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Three artifacts were added to Skillman Library’s collection this past summer: A Staffordshire teapot, a cameo ring, and an oil portrait were the generous gifts of an alumnus and a descendant of the Marquis de Lafayette, notes College archivist Diane Shaw. The teapot and ring will become part of the Marquis de Lafayette Memorabilia Collection soon to be returned to Skillman Library. The painting will be added to the College’s art collection. Shaw gives the following report:

Staffordshire Teapot from Melvin H. Friedman ’43

A handsome example of Staffordshire pottery with a Marquis de Lafayette image was presented to the library by Melvin Friedman, class of 1943. The teapot, made by the English firm Enoch Wood, shows Lafayette at the grave of Benjamin Franklin. The pattern probably dates from Lafayette’s farewell tour of 1824-25, or shortly thereafter.

Many of the important events and figures of early 19th-century American history were commemorated on English-made earthenware, which flooded the American market following the War of 1812. Staffordshire district potteries in western England were noted for tableware decorated by a process called transfer-printing, which enabled multiple copies to be turned out quickly and cheaply. The intense cobalt blue ink fired well and resulted in finished pieces that were both durable and colorful. Their resemblance to Chinese porcelain made the pieces extremely popular.

The Lafayette collection has other examples of Staffordshireware, but no teapot, making this is a very welcome gift indeed.

Heirlooms from Lafayette descendants

Two very special items passed down in the family of the Marquis de Lafayette were presented to the College by Alice Berndt of Hamburg, Germany. She is the step-daughter of Sigismond de Pourcet de Sahune, who traced his descent from Lafayette through the eldest daughter of his son, George Washington Lafayette.

The gifts, which were transported from Germany by a family friend, include a charming oil portrait of Lafayette’s granddaughters and a small cameo ring bearing Lafayette’s likeness. The painting probably dates from 1820 and depicts three young women believed to be the daughters of George Washington Lafayette. The tiny gold ring has a cameo portrait bust of the Marquis de Lafayette. This particular image of Lafayette dates from about 1830 and is similar to a larger men’s ring in our collection.

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