This particular very early topmark is significant enough to have its own photo-historical web page in that it was the US Navys first use of a standardized Navy Seal so far ever recorded.
This topmark consisted of an outspread winged eagle with federal banner, head facing or looking right, surrounded by highlights, and clutching a fouled anchor. This topmark was exact and conistent in use for well over 14 years from as early as 1894 to as late as 1908 spanning years well prior to the Spanish American War thru the US Navy's "Great White Fleet" circumnavigation of the world.
Existant pieces of a crystalware decanter, stemware, and various fine china dinnerware pieces including a large 24" fish server, 9" dinner plates, demitasse cup, small berry berry bowl, milk or cream pitcher, and dinner cup all indicate that this topmark was used as a large well-established and complete dining service.
The various fine china porcelain pieces are backstamped Theodore Haviland Co of Limoge, France using their various marks and imported by the James M. Barth Co of New York and variously dated 1894, 1896, and as late as 1908! Other pieces show a backstamp by US manufacturer "O.P.C.O. Syracuse China" with an 1897 production date.
This particular US Navy pattern has multiple documented dates of production (1894, 2896, 1898, 1907, 1908) and manufactured by two independent china manufacturers, (T.Haviland of Limoges, France and Syracuse China). This was no orphan pattern but included a full complement of fine china dinnerware as well as crystalware decanters, goblets, milk or cream pitchers, and glasses all topmarked using the exact same Eagle with Federal Banner clutching the 19th Century rendition of the fouled naval anchor!
This pattern has sometimes been found with a star to the left and right of the eagle which we believe represents the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and not necessarilly the rank of Rear Admiral, but they certainly could be. If we obtain any dinnerware pieces with either 3 or 4 stars then that will without a doubt indicate the stars are for officer rank.
The first pieces found by The Pirate's Lair to date are a HUGE 24" Fish Server, 3 Dinner Plates, Demitasse Cup, Coffe Mug with Handle, Side Bowl, and Large Crystal Decanter! This pattern was originally manufactured in Limoges, France by Theodore Haviland & Co for the dinnerware distributor James M. Shaw Co. of New York who had a contract with the U.S. Navy for this particular china pattern. There are also some dinner plates with this topmark and only backstamped "Theo Haviland, Limoges, France" without any date stamps or distributor marks. The various china pieces obtained were all backstamped with both manufacturer and distributor names along with the production date, 1894! It should also be noted here that the James Shaw Co. was a significant dinnerware contractor to the US Navy from the 1890s through to about 1920!
The Pirate's Lair then obtained pieces of the exact same pattern and topmark, identical in every way including the manufacturer/distributor backstamps except the production date was 1898 AND 1908! This new information certainly gave credence of a standardized and approved US Navy pattern (and was not an orphan) which spanned at least two production dates four years apart with both serving pieces and regularly used flatware. Further solidifying that this was a standard issue dinnerware pattern used in very senior officers mess was the obtaining of a perfect museum quality crystal "georgian-style" decanter which had etched onto one side the exact same Eagle, Federal Banner Clutching Anchor insignia topmark and on the reverse side the monogrammed initials U.S.N. in 19th century script!
However the final "coup de resistance" in establishing this topmark as a significant US Navy authorized pattern of dinnerware was obtaining a dinner plate identical in every way except that the manufacture backstamp was "O.P.C.O. Syracuse China" and dated 1898 which is imperical evidence that this was a seriously established pattern now produced by a well known china manufacturer here in the United States!
While it is our understanding that the Navy began purchasing this elegant china on or about the early/mid 1890's and we have been able to absolutely date and document a single standardized pattern of china whose production consisted of multiple producers spanning over 5 years.
This white body with gold eagle and anchor pattern has been found on demitasse cup dated 1894, two dinner plates dated 1894 and 1898, a fish server dated 1898 all produced for the James Shaw Company by Haviland & Co. of France. A single dinner plate using this exact same white body with gold eagle and anchor was also found to be made by "O.P.C.O. Syracuse China" with a backstamp dating from 1897.
Recently discovered has been a dinner plate using the exact same topmark of golden eagle clutching fouled anchor made by Haviland of France imported through the James M. Shaw Co of NY with a backstamped date of 1908 (see photos below). So here is firm evidence that this particular topmark was used over a 14 year period.
Note that the photo image to the left is of a US Navy China Demitasse Cup with a topmark illustrating an Eagle with Federal Banner clutching a Fouled Anchor with Stripe Highlights above the Eagle with feathery stripes extending out from below the Eagles wings. Also, the Eagle has a Federal Banner across it's breast. There are also 2 Stars to the left and right of the Eagle which could have represented the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans OR the rank of 2 Star Rear Admiral. (The current Department of Navy Seal adopted about 1905/1906 has two stars as part of the Seal, however these have been designated to be the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.)
We believe that this is evidence of the very first official "Navy Seal" which was the forerunner and basis for the later designed Department of the Navy Seal established pre-WWI in the early 1900's! With some very slight modifications made on/about 1941 it is still being used today over 100 years later! Something to be said for Naval Customs and Tradition!
The above plate represents the latest date (1908) found on dinnerware with the "Golden Eagle clutching Fouled Anchor" topmark. It is clear that this particular pattern overlapped the next generation of Department of Navy seal which was first established and seen on dinnerware ca 1905/1906. Quite possibly and stands to reason that this 1908 dinnerplate was to extend the life of existing pieces while slowly rolling out the new DoN pattern.
It is the desire of The Pirate's Lair to attempt in documenting and identifying to the best of our ability the various types of Naval Insginia and when and why they were used.
However, due to a lack of official Navy documentation much of the information is circumstantial, anecdotal, and/or relying upon china manufacture's marks, date codes and marketing/business information.
The Naval insignia's (or topmarks) originally designed along with the specific china pieces themselves, were standardized with very specific specifications by the Navy so that any china manufacturer wishing to sell dinnerware to the Navy would only need to ensure that basic size and design standards were met along with having the standardized Naval insignia on the piece.
In this manner the Navy promoted open competition among china manufacturers while getting the best made china available in a common design that would span many years of ship and shore station use alike.
The Navy only slightly modified these designs over time, sometimes almost imperceptably so, however even the most minor design change has helped in allowing collectors of militaria and antique china to date the piece when there is no other manufacturing marks or date codes to go by, or any official Navy history documenting its dinnerware and tableware.
These antique early 1900 demitasse cups, saucers and other antique naval dinnerware can be purchased by Clicking Here.
The above demitasse cup illustrates the earliest use of this particular topmark and is dated 1894.
Interestingly enough this very fine high-grade china demitasse cup was actually manufactured in Limoges, France by the Haviland & Co (H&Co) and was made for the James M. Shaw & Company which was a well known china distributor based out of New York, NY. The James Shaw Co was a large enough distributor that it actually commissioned various patterns of china from leading china and pottery manufacturers and marketed these commissioned pieces under the James Shaw brand.
It has been absolutely verified that the James Shaw & Co was under contract to provide china to the US Navy from the 1890's through the 1930's. James Shaw Co was actually a distributor and had all of their china actually manufactured by Shenango and other US Pottery and China producers besides just Haviland of France. But it appears that the very first official standardized "fine" china was produced in Limoges, France by the Haviland Company ca 1894 for the James M. Shaw Company of New York who was under contract to the Navy.
The milk or cream pitcher directly above was manufactured by H. Haviland of Limoges, France and imported by the James Shaw Co, of New York and dated 1897.
The US Navy demitasse cup as illustrated above the pitcher is as far as we know was the very first time that the James Shaw & Co used a foriegn china producer to make dinnerware for the US Navy. Quite possibly the American pottery and china producers at the time were not putting out the fine quality of dinnerware needed by the US Navy during the 1890's and very early 1900's.
However The Haviland & Co of Limoges, France was a perfect choice since it arguably produced the finest china (known the world over as Limoges china) in the world at that time. We have reviewed over 1000 photographs of H& Co china and have yet to find the name of the pattern used for this US Navy china!
The bottom of this fine bone white demitasse cup with a decorative handle is marked "H & Co., L, FRANCE" in green and measures 2 1/4" H x 2 1/4" W (excluding the handle). It is further marked "JAMES M. SHAW & Co. NEW YORK, 1894" in an orange glaze. The Pirate's Lair will give a $50. credit towards any purchase to any person who can positively identify this H& Co (Haviland and Company) pattern.
However of most historical importance, the demitasse cup dated 1894 and the fish server dated 1898 incorporate the exact same Navy Seal which demonstrates that this particular Naval insignia was used by the US Navy over a multi-year period with only slight variation, the two stars. It has been surmised that possibly the stars did not represent rank but represented both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans which can still be seen in the Department Of Navy seal of today, however just as equally the two stars could also represent the rank of Two Star Rear Admiral..
By having multiple pieces of the same topmarked china produced in multiple years it can now be verified 100% that the U.S. Navy used the Golden Eagle Clutching an Anchor (with and without stars) as one of it's standard china patterns for 4+ years before and during the Spanish-American War, and at least up to the sailing of the Great White Fleet in 1907 when it began to change it's seal ca 1905-1910. This particular golden eagle china could have even seen service during the sailing of The Great White Fleet, but probably not up to WWI.
The above crystal liqueur decanter stands about 8" high and has etched into it the exact same Eagle Clutching Anchor that is on the 1894 and 1898 china. It is safe to assume that this decanter was produced 1894-1898 to be used as part of official standardized dinnerware and tableware. Finding this decanter makes it absolutely certain that the "Gold Eagle Clutching Fouled Anchor" topmark was an official standardized Navy Seal ca 1894 to 1898 (and later) on US Navy dinnerware for senior admiralty.
The above crystal decanter has the same style as the US Navy decanter displayed and for sale at Click Here for Dept of Navy Crystal Decanter but it has the newly introduced 1905-1910 Department of Navy Seal etched into it.
Click Here for a Photo-Historical Analysis on this and other US Navy Crystal Decanters adopted and used ca 1893-1918
As seen in the photo above, this decanter has the initials USN in stylized script on the reverse side of the Eagle Clutching Anchor. This stylized scripting of the initials USN was very predominant from the 1860's through just after the turn of the century in the very early 1900's. Note again that the overall style of this decanter is the exact same as the newer Department of Navy decanter as mentioned above.
We have provided an in depth photo analysis and comparison of the above Eagle Clutching Anchor with USN decanter with other US Navy crystal decanters and china which can be reviewed by clicking here
Photos as seen below are of a huge 24" US Navy Fish Server also produced for the James Shaw Co of NY by Haviland of France and is dated 1898. Note that the Navy Seal on this Fish Server does not have the two stars as does the above demitasse cup which is the only deviation.
Above photos show the top and bottom of a 24" fish server which firmly establishes the "golden eagle clutching anchor" topmark as part of a significant fine porcelain china dinnerware service.
The above and to the left photo shows a Gold Eagle Clutching Anchor topmark dated 1896 and known in the china trade as a Hard Candy Dish with a raised wheat pattern on the left and right sides mady by the Haviland Co of Limoge France and imported into the US by the distributor James M. Shaw, Co of New York.
The significance of this find is that it further verifies a significant standardization of this gold eagle/fouled anchor topmark in that serving pieces of this nauture and the corresponding crystalware (decanter, fish server and hard candy plate) were not normally purchased just for entry level dinnerware used in a limited in scope.
As a side note: These hard candy dishes were also typically used as "Recieving Plates" found at the front entrance of every Naval Officers home where visiting officers would leave their calling cards formally establishing their presence. Sometimes a visitors log was also found beside the receiving plate. It was a great faux pas and sometimes actionable offense for an officer to visit another officers private residence without leaving his calling card.
The 1894, 1896, 1898, and 1908 topmark configurations all appear to have been used as the basis of the modern day Eagle, Banner, Anchor and Feather Highlights first introduced ca 1906-1908 (and still used to present day) for the Department of the Navy Seal. Obviously the Navy took this original 1894 thru 1908 design, encircled it with an outer circle of rope and inner circle of anchor chain with the words Department of the Navy sandwiched between the two concentric circles. Also note the 2 stars possibly representing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans found in the 1898 topmark were also incorporated into the newer Department of Navy Seal ca 1905-1910, see below.
Without any further information or identifying manufacturing marks these very slight changes will help collectors of Naval China to determine whether the piece was produced and used pre or post WWII.
Customer Photographic Examples of our Antique Trunks Being used as a Military or Naval Retirement Shadow Box and Storage Chest!!
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