Teeth Care Meets Transferware (Pot Lids)

Pot lids are the lids or covers of small pottery jars which were used to hold a variety of products.  Often, they were decorated using the transfer printing process, and though quite laborious by today's standards, it was much faster than the previous method of hand lettering  or pasting a hand written paper label on the sides of the pots (jars) to describe the contents within.

These enchanting little transfer printed pottery jars were produced mainly between 1840-1910, after which they became obsolete, due to less expensive, mass marketing methods using tubes and plastics.  During the era of pot lids, containers in all different shapes, though mainly round, and with all kinds of advertising and graphics, as well as pictorial images, to increase public appeal were made. The marketed products were substances which came in a paste or hardened cake form. The gamut of products sold in the little jars consists of facial cold creams, shaving cream, ointments believed to have medicinal value, cosmetics, toothpaste, and even edible products such as anchovy paste.

I'll show some of the other types of lids later, but for now let's take a look at toothpaste pot lids. 
Toothpaste and tooth powders first appeared in transfer printed pots in the 1860's. By the 1880's many chemists were making their own toothpastes, packaged in their own printed jars, or pots. 

The High Street chemists producing their own dentifrices, each having ambitions of their  toothpaste being the most popular, engaged in cut throat competition. This is one of the main reasons why so many different toothpastes were created and with such a degree of artistic expression, which would further entice consumers solely by the pot's aesthetic appeal.

(I would have bought this one, my favorite..."Viola Paste")
 Some pot lids were decorated with cherries or cherry blossom - even though there was no cherry flavoring added, instead just a bit of color.  Adding color to the paste allowed further romantic descriptions to boost sales.   Toothpastes named White Rose, Coral, Tomato, Carnation, Damask Rose and others were created. Areca Nut without any coloring could easily have been called White Cherry.  Some toothpastes had names which would seem strange today - including carbolic, antiseptic and ozonized toothpaste.  

  This 'ozonized paste' pot lid has a purple transfer and that with it being rectangle shaped make it ultra rare and desirable among collectors.  It just sold for nearly $300.
After 1910 the decline in the  number and varieties of toothpaste being manufactured by High Street chemists was seen.  After the first world war, there were few chemists  left selling toothpaste in the small printed pots. 

c1890-1910 square 'White Rose Paste' Pot Lid from 'S.Maw, Son & Sons, London' still retains 99.9% of its original gold band 

c1890-1910 Cherry Tooth Paste Pot Lid hails from the world renowned Harrods Stores in Brompton Road, Knightsbridge (London, UK) and features the 'T.G. Heighington, Chemist' name

   The Indian areca or betel-nut and the cherry were popular subjects for the designers of  toothpaste lids. Some areca nut lids also carried illustrations of Indian buildings or mosques and palm trees.

c1880-1900 Areca Nut Tooth Paste Rectangular Pot Lid is from 'T.F. Bristow & Co Ltd, London

The International Agency for Research on Cancer regards the chewing of betel and areca nut to be a known human carcinogen...needless to say, pharmaceuticals are not making this tooth powder anymore.  Here's an interesting article from Oxford's Journal of the History of Medicine  regarding the unearthing of many of the pots that had contained areca nut powders and pastes and the effects of such on the teeth.

c1890-1910 'Tooth Paste' Pot Lid from Vinolia & Co. Ltd., London has an elaborate cartouche with the printing inside...unusual and rare to find in red print

Below, a c1890-1910 Cherry Tooth Paste Pot Lid from 'F.J. Sykes, Colwyn Bay' (in North Wales, UK)  Very rare, green transfer print.  The name is a little misleading being called Cherry, implying that cherries are, or cherry flavor is added to the blend.  Areca Nut and Cherry Toothpaste were made from the same formula.  Cherry toothpaste became red or pink by the addition of carmine but no cherry flavoring was added.  The word cherry, refers to the color of the paste only.

Circa 1890-1910 Cherry Tooth Paste Pot Lid from Parke's Drug Stores, London' features an elaborate design incorporating a small picture of part of a chemists lab

Circa 1880, This Canadian toothpaste "Imparts A Delightful Fragrance To The Breath"
John Gosnell & Co Ltd's Cherry Tooth Paste in a polychrome transfer: it's good enough for the Queen.  This firm made several pot lids with 'royal' themes and images.

Here is one of the most unusual of pot lids with its triangular shape.

Pot Lids are highly sought, and usually valuable, collectibles.  Today, they are still being unearthed in dump digs around the UK.  It is believed that about 5,000 different pot lids were produced worldwide.  Pot lids sell anywhere from $15 up to $500 and sometimes more.  One of the rarest pot lids, having a bear motif', sold for $10,000!  You can find them on auction sites and in antique stores.  They are really cute and make great conversation pieces and decorative items...which I'll show in an upcoming post.

I'm joining:

Suzanne at Colorado Lady
Brambleberry Cottage
Pink Saturday
Romantic Home
Funky Junk Interiors 
Ruby Tuesday


  1. Fascinating!!! What a great post. All new info to me!! Love those pot lids... I can't want to see your next post about them!! Thank you so much for all the detail!!

  2. Oh my how interesting and fascinating. I had no idea. Your pictures are all so interesting and the designs are stunning. Fabulous collection. You always come up with the most interesting things. Hugs, Marty

  3. Dearest Nancy,

    What an interesting and educative blog! Of course before they invented the 'tubes' for toothpaste, there had to be something else! You got an extraordinary collection with great photos. Thanks for sharing this!

    Wishing you a nice weekend,


  4. Interesting, beautiful and a great history lesson.

  5. i love learning stuff, thanks for sharing. i can't wait to see what you do with them.

  6. Hi Nancy,
    Thanks for sharing your expertise with us today. I never thought about how our ancestors bought toothpaste ... absolutely fascinating. And what a fun collection. Love it. Happy Pink Saturday!
    ~ Lynn at Cottage and Creek

  7. They are really gorgeous and I never realized they were out there.

  8. This is just a fascinating post! I don't know that I've ever seen one of these, or maybe I just wasn't looking carefully. But I will now!

    Thanks for this very informative post. I enjoyed this very much.

    Happy Seasonal Sunday...


    Sheila :-)

  9. What a neat post. I had no idea these existed, let alone their value.

    Thanks so much for being part of Seasonal Sundays!

    - The Tablescaper

  10. This is so interesting and fascinating!!! I've been an antiques hound all my life and have never seen any of these....now I'm on the hunt!!! thanks for sharing this.....cleo

  11. Nancy, thank you for sharing all this interesting information on the pot lids. I've long admired these little pieces. I've a few I've picked up over the years and appreciate knowing more. Thanks too for the book recommendations.
    ~ Sarah

  12. Nancy, What a fascinating post! Thanks so much for sharing. Blessings!

  13. Seems everyone else had said it all, interesting, fascinating, amazing, unique. i never realized the history of toothpaste or the dangers of some of the originals. Thanks for sharing this with us. VERY nicely done.
    I am your newest follower. I thought I was already following. I am now.
    Please pop over to see me I am having a giveaway.

  14. Fun information and they look neat too:@)

  15. Great post Nancy, never heard of these things! If I find any at the local thrift I will send them to you darling!!

  16. Nancy, what a fun read, I could sit here all day and just read each and every one. Happy Pink Saturday, Char

  17. I am learning so much from reading your site, Nancy, and your pictures are beautiful. I believe I have seen one or two pot lids on my antiquing trips, and I am sorry now I did not recognize them for what they were. Thank you for sharing your knowledge of this fascinating subject!

  18. Hi Nancy,
    What a fascinating subject and a collecting genre I knew nothing about before today.
    Thanks for a great post.

  19. Nancy, I always love coming over here, to not only see beautiful dishes and place settings, but to also learn some amazing history. These pot lids are wonderful collectibles, thanks so much for sharing all about these little beauties!

  20. I'm blown away by these! Never seen before!
    Gosh how I want cherry toothpaste now! Especially to keep the lid!
    I blogged the vase I asked you about just now.
    I'm glad to find your blog and wouldn't have if I hadn't searched out that vase. I see some of my friends knew about you already!

  21. I'm going to have to keep an eye out for these - they are adorable and it looks like pretty valuable as well! If you get a chance, stop by my page - I found some English china recently and I can't find much info on them. I thought if anyone might know, it would be you! -diane

  22. Nancy those are adorable! How interesting, I always thought that the old powdered toothpaste only came in 'tins'... we had one on display on a shelf when I was a kid.


  23. Nancy, I'm back for another look at these. Thanks again for sharing all this information. Happy REDnesday! ~ Sarah

  24. The designs on these are like little works of art! It's a shame that they're so expensive, because a collection of these would be stunning. Thanks for the history lesson too!
    Happy REDnesday!

  25. Thank you so much for sharing these with us! Weren't those wonderful days when even the most utilitarian of objects was made decorative!

    Happy Rednesday,

  26. Wow! I am in love with these! I need to save up my pennies so I can have at least one in my home! Thanks for all the info, too - it's very interesting to read about these!

  27. How lovely, and so interesting!

  28. More goodies to tease me with! I downsized to get rid of a lot of the "stuff" that I had spent a lifetime accumulating. But every time I visit you, I want to start new collections. LOL

    Thanks for joining the party fun.

    Liz @ the Brambleberry Cottage


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