Digest>Archives> Jan/Feb 2004

Collecting Nautical Antiques

Lighthouse Service China

By Jim Claflin


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We saw a beautiful little piece of U.S. Lighthouse Service china at auction a few weeks ago which I thought you might like to see. The piece was in the form of a sugar bowl with cover. Fashioned after a soup tureen used by the service, this charming little piece has a pedestal foot and a domed lid. There is an indent on the lid to put a spoon through, and small loop handles on each side as well as one on top of the domed lid. This beautiful little piece measures 5 1/2” tall and nearly 8” long.

This is a scarce original china dinnerware piece from the United States Light-House Service manufactured of heavy white institutional type china, in the latter years of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century for use in ships’ wardrooms and at offshore light stations. It is doubtful if all of the onshore light stations were provided with china, as keepers there may have provided their own.

The piece bears the original “U.S.L.H.S.” brown leafy pattern, consisting of a brown flower and leaf design around the perimeter of the bowl and the lid as well. On the body of the piece in the pattern are the letters “U.S.L.H.S.”. There were three patterns used over the years by the Lighthouse Establishment and Service and this is the second of the three patterns. In the early 1900s this pattern was generally replaced in favor of a turquoise lighthouse within a circle, with a turquoise perimeter stripe. The earliest pattern was similar to the one shown, but with he letters “U.S.L.H.E.”.

The bottom is marked “A.L. Cann & Sons, New York, Jackson China #28”. Many times pieces can be dated by this mark or codes impressed into the bottom of the piece. For more information on makers and their marks you can consult: Conroy, Barbara J., Restaurant China - Identification & Value Guide For Restaurant, Airline, Ship & Railroad Dinnerware. Volumes I [1998] & II [1999]. Collector Books.

Such pieces are extremely rare and can command premium prices, so do keep looking in your local antique shops and yard sales as they do appear from time to time.

Like our column? Have suggestions for future subjects? Please send in your suggestions and questions, or a photograph of an object that you need help dating or identifying. We will include the answer to a selected inquiry as a regular feature each month in our column.

Jim Claflin is a recognized authority on antiques of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, Life-Saving Service, Revenue Cutter Service and early Coast Guard. Jim, owner of Kenrick A Claflin & Son Nautical Antiques, may be contacted by writing to him at 1227 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA 01602, or by calling 508-792-6627. You may also contact him by email: jclaflin@lighthouseantiques.net or visit his web site at www.lighthouseantiques.net

This story appeared in the Jan/Feb 2004 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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