It’s all (Haviland) in the family

By Cathy Wood

My grandmother smiled as she gently freed the daintily flowered tea cup from its yellowed tissue paper. She set it carefully on the matching saucer, adding it to the china deluge that threatened to take over the white linen-covered dining room table as the corresponding pile of tissue paper grew higher.

“Oh, Mother,” my mom breathed in. “That’s gorgeous. But are you sure it’s Baltimore Rose? That looks more like Trellis to me.”

Welcome to my childhood.

I’m not sure what your mother & grandmother talked about when they got together, but I bet it wasn’t the merits of relish trays versus celery trays or how many oatmeal bowls constitute a complete set, anyway?

My mom & her mother were crazed true Haviland Limoges crazy people collectors. They stalked antique shops & scouted estate sales, looking for that elusive spoon holder or bone dish. They bought price guides & made endless lists that began “4 bread-and-butter plates, 2 meat platters … ” They knew everybody within 100 miles who had a 12-place setting in the coveted Sheraton pattern.

And because I was the lone girl in the family — my mom was an only child & I had only brothers — I was the Haviland heir apparent. No matter that I’d rather be outside playing or curled up somewhere (else) with a Nancy Drew book. Didn’t make a difference that I was clumsy & heavy-handed & desperately afraid of dropping the rare Montreux-pattern tureen lid. Wasn’t a problem that I couldn’t tell the difference between lilies of the valley & lilacs in a garden much less on a dessert plate.

My disinterest was ignored. My aversion to delicate & fragile was disregarded. It was no use — by the time I had my own family, I somehow owned three whole sets of Haviland along with countless spare pieces & a box full of identification guides & newspaper clippings.

I guess the Apple (Blossom gravy boat) doesn’t fall far from the tree.

But all kidding aside, the Haviland Limoges story IS fascinating. A New York importer named David Haviland stumbled across a French porcelain tea service in 1838. Recognizing its superiority to the English imports he’d been selling, he decided to be the first American to introduce the fine china to American society. Haviland ended up moving his family to Limoges, France, home of the clay ingredient called “kaolin” that made the china so unique. The company survived wars, family squabbles & economic downturns and is still selling tableware today. (Learn more here.)

I ‘m not sure why my grandmother — and then my mom — loved Haviland so much. Did my great-grandmother have some when my grandmother was growing up? Was it something my grandmother always wanted when she was little? I don’t know, but I sure wish I’d thought to ask.

And, you know, some of those patterns are pretty. In fact, I’ve got a couple of dinner plates in the Richmond pattern & sure could use the salad plates to go with.

Luckily, YOU can add to — or start — your own Haviland collection at our first Rooted in Memories estate sale, where you can see the china’s elegant beauty for yourself. We’ll have good prices & plenty of sturdy packing materials. Check back often for details as we finalize the sale dates.

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