular form of dining ware. Its crispness and heat resistance made it superior to delft (more like Chinese porcelain) for newly popular hot beverages tea, coffee, and chocolate.

In the 1760s Josiah Wedgwood—potter, entrepreneur, and marketing genius—made cream ware or "Queen's Ware," (after Queen Charlotte), all the rage. His wares were so popular they were quickly copied by others, so he had to constantly invent new looks and find new markets. When his London customers tired of the green and gold pineapple, pear, and veggie wares of the early 1760s, he sent those goods to the American colonies, freeing up his London showroom to feature creamware.  Archaeological evidence in Williamsburg shows that his shipment of green and gold to Virginia must have made lots of customers happy!

In the last decades of the 18th century, Wedgwood introduced jasperware, black basalt, cane ware, engine-turned red stone wares, and other innovative ceramic table wares. Visit the "Revolution in Taste" exhibit at Colonial Williamsburg's DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum to see how quickly table fashions changed when dining á la mode was a new, new thing.