In 1937, planning for the 1938-1939 centennial celebration of Duke University was well underway. The Alumni Association contracted with the famed English firm of Josiah Wedgwood & Sons to produce a set of commemorative china plates. The first edition, three hundred sets of twelve plates, bore the signature of William Preston Few, Duke's President, on the back. A second unsigned edition was also produced. The plates are no longer made.
The image at left is a full page ad for the first edition of the plates, taken from the 1937 Duke University Alumni Register. Click the image to enlarge it. The text of the ad is given below.
Unfortunately, the staff of the Duke University Archives is not able to provide appraisals of these plates. Please contact a china vendor or an appraiser for assistance.
THE DUKE UNIVERSITY PLATES
Fashioned from hand engraved copper plates on Queensware by
Josiah Wedgwood and Sons, Ltd., Etruria, Staffs., England.
The Design and Colors
The design for the embossed white border, which is the same on all the plates, has been inspired by natural forms characteristic of the two campuses. Its basis is a scroll motif of conventionalized oak leaves and acorns combined with branches of pine. Medallions of dogwood blossoms set off by contrast the simplified seal of the University, which surmounts the plate.
Precedent for the fluted shoulder, effecting the transition between the center scene and border, is found in the cream-colored ware created for Queen Charlotte in 1762, which won for Josiah Wedgwood his appointment as Potter to the Queen. The plates will be dinner-service size, measuring about ten and one-half inches. The official choice of the committee as to the color of the center scenes is Duke blue; however, the plates may be ordered in rose-pink, green, or mulberry.
The Center Scenes
In the choice of the twelve center scenes for the Duke University plates the interest of graduates of all periods have been kept in mind. A contemporary print of Trinity College in Randolph County is first reproduced; the series continues with a view of the Washington Duke Building and one of Craven Memorial Hall belonging to old Trinity College in Durham; the series concludes with two scenes from the Woman's College, and six distinctive views of the University.
|Trinity College, Randolph
|Craven Memorial Hall|
|East Duke Building|
|Washington Duke Building||Southgate Building|
|Union and Auditorium
|Vista of Chapel|
|School of Medicine||Library|
|Chapel Tower||Crowell Dormitory Tower|
Limited First Edition
In accordance with custom which later enhances the heirloom value of china, the first three hundred sets will comprise what will be known as the "First Edition" of these plates, and will be so stamped on the reverse side of each plate, together with the autograph of President W. P. Few. These may be ordered only in sets of twelve.
The Alumni Association is deeply indebted to the Duke University Commemorative Plate Committee composed of Mrs. Estelle Warlick Hillman, Chairman, Miss Louise Hall, Mrs. Estelle Flowers Spears, Dr. Frank C. Brown, Dr. Furman MeLarty, and Mr. William Sprinkle. This committee, in cooperation with the firm of Jones, McDuffee and Stratton of Boston, has worked untiringly to produce the original border design with accurate photographic studies for the center scenes, and, in order to keep the price at a minimum, has also been responsible for the advertising and sale of the plates.
Prices and Delivery
The price is $18.00 per dozen, one-half of which amount must accompany order. The plates will be delivered pre-paid anywhere in the United States upon payment of balance. Only forty dozens of these plates are now available.
From the Duke University Alumni Register, March 1937
Artifacts and Relics Collection, 1830s-ongoing: contains a set of the Duke University Wedgwood plates
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