Plates like this one can be found retailing in the $160-$175 range apiece, but are available at auction for around $30 each.
Dear Helaine and Joe: When I married 63 years ago, I was given this plate by my mother-in-law because I admired it. Over the years, I finally found a similar one. Both plates are in excellent condition, and I would like to know about their background. I am still looking for more.
T.R.H., Stuart, Fla.
Dear T.R.H.: Although we were not given much information about how these plates are marked, they are famous and quickly identifiable. They are the products of Doulton and Company, which traces its origins back to Doulton and Watts, a company founded in Lambeth, London, England, in 1815.
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This firm made such things as pottery ale and porter bottles, water filters, sewer pipes and tiles, as well as architectural embellishments (fountains, statues and terra-cotta vases).
In 1858, the company became Doulton and Company, but remained in the same location in Lambeth (operations did not cease in this facility until 1956). This company’s 19th-century marks all use the name “Doulton”on earthenware and stoneware pieces. But in 1902, the mark was changed, and began reading “Royal Doulton,”meaning that the company was doing business with the Royal Court of King Edward VII (ruled 1901-1910).
Today, people know the company by this Royal Doulton name, but the firm is still just Doulton and Company. In the early 20th century, Doulton turned out two series of plates with images of Gibson Girls, which were the invention of American illustrator Charles Dana Gibson.
Gibson was born in Roxbury, Mass., in 1867, and as a young man enrolled to study art in New York City. After his two-year training, he did a lot of illustrations for magazines such as Harper’s Weekly, Scribner’s and Collier’s. He also illustrated books, including the famous “The Prisoner of Zenda.”
He started developing the Gibson Girl about 1890, and she became the exemplar of the beautiful and independent woman of turn-of-the-century America. Gibson published several books of his drawings, and the sixth one was “A Widow and Her Friends.” It was published in 1901 in New York City by R.H. Russell, and also in London by John Lane. The book consisted of reproductions of 84 black-and-white drawings by Gibson, and from these, 24 different images were selected by Doulton to be used to decorate plates.
These plates had rectangular representations of Gibson prints in the center surrounded by blue-and-white arabesques enclosed within a leaf-style border. These are very distinctive, and over the years, collectors have loved these images and tried to collect all 24. (T.R.H. has “Failing to Find Rest in the Country She Decides to Return Home” and “She Contemplates the Cloister.”)
Each plate should be marked with a copyright 1900 (or copyright 1901) by Life Publishing Company, plus the title of the image. Each plate should be 10 ½ inches in diameter, and have the Royal Doulton crowned lion on the back.
The other Doulton Gibson Girl series is just a portrait bust with a much simpler surrounding decoration.
Plates like the ones in today’s question can be found retailing in the $160-$175 range apiece, but are available at auction for around $30 each.
(Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of “Price It Yourself” (HarperResource, $19.95). Contact them at Treasures in Your Attic, PO Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928. Email them at email@example.com.)