A look at the design, market and legacy of Victorian pottery

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Boteler Majolica Oyster Plate

On June 16, 1874 the United Stated patent service issued patent 7,491. It was the first patent for an oyster server ever issued by the United States government.  The registrar was the ceramics importer and retailer John W. Boteler of Washington D.C.

This server consisted of four wells for oysters, a center well intended for lemon, salt and/or pepper and a large handle for ease of service.

The company of J. W. Boteler & Brother was a struggling importer of ceramic ware whose fortune had yet to be made. Founded in 1867 the small company did all it could to distinguish itself from large national importers like E.V. Haughwout of New York.

In 1874 and again in 1875 Boteler developed patented designs that were meant to be licensed by pottery companies for the production of unique ceramics. The first of these was the Boteler oyster server. The second was the Boteler luncheon plate. Where the Boteler luncheon plate didn't find a ready market the Boteler oyster server did. Several European and American potteries licensed the Boteler design for their own version of the plate.

Haviland, Limoges Boteler oyster plate

Usually found in porcelain, Haviland & Co. was probably the best known of the companies that made the Boteler oyster plate, but the Boteler design was also produced by two majolica manufacturers.

George Jones created a Boteler oyster plate in the same style as the Haviland model.

George Jones Boteler oyster server
An unknown palissy manufacturer also created one somewhat closer in design to the original Boteler model.

Palissy majolica oyster plate
Both the palissy and George Jones designs usually bear an impressed mark on the reverse that mentions the Boteler patent certification. This patent certification protected Boteler's design for three and a half years.

All Boteler oyster servers, including the majolica Boteler plates, are hard to find today and command a premium among collectors.

Boteler & Brother remained in business until 1881 at which time the name changed to Boteler & Son. They achieved their greatest success at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition where they sold souvenir copies of the 1861 Lincoln presidential china manufactured by the same company that produced the original, Haviland & Co. of Limoges, France.

Following the fair they furnished replacement dishes for the White House service for many years. Today these copies can be found in museums throughout the U.S. The White House's Boteler replacements are marked on the reverse with the Boteler name.

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