Eagle's eyes

I thought I was going to move on from birds... but this week another bird came to tell a story... little did I know.

Here I have two beautiful plates that were made by Chamberlains in Worcester some time in the 1790s. They are in the "Japan" style, which was very popular at the time and which Chamberlains used in many patterns. So it was only logical to assume that the striking bird in this pattern was a phoenix. The phoenix is an ancient mythological creature that brings rebirth, renewal and immortality; it was a popular design element in East Asian ceramics.


But last week a kind reader with eagle's eyes made me aware that this pattern does not show a phoenix... and here is why.

This pattern was first brought out in 1790, fourteen years after the signing of the American Declaration of Independence, and it was called "Independence". It was made exclusively for the American market by the great Chamberlains factory in England. There is of course a certain irony in the fact that the ex-colonising country, Great Britain, brought out a dinner service celebrating independence from Great Britain.

The original Great Seal of the United States of America


Although the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, it took until 1782 before a national seal was approved for the new country, as nobody could agree on which animal to choose. After years of deliberation the choice fell upon the American bald eagle as the symbol of strength, pride and resilience. Luckily America avoided the humiliation of going with one proposal that wanted to pick the turkey as a national animal 🦃