Washington "States" China

Washington Dessert Plate
Washington Dessert Plate
Porcelain, ca. 1870, France
The Washington's received a monogrammed service as a gift from the East India Company in 1796. It is believed that the original service contained approximately 45 pieces, as shown on the cargo manifest of the vessel Lady Louisa when she arrived in Philadelphia.

Selected by Captain Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest (1739-1801), the china (commonly known as "states" china) was made in Canton. Each piece featured Mrs. Washington's initials and the names of all 15 states in the union at that time. The motto, "Decus et tutamen ab illo ("A glory and the defense of it") appears under the initials in a ribbon motif. Underneath the motto is a gold sunburst and a narrow border that bears the motif of a snake with its tail in its mouth, representing perpetuity.

During the 1870s, a number of European porcelain works crafted replicas of pieces of this service in honor of the American centennial. An example, the French-made porcelain plate shown here, ca. 1870, is currently on display in the ramp gallery of the Crowninshield Building at Kenmore. This plate was a gift from Baroness Zenkl von Dvorvak.