Artifact Corner: Child’s Tea Set

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another Artifact Corner. Today we will be looking at an incredibly beautiful child’s tea set. It is the loveliest shade of pale blue, with handmade, hand painted flowers. This set was made sometime in the 1840’s, so this is an early Victorian piece. This set belonged to Fannie Delord Webb Hall, the last member of our family to live in the house. The set was purchased by her Uncle, John Webb. This was an expensive gift. We are not certain of this tea sets origins, but the quality of the porcelain, the hand painted flowers and the beautiful glaze are hallmarks of a talented craftsperson working for a well established manufacturer. Fannie must have been delighted when she opened this exceptional present. Let’s take a look at presents for children in the Victorian period.

The Victorian Era was the beginning of what we might term today “consumer culture.” This is not to say that people did not buy goods prior to the Victorian Era, because they did, but the Victorian Era saw this level of consumerism sky rocket. With the advent of factories and mass manufacturing, buying items could sometimes be cheaper than making it yourself. The same was true for toys and games for children. In previous years, toys were most often handmade with materials that were either discarded or no longer needed. Dolls could be made from scraps of cloth or even corn husks. Toys were also passed down from generation to generation. Toys that were ripped or broken were mended and repaired until they couldn’t be salvaged any longer.

In the mid 1800’s toys that were manufactured became all the rage, and if your family was well to do, you would buy your child a toy. Toys ranged from train sets, to dolls, to hula hoops, to bicycles, and so much more. If you had the funds for them, you could purchase almost anything in toy form, just like today. Despite all of the advancements in manufacturing, the working classes and poor still could not afford mass produced toys. Even if they could afford them, most lower class and poor children did not have the time to play with toys even if they had them. Child labor laws were non existent in the early Victorian period, and children as young as five would be working anywhere between 8 to 12 hours per day. This left them little time for the frivolity of toys and playing games.

Our tea set is something that only a very fortunate few would have been able to own in the early Victorian period. It was a very pricey item, that is also highly fragile, and was being given to a child to play with. This set is in quite good condition given it’s intended use and it’s age. It does have repair work done to it. Some of the saucers have been broken and mended, and some of the flowers have been broken off and been lost to time. Despite this, the colors of the set remain just vibrant and cheerful as the day the set was made. We are so lucky to have this beautiful little glimpse into a Victorian child’s world. Thanks so much for stopping by.