The Cabot Commemorative State Service for Canada, 1897
The Cabot Commemorative State Service for Canada, 1897

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Logo on reverse of commemorative dinner service
The WAAC commissioned a special logo for the dinner service, and it is printed in red as a backstamp on almost all the dishes in the service. It shows a stylized motif of Cabot's ship, the Matthew, surmounting a shield inscribed "Womans / Art Assn / of / Canada"; below the shield is a scroll, inscribed "1497 - 1897".

For their work, china painters used commercially-produced plain white plates called "blanks" on which they painted in overglaze colours, which were subsequently fired in a kiln. The blanks for the Cabot Commemorative State Service were supplied by the English firm of Doulton. In a letter sent to the artists, the Secretary of the WAAC, E.J. Thompson wrote: "Sir Henry Doulton has taken quite an interest in our State Set and has given us the only plain china with the red factory mark that has ever left the factory to be decorated and has sent us their best china and at the lowest price."6

The President of the WAAC, Mary Dignam, wrote to the artists that "the cost of the blanks would be $6.00 a dozen to each artist, less 10%.....the pieces are to be finished by May 18th (1897)".7 The fact that the Doulton Factory-mark was on the blanks was emblematic of Sir Henry Doulton's confidence in the quality of the work to be done. As well, a special red back-stamp was designed - it was a stylized rendering of John Cabot's discovery ship, the Matthew, in which he had set sail from Bristol on Tuesday, May 2, 1497. This stamp was to be printed on each piece of the service. The artists were also asked to paint a gold border on each piece. Detailed information was sent to the sixteen artists in their dispersed locations - from Ontario to Nova Scotia. Each worked in artistic and geographic isolation, so it was not until July 7, 1897, that the entire service of sixteen dozen pieces was assembled and submitted for inspection by the Ceramics Committee of the WAAC at their headquarters. The State Dinner Service was approved and then went on exhibition in Toronto in July, 1897. It was a featured display during the international British Association meetings.



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