The Aunties Roadshow

The guys looked with fear at the table set for them on Christmas Day. Their mom had gotten out The China. The younger two weren't sure if they'd ever even seen it before. Were they going to get stuck washing it all by hand????

The Bavarian china belonged to my great aunts in Pierce, Nebraska. Ada and Emma were spinsters, and I thank the Online Etymology Dictionary for its explanation of that term:

1362, "female spinner of thread," from M.E. spinnen (see spin) + -stere, feminine suffix. Spinning commonly done by unmarried women, hence the word came to denote "an unmarried woman" in legal documents from 1600s to early 1900s, and by 1719 was being used generically for "woman still unmarried and beyond the usual age for it."

I'm not aware of the Aunties spinning, but they certainly sewed, knitted, and quilted. Ada was a milliner, and Emma was a school teacher. Their mother was a quilter and seamstress. But now back to the china track.

Maybe families get out the old china on holidays to inspire full tummy rambles through knee-high dusty oral history and geneology. The Bavarian china had that effect, reminding me in the telling what a thin thread connects my sons to these strong women who influenced my life.

The Bavarian china is a cold white, more skim milk than cream. It is devoid of pattern or embellishment. As one son commented, it is "so modern." Although most, and maybe all, of it predates the Great Depression, its simplicity makes it timeless.

Some of the serving pieces have a handle shape that suggests Art Deco. A few others have rounded handles that are almost post-WWII Good Design. We don't know the dates, but it seems like the Aunties acquired the china in three phases.

My sons all know much more about identifying china than their mom. They've grown up in the "Antiques Roadshow" era. After dinner they would rather Google the porcelain maker's mark on the china than wash it!

My oldest determined that H&Co. under the crown was the mark of Heinrichs & Co. of Selb, Bavaria, Germany, a city now on the border with the Czech Republic. Founded in 1896, the company may still be producing china under the name Heinrich Porzellan, a subsidiary of Villeray & Buch. My china is not marked in red with an additional name of a department store. What I consider the later serving pieces are marked with the additional word, "Electra".

Some of the china was packed for about three decades in a foam that had deteriorated and adhered. After testing a few of the minor pieces in my dishwasher with the heated dry turned OFF, I scrub-brushed and sent most of the china through the dishwasher. No problem, but I wouldn't risk heated drying or microwaving!

My New Year's resolution is to unpack the china and the family stories at least once in 2008.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

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