Ding-a-Lings

by Lee Marple

Porcelain tableware was a luxury product for most Americans in the early 1900s. In many respects, it still is even though most of the porcelain in the current retail trade is imported from other countries. In the description of items illustrated in American wholesale catalogs issued after1888, it is apparent that porcelain tableware was largely purchased for gifts. This is especially true in the case of trade catalogs that came out in the fall, which were constructed in a way to entice retailers to stock up for the coming holiday trade. Almost anything made of porcelain was expensive, although the wholesale prices listed in catalogs might seem that was not the case in the light of the current value of the dollar. If you could afford to have porcelain table settings, then you could afford to have someone serving the table. The need for a polite way to summon help did not go unnoticed by Reinhold Schlegelmilch, and the firm responded by fashioning a number of bells. The bells were always made with a wood clapper, so that the ring is quite resonant, and yet does not offend the ear.

Based on the decoration and mold patterns, most bells were made a few years before and after 1900. One pattern in the shape of a flower, made from 1902 to about 1904, was especially popular. We know of no other factory decorations on this bell that those shown here. We show one example where the decoration of the flower shape bell was enhanced. To our knowledge, Reinhold used gold decoration to accent the mold pattern, but not around the rim. This bell was dated "1906" by the artist on the inside, which is several years later than the bell was made. Like shaving mugs, bells do not seem to have been made between 1905 and 1910. Bells made after this time are quite scarce, and can be recognized by the simple mold pattern and decoration. Examples of this bell are sometimes marked underglaze with "Germany" in blue.

Copyright 2009-2012 Lee Marple