Tuesday, January 19, 2016
For U.S.A. Britain and Democracy
QUESTION: I have a teapot that has been passed down from my grandmother to my mother and now to me. It’s not just any old teapot, but a unique one with the words “For U.S.A. Britain and Democracy handpainted on the lid. My mother said that my grandmother bought it in 1940 but no one seems to know why it has this phrase on the lid. The teapot is glossy black with little flowers painted on it. And on its bottom is what looks like a golden pretzel with a lion and the British flag and the words “World War II. Made in England. Escorted to United States by the Allied Fleets.” Can you tell me anything about my teapot?
ANSWER: You’ve got a unique piece of World War II memorabilia. English potteries produced teapots such as yours, decorated with black glaze and simple, hand-painted flowers, during World War II as part of a fundraising program to provide money, equipment, and supplies necessary for Britain's war effort.
From 1939 to 1945, the United States and Canada provided escort ships to convoys of merchant marine vessels carrying massive cargoes to England. Many never made it across the North Atlantic and instead lie beneath the waves, the victims of German U-boat attacks. Once the ships arrived safely in England, British dock workers unloaded them and refilled them with English ceramic ware which served as ballast for their return trip. On arrival in America the ships full of teapots and other goods would be unloaded and distributed to merchants who sold them as a way of helping to pay for the convoy costs.
Staffordshire potteries produced these teapots by the hundreds during World War II. Women decorated these five-inch tall, black/brown, Rockingham glazed teapots with hand painted pink, orange, yellow, and green flowers, highlighted by a purple bow. They hand painted the words “ For U.S.A. Britain and Democracy” or just “For England and Democracy” on the lid, which they edged in gold. Painted in gold on the bottom are the words “World War II. Made in England. Escorted to USA by Royal Navy” or as in your case “by Allied Fleets.” The pretzel-shaped, three-loop, twisted, gold rope, known as a Stafford or Staffordshire Knot, is the symbol used by potteries in Staffordshire, England since the 1840s. Within the knot is a British flag and a lion.
Legend says that Winston Churchill chose the teapot for this special duty since it had become a symbol of Britain to many Americans. He insisted that “For England and Democracy” be painted on the lid because this was the shared goal of both the U.S. and England. In the beginning, the overall aim of the teapots, specifically made to appeal to Americans, was to help earn their support. At that time, before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans were undecided if the U.S. should join England in fighting the Germans.
Today, these teaports sell online for $40 to $45, although some go as high as $150.