|Plate, circa 1878
Maker: Stone Chinaware Co.
St. Johns, Quebec
Moss rose motif
Canadian Museum of Civilization
Cat. no. A-5631
Slide no. 17986
CANADIAN-MADE IRONSTONEOnly one pottery in nineteenth-century Canada was able to make any sustained attempt to compete with imported tablewares. This was the St. Johns Stone Chinaware Co. in St. Johns, Quebec. As its name implied, it produced ironstone-type wares of the kind made in Staffordshire in the latter part of the century. At one time, more than half the workers at the Quebec pottery were from Staffordshire itself, and for a brief period a Staffordshire-born manager experimented with porcelain. But anything other than heavy, practical ironstone (or stone china) was the exception, never the rule.
Founded in 1873, the St. Johns Stone Chinaware Co. lasted until nearly the end of the century. Its output consisted of tablewares and toilet wares, along with utilitarian kitchen items, such as mixing bowls and colanders. There were bedpans for invalids and soap dishes to be affixed to the wall wherever needed.
Much of this ware was left in the white. Where there was added decoration, it often consisted of a coloured line around a rim. A moss rose theme was borrowed from overseas potters, probably from French porcelain of the period or possibly from France via Staffordshire. A raised floral sprig in blue on the white background or, conversely, in white on a blue ground was sometimes used. The blue ware (the body itself was coloured) was among St. Johns' more expensive products. Special orders were executed in both the blue and white bodies.
Most of the pottery's sales were within the Province of Quebec. Records exist, however, to show the firm did some busines in other parts of the country.
The Museum's collection of this Canadian-made tableware includes a number of examples produced in response to special orders, such as this cup and saucer made for Winnifred Hibbard, born in St. Johns in 1889. Each of three sisters in this family had a cup and saucer made for her at the pottery and decorated with her name.
Marbled decoration, as seen on this jug, is exceedingly rare. Here it appears on the St. Johns blue body. Also in the Museum's collection is an example of marbling on the white body. Unlike the blue example, the white one is unmarked, but it came to the Museum from the Hibbard family of St. Johns. The Hibbards, friends of the owners of the pottery, had an extensive collection of St. Johns ware; the white jug is identical in shape to other marked examples of St. Johns stone china.
In nineteenth-century bedrooms the washstand was an essential item of furniture. Equipping it provided business for the potter. The St. Johns Stone Chinaware Co. counted these wares among its best sellers. Though demand for them was dropping off towards the end of the century in urban areas, it was well into the twentieth century before most rural houses had running water and bathrooms. Before the end of the century, however, the St. Johns Stone Chinaware Co. was gone. For Canadians who still needed toilet sets, it was back to the imported wares.
Customers of the St. Johns Stone Chinaware Co. had a choice between the white and blue bodies. Not only could they have the white ware with the raised blue sprigs, or the blue with white sprigs, but some patterns came in either all-white or all-blue. Jugs in a fern and fleur-de-lis design (copyrighted by the pottery in 1880) furnish an example. There were also jugs in an embossed maple leaf pattern that could be had in either white or blue.