Although chintz dates back to the seventeenth century with the importation into England of fantastical fabrics from India, the twentieth century industrially produced chintzware has caused a collecting frenzy, not only in North America, but also around the world. The earlier chintzes emulated the fabrics and tended to be loose patterns with large flowers and richly plumed exotic birds. The development of transfer printing allowed the production of chintz to be cheap enough to reach a mass market. By the 1820s there were a number of Staffordshire factories producing chintz meant for everyday use.
Gradually chintz patterns changed and both A.G. Richardson and Leonard Grimwade began to produce much tighter chintzes by about 1920. A. G. Richardson (Trademark Crown Ducal) was very successful throughout the 1920s and Ducal patterns like Festival, Blue Chintz and Florida were exported to the United States in great quantities. Patterns like Blue Chintz and Florida with their rich color and mythical birds were produced first in teaware and later — at the request of the American importer — in complete dinner services. Console sets made up of candlesticks and a centerpiece bowl was made in the late 1920s. It is interesting that the collectors from this same area again most eagerly seek these patterns, which were so popular along the eastern seaboard in the 1920s and 1930s.
In 1928 Grimwade’s “Royal Winton” created their first modern chintz pattern, Marguerite — hugely successful at the time and, ironically, one of the least desired of the Winton patterns today. Earthenware was subject to fashion and impulse buying and it was important for the factories to come up with new patterns every spring at the British Industries Fair to attract the trade buyers from around the world. Over the course of almost fifty years Grimwade’s produced over 80 chintz or ‘all-over’ patterns. In 1952 in an attempt to revive the factory after wartime shortages, they came up with fifteen new chintz patterns in a single year. Patterns like Anemone, Floral Feast, Victorian Rose, Delphinium Chintz, and Sweet Pea conjure up an English garden in full bloom. Stratford, Beeston, Nantwich, Evesham, Richmond – the towns and villages of England clearly inspired other chintz patterns. Some patterns came from typical English girls’ names –Julia, Joyce-Lynn, Esther, Florence and Winifred. In fact, one of the patterns — Marion — was named after the daughter of one of the major Canadian importers of chintz.
In order to come up with new patterns every year, colourway were reversed and the yellow background Royalty became the black background Majestic; Welbeck with its yellow background was transformed into the black background Hazel and the white background Spring. Royal Winton were very skilled at creating a sense of novelty using the same pattern in a different way or even the same pattern with a different colored trim. In the late 1930s patterns like Tartans and Quilt were produced to attract the non-chintz buyers and today these patterns always seem to appeal more to the male collector. Summertime and Old Cottage Chintz were the two patterns produced in complete dinner services from early in the 1930s until well into the 1960s. To capture the 1950s market, Grimwade’s designed a series of chintzes which had a more modern look with large flowers further apart and with rich dark blue, burgundy and black backgrounds — patterns like Peony, Morning Glory, and May and June Festival. These patterns have tended to be less appealing to the collector than the more traditional tightly grouped florals of the 1930s. Interestingly, several of the patterns designed in the 1950s like Evesham, Florence and particularly Stratford are modern/traditional and they are among the group of most sought after and highly priced patterns today.
Most of the Staffordshire factories were fighting for survival throughout the 1930s and everyone copied everyone if they thought there was a market for the product. James Kent, Ltd. produced a whole series of chintzes — DuBarry, Rosalynde and Apple Blossom sold widely in North America. The quality of the pottery is inferior to Grimwade’s and prices are somewhat lower as a result. The most popular Kent pattern seems to be Hydrangea with the white background — the black ground is not as successful. I corresponded with Miss Ruth Kent who took over the factory from her father and brothers after the war. She said that although Du Barry was in production from the 1930s until 1980 “it was slow to produce and costly” and was, therefore discontinued. It is ironic that the price of old chintz today is so high that these factories once again find it economically viable to reproduce chintz.
Another major chintz producer was Elijah Cotton ‘Lord Nelson Ware’. The pottery tended to be utilitarian and they were big producers of kitchen and hospital plain white ware. The earthenware was chunky in shape and the pieces are often found with the pattern poorly applied. The handles and spouts of the teapots, coffee pots and jugs are usually left undecorated — this required a level of skill lacking in the factory. Black Beauty is the most sought after of the Lord Nelson patterns with Green Tulip a close second. Green Tulip is quite common in Australia and New Zealand but seems to have been less exported to North America and consequently much harder to find today. Most North American collectors seem to want the Lord Nelson stacking teapots (especially those rarer versions which have the spouts and handles covered) and the large range of jugs, which were a specialty of the Cotton factory.
Although numerous other companies had one or two chintz patterns in their product line, these four factories accounted for most of the chintz produced. Some factories produced bone china chintz but this has only recently started to attract collectors. The Shelley factory was well known for fine bone china but several of their chintz patterns such as Melody and Maytime were used on both bone china and earthenware. Collectors are starting to buy chintz bone china as the prices of the semi porcelain chintz continue to rise. Collectors are also starting to look for the Japanese copies of Royal Winton patterns such as Beeston, Welbeck and Spring since the prices are much lower. These copies are available in this country but much more easily found in Australia and New Zealand where there are, in fact, collectors for this so-called “Manto” ware. Dutch chintz does not appear often in North America, although a number of different patterns were made.
Although any number of companies besides Royal Winton produced one or two chintz patterns after the second world war and great quantities were sold, the patterns had a slightly old fashioned look and the buying public were looking for something new. Ruth Kent, Collie Shorter and Clarice Cliff, Roy Midwinter — many of the English factory owners came to North America in search of inspiration. Roy Midwinter ended up in California looking at the work of Eva Zeisal and Robert Loewy. Although the chintz-producing factories were able to continue to appeal to the traditional market with the kind of nostalgia advertising so popular today, it was clear that the young post-war bride wanted Scandinavian modern furniture and dishes to match. By the end of the decade chintz had more or less died out.
Sasha Brastoff, the well-known American ceramics designer, was quoted in 1951, “In dinnerware, we are trying to give women the same excitement they find in clothes, something to derive pleasure from and have fun with. Too many smartly dressed women today are using dinnerware that might have served their grandmother’s.” These days it is the daughters of those smartly dressed 1950s women who are desperately trying to buy back their grandmothers’ dishes and seem to be willing to pay anything to do so.
Chintz Article provided with written permission by: Susan Scott’s Chintz Musings