Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Circus, the Opera & Transferware....huh?

A little over a year ago I was asked to speak to a local antiques club on transferware. I had never done this, not even entertained this idea and, being a little shy, I very well may have declined the request or at least asked if I might be able to think about it…but…Shawn was standing right there and before I could open my mouth, he cheerfully opened his and replied, “Sure, she would love to”! AHHHHHHH!!!! At that moment I was having serious doubts about his future existence on this earth but then decided I’d better quickly compose myself and converse a little with this nice lady who had come in and asked that I speak to her club. For me, the thought of standing in front of a group of women, all eyes on me, talking about a subject I liked, but  didn’t know if any of them would even be interested in, left me feeling overwrought. However, I agreed, somewhat reluctantly…and in addition to the speech, I even offered to host the event at my shop! Talk about digging myself a hole! I stepped into that double doozie all by myself!

The good news about accepting the offer to speak was that A) I had a couple of months notice so there was plenty of time to prepare and B) it allowed me to do more research on particular patterns I liked and could talk about. I did not want to be boring…I used to go to antique club meetings…they are great, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes the speakers would go on and on and I wasn’t always interested in the subject they were talking about. C) It would give me a great opportunity to face one of my fears…that of public speaking. I really wanted my talk to be short with just tidbits of information and then allow my guests to browse around the shop at their leisure, if they so chose.  I had tables presented which showcased various transferware themes and one table with patterns that had interesting and fun histories. I printed and laminated note cards that told the interesting pattern histories.

One of the patterns I chose to display and talk about was Jenny Lind (no, it's not just the name of a baby crib).  It’s a popular pattern by Royal Staffordhire, Royal Crownford and Charles Meigh & Sons, a favorite amongst my customers, and one with an interesting story.

(some of my Jenny Lind - Brown Transfer w/ polychrome hand tinting)

Johanna Marie Lind, more widely known as Jenny Lind, and dubbed 'The Swedish Nightingale' was an opera singer born 1821 in Stockholm.

 It is said that she could repeat a song which she’d heard just one time…by the age of three!  By the age of 10, she was performing on the stage at Stockholm.  Her early life was spent being impoverished.  Jenny Lind grew up living at various times with her mother in a shelter for indigent women or being shuffled from home to home. Her father, from whom she inherited her musical gifts, was a tavern musician and rarely came home to visit. It was not until Jenny was 15 years old that her parents married.

 When Jenny was twenty-three years old, she went to Dresden and sang for festivals held to honor the visiting Queen Victoria. She was received with much enthusiasm throughout Germany which opened the door to more success when she traveled to London in 1847.  Jenny's reputation as one of the most talented sopranos grew throughout Europe and news of her fame found its ways to the ears, and mind, of P. T. Barnum, founder of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Phineas Taylor Barnum, aka the first millionaire of showbiz, and self dubbed 'The Humbug', was born in 1810 in Bethel, Connecticut.  He became a small-business owner by the time he had reached his early twenties and started a weekly paper called The Herald of Freedom in 1829. Five years later he moved to New York City beginning an entertainment career, first with a variety company named "Barnum's Grand Scientific and Musical Theater" and shortly thereafter purchased a Museum, naming it after himself.  Barnum used the museum as an arena to promote  human curiosities such as the ""Feejee" mermaid" and "General Tom Thumb"  and theatrical hoaxes.  By late 1846, Barnum's Museum was drawing 400,000 visitors a year.

When Barnum heard of Jenny Lind,  in 1850 he offered to promote the singer with an American tour.  Without ever having heard her sing, he paid her an unprecedented, upfront, all expense included, $1,000 a night for 150 nights.  Jenny Lind accepted the offer in part because she disliked the opera performances she was doing for in those days the opera singers were known to have bad reputations and hers was that of an unpretentious, shy and devout person, and to endow a music school for poor children.  So successful were Barnum's preparations for the Swedish Nightingale's arrival that, nearly 40,000 people greeted her at the docks of New York and another 20,000 at her hotel.   Jenny Lind 'mania' was born and as a result, many different souvenirs and items were made in her honor and named after her, the most noteable being the Jenny Lind baby crib, which is still today called by the same name. 

P. T. Barnum (taken just before tour with Jenny Lind)

The Jenny Lind pattern can be found in a variety of colors, including polychrome pieces with hand tinting applied under glaze.  The scene depicts couples in period clothing peering through a telescope at the castle in the distance.

(figural handled tea caddy in red/pink above and brown below...I love these)

(purple plate, also in blue, black, brown , brown polychrome, green and red...possibly other to PURCHASE)

(barrel salt and pepper shakers)

( I love this's got an art deco-ish shape)

( brown polychrome teapot)

(black plate with scalloped to PURCHASE)

(Lidded cigarette box)

(polychrome blue pitcher and bowl)

(hand painted to PURCHASE)

(mug / coffee cup)

Panorama of Humbug, engraving published by William Schaus 289 Broadway, New York, c1850. The artist parodies the extravagant publicity campaign conducted by showman Phineas T. Barnum for the series of American concerts by Swedish songstress Jenny Lind, which he produced in the autumn of 1850. Barnum started his promotion of Lind 6 months prior to her arriving in New York on September 1, 1850. On a small platform, beneath a massive banner with the image of Jenny Lind holding a fan and nightingale (a reference to her nickname "the Swedish nightingale"), stand a youth who is half white and half black, a showman, and a man throwing out handbills. The platform is erected outside a ticket office, and sits over a small orchestra pit with musicians blowing wind instruments with the names of several New York newspapers, including the "Tribune, Herald, Express," and "Courier and Enquirer." While a satanic figure to the left beats a drum, the showman shouts to the crowd around him: "Walk up Ladies & Gentlemen and see the greatest wonder of the age--the Real Swedish Nightingale, the only specimen in the Country." Inside the ticket office stands Barnum himself, quietly watching from the shadows. His Museum on Broadway can be seen in the background.

Jenny Lind's nickname, 'The Swedish Nightingale' comes from Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Nightingale' which was inspired by his unrequited love for the famous singer and fellow Scandinavian. Andersen wrote in The True Story of My Life, published in 1847, "Through Jenny Lind I first became sensible of the holiness of Art. Through her I learned that one must forget one's self in the service of the Supreme. No books, no men, have had a more ennobling influence upon me as a poet than Jenny Lind".

Strangely enough, the nightingale story became a reality for Jenny Lind in 1848-1849, when she fell in love with Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849). His letters reveal that he felt "better" when she sang for him, and Jenny Lind arranged a concert in London to raise funds for a tuberculosis hospital.  She attempted unsuccessfully to marry Chopin in Paris 1849.   Soon after, she had to flee the cholera epidemic but returned just before he died.   Lind never recovered from her loss of Chopin. She wrote to Andersen on 23 November 1871 from Florence: "I would have been happy to die for this my first and last, deepest, purest love."

Jenny Lind died in 1887, so did not live into the age of recording.

This cartoon shown below from the British humor magazine Punch satirizes the American clamor over Jenny Lind, visually suggesting an amusing unruliness and lack of sophistication among Americans. (Source: Punch, October 5, 1850. American Social History Project)

A Jenny Lind candleabra.  Decorative pieces like this, placed in one's home would communicate the owner's desire to emulate Jenny Lind's moral values.
photo credit Strong Museum

Isn't this beautiful? It is a Jenny Lind print from a wood engraving published in a magazine 1866
photo credit:

A Poem For Your Thoughts

From The Philosopher’s Stone

Now she heard the following words sadly sung,—
“Life is a shadow that flits away
In a night of darkness and woe.”

But then would follow brighter thoughts:
“Life has the rose’s sweet perfume
With sunshine, light, and joy.”

And if one stanza sounded painfully—
“Each mortal thinks of himself alone,
Is a truth, alas, too clearly known;”

Then, on the other hand, came the answer—
“Love, like a mighty flowing stream,
Fills every heart with its radiant gleam.”

She heard, indeed, such words as these—
“In the pretty turmoil here below,
All is a vain and paltry show.”

Then came also words of comfort—
“Great and good are the actions done
By many whose worth is never known.”

And if sometimes the mocking strain reached her—
“Why not join in the jesting cry
That contemns all gifts from the throne on high?”

In the blind girl’s heart a stronger voice repeated—
“To trust in thyself and God is best,
In His holy will forever to rest.”

But the evil spirit could not see this and remain contented.

Hans Christian Anderson

Linking up to Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home

and to Laurie for A Few of my Favorite Things


  1. I really enjoyed this post...I love the little history lessons. Your dishes are fabulous. Thank you for sharing, not only your dishes, but your vast knowledge.

  2. OMG!!! I just found your blog and I LOVE it. You have some amazing things and are a wealth of knowledge.Of course I immediately became a Follower.

    - The Tablescaper

  3. I really enjoyed reading about Jenny! Every time you blog I learn something new!

  4. Thank you for sharing all of this wonderful information. I enjoyed the journey.
    ~ ~Ahrisha~ ~

  5. Thanks for sharing this info on Jenny Lind. I have learned so much about the history of transferware from you and I always enjoy reading each post.

  6. I really enjoyed reading this! I had heard of Jenny Lind and the "mania" following her, but I did not know about the transferware pattern being named for her! I've seen that pattern before and always admired it. I liked the pictures you included; I love her dress in the second one with the beautiful pattern on the skirt!

  7. I love the china. And I enjoyed the history!!


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