My Museum Monday: 8

I have a number of very ordinary but, to me, fascinating miniature pots, jugs, plates and other tiny vessels, made of glazed or unglazed bisque porcelain. They often occur on nineteenth and early twentieth century archaeological sites, where they are almost always immediately identified as being children’s playthings; “dolls tea services” and the like.

However I harbour a suspicion that like most archaeological certainties, all is not quite so cut and dried.

I have two examples of miniature chamber pots, those necessary vessels that , before the advent of the indoor lavatory, were stashed under most nineteenth century beds, or tucked more modestly into commodes in order to deal with nocturnal urgencies.

Bisque porcelain miniature chamber pots bearing the legend (left) “Evening Exercise” and (right) “After You My Dear”.

That these miniatures were not intended for children is indicated by the fact that, lie many other examples, they bear a tongue-in-cheek message. That on the larger pot reads “Evening Exercise” and the smaller states “After You My Dear”. The larger pot is stamped “Germany” and there is a faint, illegible stamp on the smaller, which I’m guessing was also made in Germany.

The pots were made to satisfy a demand for objects that made fun of what was a necessary but not particularly enjoyable part of everyday, or perhaps everynight life. Perhaps these light-hearted miniatures made the use of chamber pots a little less miserable?

I also wonder if some of the other miniature vessels were the property of adults, acting as keep-sakes, nostalgic references to childhood or simply tiny objects that gave their owners pleasure.

Author: ralphblog

I am a historical archaeologist, writer and editor. I live in Saanich, Victoria, British Columbia.

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