Dinner Plate Removed from HMS Guerriere
This ornate dinner plate was retrieved from HMS Guerriere following its defeat by USS Constitution on August 19, 1812. It was common for fine items like this to be taken from a defeated ship, and Captain Isaac Hull was known to have given away some of his battle souvenirs to friends and visitors later in his life.
The English soft-paste creamware plate has a transfer print with an Asian-inspired design, a popular style at the time. The red decoration is not protected by a glaze and was possibly added at a later date. The development of transfer ware ceramics in the mid-18th century revolutionized the English pottery industry. Manufacturers like Josiah Wedgewood and Sadler and Green first applied prints to soft-paste porcelain and enamels, and later to less expensive earthenware. The white grounds of these new “creamwares” and “pearlwares” were a perfect backdrop for black-inked prints of popular military and political heroes, landscapes, and other common motifs. The transfer decoration was taken from an engraved copper plate (filled with cobalt and oil as a flux) by means of tissue paper and was applied to partly biscuit fired ceramics (1st firing). The potter laid the print onto the item, applied pressure, and then removed the tissue paper with water. Once dried, the piece was fired at about 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit (600 degrees Celsius) to fix the cobalt and burn away the oil. The piece was then glazed and fired again at about 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 degrees Celsius). The glaze sealed the print and made for a durable and decorative ceramic.
This plate was passed down through generations of Hull’s family before it was donated to the USS Constitution Museum in 1977. Somewhere along the way, a hand-written note and newspaper article about Constitution’s battle with Guerriere were glued to the back of the plate.