Sunday, January 4, 2015

"I wonder if Chinese tourists get upset

when they buy a souvenir from America and find out it was made in China."
                                         ~Unknown

This past week I spent some time finishing a clean out of my Mom's house.  She had kept many (did I say MANY!) souvenirs from trips she and my Dad had taken.  The problem is that the "treasures" were swizzle sticks, coasters, brochures, and pens.  Nothing along the lines of antique/vintage souvenirs that I buy for the shop.
In the early 19th century, inexpensive commemorative china was imported from Europe to America.

"Historical Staffordshire," made in that English region from the 1820s, depicted scenes of American communities and historical figures.
In the 1880s, railroads made travel available to the masses, and it created interest in mountain resort communities, seashore attractions, and historical sites.  Each area had their own souvenirs so you will find some pieces that may be less known in today's Disney world.
In doing my research, I learned that merchants in the late 19th and early 20th century looking to capitalize on the tourist trade could count on traveling salesmen from several china importers to provide them with custom-made pictorial ceramics. Shapes were standard, but any image or saying could be transfer-printed from a decal made from a copper or steel engraving. The views generally were taken from postcards, most likely those on hand when the salesman took an order. Common themes include main streets, churches, post offices, harbors, railroad depots, schools, courthouses, hotels, hospitals, stores, bridges, monuments and historic homes.

Going through all those souvenirs was rather overwhelming, but it did show that my parents had rather spirited and joyous travels.  What will the children of today uncover after 50-60 years of their parents' lives?  There is a thought to ponder in the new year!
“Ever poised on that cusp between past and future, we tie memories to souvenirs like string to trees along life’s path, marking the trail in case we lose ourselves around a bend of tomorrow’s road.” 
 ~Susan Lendroth

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