Collecting Mania: Dedham Pottery

Dedham pottery's exciting designs and vintage finishes have long enchanted collectors. There are basic characteristics which make the pottery manufactured between 1892 and 1943 in Massachusetts greatly recognizable: the artistic borders of bunnies and other leitmotifs, the white and blue color scheme, and the alluring crackle glaze which made the Dedham pottery seem like it was an antique right from the factory.

The distinctive crouching bunnies were the Dedham's most famous pattern, and were available in a considerable spectrum of service pieces including plates available in a total of four sizes, cups with saucers as well as bowls, mugs, along with eggcups, goblets, pitchers, teapots, serving platters, tureens, and the very popular salt and pepper shakers. Over and above to the almost universal bunny rabbits, the other Dedham artistic borders featured elephants, dolphins, polar bears, chicks, swans, turtles, ducks, butterflies, lilies, clover, and mushrooms.

The popularity of Dedham pottery has increased steadily throughout the last century, and collecting approaches vary. Many collectors seek to acquire as many of the Dedham designs as they can in a singular form, such as bowls, plates, or pitchers; others attempt to gather an entire set of tableware depicting the infamous rabbit design, from standard plates to hard to find serving pieces. Some collectors focus on rare border motifs.

Even in pottery that's famous for its surface cracks, condition matters greatly. A visible crack, rim chip,or even a conspicuous hairline fracture reduces a valuable Dedham dish to no more than a bauble among savvy collectors.

Three elements determine value:

  • The quality of painting - although the artists employed at Dedham followed a prescribed pattern for each animal or flower, individual quality differences are evident. Collectors look for distinct, clean outlines, consistent spacing, and uniform color.
  • The consistency of the crazing - although the workmen at Dedham could set the trademark crackling in motion, they could not control or predict the final pattern. The most desirable pieces to a Dedham collector are those that exhibit a small, uniform pattern.
  • The overall surface of the glaze - sometimes the glaze did not cling evenly to the clay after the piece had been dipped, leaving a dull streak or "slip" in the glaze. While a slip on the back of a plate won't deter most collectors, those across either the face or the painted decoration will reduce a plate's desirability.

Marks on the reverse of each piece may help determine the approximate date.

1892-1895: C.P.U.S. (Chelsea Pottery U.S.) impressed inside a clover leaf.

1896-1928: Square blue stamp with DEDHAM POTTERY printed over a rabbit; impressed foreshortened rabbit beneath.

1929-1943: REGISTERED added under standard Dedham Pottery stamp; two impressed foreshortened rabbits beneath.

Two Massachusetts companies are presently producing replicas of earlier forms. Each of these retro replica versions is clearly and properly marked to avoid any collector confusion with the pre-1943 antiques. Also, the Dedham Historical Society, which owns the rights to the original Dedham Pottery trademark, has reissued a limited-edition lion plate with a new variation in the original mark to permanently distinguish it from the originals.

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