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For the Love of Liverpool Pitchers

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SMALL matters occasionally rivet my attention but aren't enough for a major dissertation. Well, here's a note from Mr. Burnham of zip code 14850 who mentions breaking the ice in the bedchamber pitcher before undertaking the morning ablutions. He says life was harsh in those days. Nay, nay, Mr. Burnham, life in those days had happy moments, but didn't we catch it if we overslept and the ice busted the pitcher! ``How many times have I told you never to leave no water in the ewer! You know better'n that!'' Mr. Burnham was just lucky to wake up while that water was still just skum over!

However, Mr. Burnham touches a memory nerve. 'Twas the Burnham House, an ordinary of olden times operated by an ancestor of his, that brought nicety to the matutinal cleansing by sending up an abigail with a Liverpool pitcher of warm water from the kitchen. She also announced that breakfast was being served. And how did he want his eggs? I was about to say a room in the Burnham House was 50 cents a night, but on reflection I believe the comforts were better than elsewhere and the management was able to get 75 cents.

The Liverpool pitcher is in focus. Liverpool pitchers were commemorative, and were mass produced to celebrate this and that. Just about every home in New England had, at one time, the Liverpool pitcher for the Bunker Hill Monument. Lafayette laid the cornerstone in 1825, and Daniel Webster orated at the dedication in 1843.

The pitcher, turned out by the thousands, was one of the popular patterns. Being mass produced for quick sale, the porcelain was not top quality and the price was small, so Liverpool pitchers were never regarded as keepworthy, and were ``common'' in the household. They didn't get a special shelf in the chiny-closet. So, they frequently froze up in bedrooms.

In the middle 1800s, almost every ship that was launched in New England had an issue of Liverpools, with a likeness of the vessel embellished with cherubs and birds of peace, the name of the owner or master, and something like, ``Success to the Eliza W. Horsfalter.'' What didn't get sold at the launching as souvenirs went aboard the boat with other dishes, and could be used in far places to sweeten customs inspectors. As a boy in my heatless bedroom, I steadfastly remembered to dump my Liverpool before pulling up the quilt until one night ``Souvenir of Harraseeket Grange'' got just a bit too much coolth. I'm pretty sure I haven't seen a Liverpool pitcher since.


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