Manufacture date: 1890s onward

Vessels: Tableware, teaware and tiles

Decalcomania is a decorative technique in which intricate enameled images were transferred to pottery vessels. The first experimentation with decals occurred in 1830s Europe but it wasn’t until the 1870s that manufacturers in France made significant improvements to the technology leading to its perfection at the close of the nineteenth century.  The term decalcomania means the love or craze of decals and it remained the most common decoration well into the 1950s.

The decals were created by etching lithographic stone plates with the desired pattern. Varnish would be applied to the stone and transferred to decal paper. Before it dried, the paper would be dusted with powdered enamel colour or metals. As it dried the decal paper would be over printed from another etched stone plate with different colours then added to the paper.  Different etched stone would be used to make a multi-coloured design.

After completely dry, the paper would be moistened with turpentine and oil then placed enamel side down. The potter would then rub the reverse side of the paper and the design would be transferred to the ceramic vessel.

This process would create an accurate and colourful reproduction of logos, drawings, and paintings.

North American made ceramics rarely used decals until around 1900. Prior to this, decal decoration was primarily found on imported European porcelains.


Jefferson Pattern Park and Museum, Diagnostic Artifacts of Maryland 2002:

Caron, Francois and Sylvie Strevey. 2012. Decals 101.

Henry, Susan L. 1987. Factors Influencing Consumer Behavior in Turn-of-the-Century Phoenix, Arizona. In consumer Choice in Historical Archaeology, ed. Suzanne M. Spencer-Wood. Plenum Press, New York, pp.359-381.

Majewski Teresita and Micheal J. O’Brien. 1987. The use and Misuse of Nineteenth Century English and American Ceramics in Archaeological Analysis. Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory, Vol 11. Academic Press, NY, pp98-209.