The third category of 1940s Cybis items, and possibly the smallest in terms of actual production, is their reproductions of 19th-century tableware. Produced for only about five years (ca. 1948-1953) these were quite different from anything else produced under either the Cybis or Cordey branding. They can be generally divided into three groups: lusterware, spatterware, and historical-design wares including pressed cup plate reproductions.
Some of the plates are referred to as either “toddy plates” or “cup plates’, but what’s the difference – if any – between the two? Although similar in size, the originals served different purposes when they were popular during the mid to late 1800s.
Perhaps no better explanation of the cup plate can be found than in Alexander Murdoch Gow’s book Good Morals and Gentle Manners: For Schools and Familes, published in 1873:
It was the custom, formerly, to place a little dish at the side of the plate, for the purpose of receiving the cup when the tea or coffee was poured into the saucer. The liquid was poured out to facilitate its cooling, and was drank [sic] from the saucer. The cup-plate was a convenience to prevent the soiling of the table-cloth. Now, however, the cup-plates have gone out of use, and people are expected to drink from the cup, after removing the spoon to the saucer.
On the other hand, a toddy plate is defined by the Corning Glass Museum website as “a small pressed glass plate, made between about 1830 and 1870, presumably as a saucer under a toddy glass. Toddy is a beverage composed of whiskey or another liquor, hot water, and sugar.” However, I’ve noticed that online sellers sometimes use the term cup plate and toddy plate interchangeably.
All of the Cybis items were reproductions of the original historical designs and patterns, and so when offered for sale they should properly be described as “spatterware reproductions“, “cup plate reproductions“, and so on. This is important because not all of these Cybis pieces were marked with the studio name.
There are four possible Cybis marks on the late 1940s-early/mid 1950s pieces.
This block-letter CYBIS name appears to be lightly paintstamped rather than impressed. It was on the underside of a spatterware cup; the matching saucer was not marked at all.
This one is definitely a mold impression but only the first and last letters are legible; it was on the back of a pressed cup plate reproduction.
Some have this impressed eagle mark instead. This mark was also used, both as a mold impression and a blue paintstamp, on some retail Cybis porcelains made between 1947 and 1951 (according to the 1979 Cybis catalog.)
I have never seen a photo of the third reported mark but it is cited in the Cybis in Retrospect museum exhibit catalog as being the word AMERICANA in impressed capitals. It’s not known whether this mark was used in addition to the block Cybis name and/or the eagle, or was used on its own.
There is no record of how many “lusterware” pieces the Cybis studio produced; it’s possible there were very few. The term refers to a finishing technique, in this case the additon of a metallic oxide to the overglaze applied to a piece of pottery, which is then fired at a lower temperature than the previous firing(s).
This photo, from Cybis in Retrospect, shows the only lusterware pieces known to date: this group was captioned as being “six hunting scene creamers and a plaster block.” The type of luster is not specified but it’s likely to have been silver. Unfortunately the dimensions of this creamer were not provided.
“Spatterware” describes a painting technique that first appeared in England in the early 1700s; outside of the USA it is often called “spongeware” instead. The antique examples were cast in earthenware or, occasionally, creamware. The spatter/sponged effect could cover the entire surface or be restricted only to the border; in either case there would usually be a traditional motif (bird, flower, rooster, house, etc.) in the center. Red and blue were the most popular colors, while the rarest were yellow and black. An excellent page about antique spatterware can be found at the Rufus Foshee Antiques site.
Although Cybis reproduced the traditional antique colors and patterns, their pieces were cast in a slightly different material that was closer to porcelain than earthenware. The 4th edition of Warman’s English & Continental Pottery & Porcelain notes this distinction in their Reproduction Alert on page 279: “The body of the [1940s Cybis] ware was harder than true spatter, and the glaze appeared glassy rather than soft.”
The four Cybis-produced spatterware design motifs were the Schoolhouse, the Peafowl, the Rooster, and the Rose, in the traditional colorways of red, blue, green and yellow. Below are examples of some items in the Peafowl motif.
The handleless spatterware cup is 3 5/8″ across the top and 2 1/2″ high. The matching spatterware saucer is 5 3/4″ in diameter. Some examples had an overall spatter finish while in others it was restricted to the rim and cup edge.
The spatterware cup plate was smaller, in fact pretty much the same diameter as the top of the cup itself (roughly 3 5/8″.) The width of a spattered rim could vary as well. Most of the Cybis spatterware reproductions seen today have varying degrees of crazing.
This is the spatterware dinner plate which is about 8″ in diameter. There was also a salad plate of unknown size but probably between 6″ and 7″ diameter.
Here’s the peafowl toddy plate in the green colorway; quite refreshing! The toddy plate mold was 4.3″ diameter.
The Cybis spatterware octagonal coffeepot in red. It is 8″ high overall to the very top of the lid.
Several spatterware rooster motif colorways are shown above. The yellow rimmed one is a cup plate; the red and green colorways are 3 3/8″ diameter.
Among the original antique spatterware pieces, the Schoolhouse motif with a blue roof is considered the rarest of all. The Cybis reproductions seem to mostly have yellow roofs, with an occasional black one, as shown in these two schoolhouse plates. Their diameters were not specified, so it’s not known whether these are cup or toddy plates.
Here are a yellow-roofed cup plate (green spatter edge) and toddy plate (red spatter edge) at 3.3″ and 4.3″, respectively.
A group of red spatterware plates, the largest being 8 1/2″ in diameter and the other three being 3 3/8″. Although the auctioneer described all four as being Cybis, no photo of the backs was included and the differences in the rooster on the small plate (body color and tail) engenders some doubt as to that attribution.
The octagonal spatterware creamer was a mold-match for the octagonal coffeepot shown above. It was the larger of their two creamer designs, at almost 6″ high, 4″ diameter, and 5.7″ across the top including the handle. An octagonal spatterware sugar bowl was also made but no photo is currently available.
The same mold may have also been used for a plain white glazed version as seen at left. The central creamer has a traditional spatterware Rose motif but it’s unclear whether the body is only lightly spattered or not at all.
This is the smaller spatterware creamer; dimensional information was not supplied.
Cybis in Retrospect also mentions a miniature spatterware mug that was in the museum exhibit but not pictured in the catalog.
Update, 2020: See this post for an unusual spatterware lamp that may be one of a kind.
Historical Motif Reproductions
In addition to his reproductions of spatterware patterns, Cybis also drew on other American historical motifs as well.
Three rose motifs were used. In the first photo, at left is the Flat Rose salad plate and at right is the Adams Rose salad plate. Although very similar to the latter, the toddy plate shown in the center (and at left in the color photo) is the Cabbage Rose decoration. These were made in glazed porcelain, just like their spatterware pieces. It’s not known whether all three designs were available in every piece.
According to Cybis in Retrospect the known Flat Rose pieces included a teapot, sugar bowl, and salad plate. One assumes there must also have been a creamer as well, perhaps the same as the small spatterware version?
On the other hand, the Adams Rose is known in a dinner plate, salad plate, toddy plate, teapot, sugar bowl, creamer, and handleless cup (one assumes there was a saucer to go with that.) Apparantly there were two colorways – the red/green one shown above, and also a “lavender and green”, again as per Cybis in Retrospect.
The Cabbage Rose decoration is known from a cup (one assumes handleless), a salad plate, and the toddy plate shown above.
These photos of a Butterfly motif cup and saucer show two steps in its decoration. Shown below are the teacup, saucer, cup plate, and dinner plate. A salad plate is also known in this pattern.
They are described as being glazed porcelain and the decoration as “polychrome” in Cybis in Retrospect. The size of the cup plate and saucer are identical to the spatterware, and the dinner plate was cited as 7.69″ diameter. Notice the addition of a thin gold scalloped line inside the dinner plate’s rim; perhaps only the dinner plate had this extra decoration?
The final category of reproduction wares is that of glass cup plates, based on the original pressed-glass patterns that appeared in the mid 1800s, notably from the Boston and Sandwich glass works. Some of them were designs painted onto smooth plates but other plates were dimensional (in the actual pressed-glass patterns.)
This dimensional (die-pressed) octagonal ship design cup plate is, as expected, 3″ wide. The photo shows it in both plain white bisque and in glazed decorated porcelain cited as blue on white.
The octagonal cup plate was also used as the center part of the ship toddy plate with a round rim; the larger size of the toddy plate (5.25″ diameter) allowed this. The first photo shows such a plate in unpainted white bisque; the other is a finished plate with a rose motif painted on the rim. I think the mirror image effect of the blue-on-white central portion with the shadowy white-on-blue of the rim is particularly striking.
Here is another 5″ toddy plate which was made by combining the die for the octagonal cup plate shown above as the central motif with a round rim with four painted eagles. This ship-and-eagles plate is blue-on-white glazed porcelain.
Both of these eagle motif cup plates are 3″ in diameter. The first example is a pressed eagle design with a finely scalloped edge. The second example is painted on a smooth plate (no die used) but has a narrow blue rim; the eagle is the same one that was painted on the ship-and-eagles toddy plate.
A larger plate with the same motif is this painted eagle plate with a scalloped piecrust edge which I suspect is from a salad plate mold because it is 6.8″ in diameter.
Many antique cup plates were decorated with portraits of American presidents and statesmen, especially if they were meant to be sold in shops in certain areas of the country. This Henry Clay cup plate follows a pressed design that was especially popular in Clay’s home state of Kentucky. The one in the upper photo was described as being blue on white.
Some cup plate motifs were folklore based, such as this six-pointed star surrounded by hearts and daisies, almost evoking some of the Pennsylvania Dutch designs. Standard 3″ size and blue-and-white decoration.
Although the catalog caption describes the central motif as an “eight pointed star”, it certainly looks more like a flower to me! In fact the design along the gently scalloped rim resembles wheat sheaves as well. Therefore I’m going to describe this as a flower, lace and wheat sheaf cup plate. It was definitely made in blue-and-white, and in glazed white as well (as shown by the second photo; the rest of the plate was damaged.) The third photo may be of a plain white bisque (unglazed?) or perhaps one in the first stage of production.
Speaking of that colorway, it’s unclear whether blue was the only color ever used for Cybis’ pressed-glass cup plate reproductions. Certainly all of the examples in the 1971 museum exhibit were that colorway (if they were not white bisque.)
This last piece seems rather like a hybrid of the spatterware and historical design styles, which makes me wonder if perhaps it was a sample piece or experiment. The only spatterwork on it is the tree foliage, and the structure itself is different from the Schoolhouse motif… but at the same time, the stylized shape beneath the house does look more than a bit like the Peafowl! My first reaction to this design was “houseboat”, although with that shape it’s probably more like Cleopatra’s barge….very unusual, to say the least. So I’m at a loss as to what to call it, other than a stylized house toddy plate because it conforms to that size at 4.3″.
It’s not known how many of these tableware pieces were actually made and sold during that fairly short production period starting in the late 1940s. In addition to the ones in the Study Collection at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware, the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton supposedly has some in their holdings as well.
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