by Lee Marple
There is strong reason to believe that porcelain toy tea and chamber sets were a major component of the first products Reinhold Schlegelmilch exported to the U.S. between 1880 and 1890. We see long listings of sets in the catalogs of both Lauer and Shryock, but images of Reinhold's sets do not accompany the Shryock lists until 1886. Further, the major products listed in the Coburg Directory of 1887 are, in order, tea and coffee services, and children's toy china. Porcelain tableware in any significant amount does not appear in the catalogs of American wholesale firms until 1888. So it is likely that Reinhold gained entry into the American market in part from the production of inexpensive, but well made children's toy porcelain.
Here we illustrate several examples of complete sets, then show representative pieces of other sets. In this way, it is possible to show more detail of the various molds and decorations one can expect to find. Some of the sets were made in mold patterns that were also used for tableware, and these can be dated with fair accuracy. However, most of the early sets are dated from the type of decoration, and thus there is an uncertainty of two to three years in their manufacture. After 1900, better toy tea sets were illustrated as individual items, so the patterns used for these sets can be dated quite well. We begin with sets made prior to 1890, and continue with those made in about 5 year time periods up to 1910. We have seen only one R.S. Germany Wreath/Star marked toy tea set, so the firm seems to have ended the manufacture of toys after 1910.
One common characteristic of Reinhold's toy sets is that the spout of the tea pot is painted with a fan shape pattern, starting at a point in the bottom front of the spout, and splaying out towards the top. Normally, this pattern is painted in gold, but some inexpensive sets made after 1900 were painted with enamels that were not subsequently fired in the kiln. As one might expect, these latter sets often show extensive wear, so the fan may or may not be present. For sure, other firms could have used the same or similar fan pattern, so while the presence of a fan is diagnostic, it does not necessarily prove that the piece was made by Reinhold's firm.
Prior to the year 2000, reference books on the subject of toy china often confused Reinhold's products with those made in France. Part of this might have been due to the fact that the lithograph on the top of many of Reinhold's boxes contained a reference to the contents in French. We think this was for the benefit of Canadian customers. From the few French toy sets in original boxes that we have seen, their packaging was quite different from that used by Reinhold. Almost without exception, Reinhold's pieces were positioned by a raised partition with cut-outs to match the shapes. The individual pieces were held in position by a thick mat of excelsior. It is very unusual to find a boxed set complete with the excelsior mat, as the mat takes on an unpleasant odor upon prolonged storage and was often discarded.
Copyright 2010 Lee Marple