Catherine Elizabeth's Figurines

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: 1860 [unknown]
Location: [unknown]
Surname/tag: heirlooms
Profile manager: Crispin Reedy private message [send private message]
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Catherine Elizabeth Yates, her sister Sarah, and her brothers John (Jack) and William came over from England to Louisiana in the 1860's. William already had land in Washington Parish when John came over and joined him there. The sisters came over later. Catherine Elizabeth lived for a time in Covington. Then, she and her sister Sarah moved to Lake Charles. Sarah worked as a governess to Lake Charles timber baron George Locke, and Catherine Elizabeth married another timber man, Charles Douglas Murray.

After Catherine Elizabeth died, her friend Katherine Flanders helped wrap up her affairs. She wrote several letters to Catherine's brother Jack Yates about the sale of the house-hold goods, and the money. Mrs. Flanders packed several trunks and boxes and shipped them to him. (See images for the scans of the letters.) In one of those letters she writes:

Tell Susie in the small oval top trunk there are two figurines, of a boy and girl (blue), you are to fasten heads on with good glue and Susie is to keep them, as her Aunt Kate has had them for many years – tell her to take good care of them as for some reason her Aunt prized them very much.

-- Letter from Katherine Flanders, Feb. 13, 1909

Most likely Katherine Elizabeth brought them over from England. Susie Yates was my grandmother and I still have the figurines. As you can see over 100 years later the heads have not been re-attached. Apparently I come from a long line of procrastinators.  :)

Since the Yates family was from Burton-upon-Trent in Staffordshire, I first assumed that they were Staffordshire figurines. However, I sent pictures of the figure to Miranda Goodby, Senior Curator of Ceramics at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent. She wrote:

Your pretty figures are not Staffordshire figures but European, most probably German or Austrian and date from the late 19th century. Large numbers of decorative figures, frequently unglazed and decorated in pastel colours were imported into Britain from c.1870 until c.1914. The Staffordshire manufacturers were quite indignant about this at the time as the imported figures were very attractive and of a high quality but were sold more cheaply than the British wares.
The implements that the figures are carrying are most probably ‘houlettes’ the European version of a shepherd’s staff. Unlike the English version with its curved end, the European staff had a metal ‘spud’ or scoop at one end. This was used to scoop up a clod of earth to throw at a sheep if it was straying in order to direct it back into the flock, or to hurl a stone if a wolf or other threat was approaching the flock.
I am afraid I cannot suggest which factory might have made your figures: there were scores of factories in the Thuringia region of Germany alone that were making such figures and few factories marked their wares with an identifiable factory mark.


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Categories: Family Heirlooms