Hidden in Plain Sight:
The Material World of Early Springfield



Transfer-printed plates

c. 1830-1840
Recovered from the Edwards Place privy
Collection of the Illinois State Musem

Transfer-printed earthenware was ubiquitous on antebellum Springfield tables. Attractive and durable, it was a far less expensive alternative to highly coveted French or Chinese porcelain. Wares with transfer-printed decorations such as these were especially popular during the first half of the 19th century, filling the role of decorative imagery within the home at a time when prints and paintings were relatively scarce. After the Civil War, these decorative wares fell out of fashion, and unadorned white ironstone became popular instead.

This earthenware was manufactured in England and shipped to a major US port such as New York or Philadelphia. Merchants from Springfield would make regular buying trips to Saint Louis or the East Coast to bring back fashionable goods for their stores.