Antique Tooth Paste Pot
Lids by Bruce R. Pynn Winter 2007
Cows on Pot Lids by Bruce R. Pynn
Ceramic Toothpaste Pots by Bruce R. Pynn Winter 2005
British Royalty Pot
Lids by Bruce R. Pynn and Ben Z. Swanson Jr Winter 2005
Pot Lid Chatter - Ingham Rochampton,
George D. Dean Winter 2005
Collecting Ceramic Pot Lids by Bruce R
Pynn and Ben Z Swanson Jr Winter 04
A History of Pot Lids by
George D. Dean Summer 2002
Trash to Treasure by George
D. Dean 1998
By George D
treasure ...... words that are very familiar to the collectors of today and
especially fitting when referring to the subject of this talk. In fact,
trash TO treasure (or even buried treasure) would probably be more
appropriate for these particular items were actually consigned to the refuse
dumps some 100 to 150 years ago where they lay buried under tons of rubbish
until in the early 1970s collector-diggers realized their potential and
created a whole new interest in the hobby of pot-lid collecting. As a result
many previously unseen items were revealed to the present generation for the
ironic thing about all this is that the many small businessmen who issued
these lids, unknown outside of their own towns when alive, are now
well-known to thousands of pot-lid collectors simply because they had the
good taste to choose attractive designs for their lids.
the lengthy reign of Queen Victoria and for the early part of this century,
many household commodities such as toothpaste, cold cream, meat and fish
paste, ointment and hair pomade, were packed and sold in white earthenware
pots with lids printed with advertising, and after use, these pieces ended
up in the rubbish dump.
But first let
us look at how the printing of these lids developed. Early attempts at
overglaze transfer printing on enameled wear date back to the mid 1700s with
experiments in underglaze printing starting soon after. At first the only
successful color which could withstand the firing necessary to fix the glaze
utilized a copper plate engraved with the design onto which ink was applied
with a piece of leather. Strips of special tissue paper were pressed onto
the copper to obtain a reverse design on the paper. These paper prints were
then applied to the lid/pot in its bisque (biscuit) state, leaving the ink
pattern on the surface when the paper was peeled off.
were next placed into the kiln for hardening after which a glaze was applied
and the pieces fired once more. This second firing was known as gloss during
which the glaze fused with the ink onto the ware making the porous body
As the years
progressed colors such as sepia-brown and green began to be used and
eventually F. & R. Pratt of Fenton succeeded in evolving a method of
multi-color printing which revolutionized the industry. Both Pratt and Meyer
(of Dale Hall Pottery, Longport) displayed examples of colored pictorial
pot-lids at the 1851 Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace for which they both
appears a few monochrome lids were produced from C.1840, they were always
considered the poor cousins of the more colorful Prattware.
pot-lids were handmade with the help of tools, and all these early lids,
prior to about 1860, had flat tops. During the 1860s more mechanized methods
of manufacturing pots and lids were introduced, and they were molded,
usually in plaster moulds. From this time onwards, lids were to be found
with domed tops.
of pot-lids have a profile which conforms closely to one of six or seven
basic shapes. Slight variations may be evident due to the amount of care
taken during molding and the interpretation of mould shapes between the
The choice of
profile, in general, was as a result of both practical and aesthetic
For the first
thirty years of the use of printed pot-lids, most were round in shape. From
the late 1870s, but mainly in the '80s, rectangular lids became popular.
Also tried were oval-shaped pots and lids, but because these were difficult
to pack and store did not become popular.
manufacturers secured the contents by means of a paper label around the base
and lid, others employed the Toogood patent whereby grooves were provided on
opposite sides of the lid and base through which string was passed to secure
the two parts and contents within.
The use of
lids with paper labels prevailed until around mid-century by which time
there was a gradual acceptance of the fact that the more permanent effect of
a printed advertisement, protected underneath the glaze, was worthy of the
on lids were easily defaced or destroyed by the time toothpaste or cream was
consumed, and the underglaze printing could survive any kind of treatment
and pieces could even be reused.
have one or more gold bands added over the glaze and are found mainly from
1880-1910. These appear normally on dome-shaped lids.
bear's grease, an early form of perfumed hair grease, although not always
the most attractive of lids, are certainly considered the most desirable by
many collectors. Bear's grease was popular in England from the seventeenth
century and claims for its efficacy in promoting a healthy growth of hair
were widely believed. It is doubtful that there was any truth in these
claims, but it is absolutely certain that bears have never appeared to
suffer from baldness.
of wig-wearing, imported from France, was widespread in the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries, but after the French Revolution made the wearing of
powdered wigs unpopular, men grew their natural hair long and bunched at the
back. It was often powdered by the gentlemen of the day - with blue powder
from about 1770 and later with red powder. When a tax was imposed on this
powder in 1845, there was an outcry against this, and from that date onwards
the use of bear's grease and other pomade became popular. A pomade is a
scented ointment, originally used on the face, but by the eighteenth century
was more often used on the skin of the head and on the hair.
period of its popularity, the high price of bear's grease must have
restricted its use to the more affluent members of society.
thousands of bears were killed in the production of hair grease. It was
usually the brown Russian bears which were exploited although the Canadian
black bear was used and occasionally polar bears. It is also known that
reindeer and buffalo grease were used and one lid displays a picture of a
lion. It's hard to imagine the king of beasts being used for this purpose.
grease was becoming unpopular by the 1880s, pomades continued to be used up
to about 1900 or slightly after. These preparations eventually were sold in
liquid form in bottles for which all Russian bears must be forever grateful.
was by far the most popular commodity sold in pots with printed labels.
Interest in keeping the teeth clean was only aroused in the seventeenth
century and escalated during the eighteenth. At this time, dentifrice was
sold as a powder. In Georgian times, the poor rubbed salt on their teeth,
but many people made up their own recipes and rubbed the powder on their
teeth with a toothstick with a rag over the end - a forerunner of the
toothbrush - which became popular when the more solid toothpaste or tooth
soap came into general use in the early nineteenth century.
was sold in pots until the commencement of the 1914 war. Practically every
small chemist made his own paste and had his own personalized printed lids.
The two most
popular types of toothpaste lids are for areca nut and cherry tooth paste.
Oddly both were made to the same formula, i.e. with areca nut flavoring, but
the cherry tooth paste was cherry colored by the addition of carmine.
Nothing was added to give a cherry flavor, the description "cherry" being
applied merely due to the color the paste.
of Indian areca or betel nut and of the cherry coloring suggested attractive
pictorial adornment for the lids. Areca nuts were normally used as a worming
agent and no doubt few realized they were being mildly wormed when they
cleaned their teeth.
By 1915 most
manufacturers had changed over to metallic tubes. With the exception of
toothpaste, the lids of cold cream pots were the most numerous and there are
many attractive lids, often embellished with floral borders or with bouquets
toothpaste, cold cream continued to be sold in printed pots up to the
commencement of the 1914 war, when, as with most pot-lids, they were
discontinued, giving way to more economical forms of packaging such as tins
or waxed cardboard boxes.
ointment producers were responsible for the existence of historically
interesting pot-lids. This was the era of the so-called elixir or cure-all
whose advertisers recognized no boundaries. People of the day would grasp at
any means of combating diseases such as typhoid, dysentery, diphtheria, etc.
One of the
most notable ointment vendors was "Professor" Thomas Holloway who was
equally famous for his pills. An advertisement which appeared in Punch
in 1843 stated, "Mr. Holloway declares that his famous ointment will mend
the legs of men and tables equally well and is an excellent relish for
frying fish in."
were supposed to have some medicinal powers, they were subjected to a
government-imposed duty of 1/½d. on the 1/- pots and pro rata for the larger
number of Australian lids are for medicinal ointment, a fact possibly due to
the lack of doctors in the outback.
study of pot-lids, the tastes of our Victorian and Edwardian ancestors can
be observed. The most noticeable factor is their predilection for bloater
and anchovy pastes. Edible paste pot-lids are mainly from the latter part of
the pot-lid period, most from 1890-1910.
Lip salve was
sold in very small pots in the 1870s and '80s. Artistically lip salve lids
generally lack eye appeal as being so small they present little space for
anything save the commodity name and sometimes the name of the chemist and
of the town. The same applies to eye ointment.
was another commodity sold in pots. This was of a creamy texture, similar to
the modern product, but the more solid sticks had practically replaced the
pots by about 1920. An Australian branded pot-lid is simply one which has
printed on it the name of an Australian town, chemist or company. Only a few
of the thousands of pharmacies in Australia in the late 1800s packaged their
products in personally branded pots. It was often more economical for a
pharmacist to buy in branded pots from an English pharmaceutical company,
complete with contents.
Australian branded pot-lids were actually made in England, the consignment
then shipped to the Australian chemist who would place in the contents,
either to his own formula, or the product of some large Australian
manufacturer. The blue and brown Trouchets Corn Cure lids are strongly
rumored to have been manufactured in Adelaide.
In every town
in Australia lies a site used during last century for the disposal of
household refuse. The better dumps to try looking for lids are the ones in
use from 1880-1910. As pharmaceutical lines of large companies were hawked
throughout the country, areas where Australian pot-lids could turn up are
in old rubbish tips are often disfigured with dirt and grime, rust, or burn
and soot marks. Removal of these can sometimes be difficult. These
impairments on the surface of a pot-lid will detract from its value. Lids
which are in perfect condition on the top surface but suffer from damage on
the lower rim are still very collectable.
It would be
interesting to know just how much, if any, of today's refuse will withstand
the ravages of time in the manner of the underglazed transfer printed
ceramic pot-lids of the past century. Very little I would suggest.