Ceramic objects in the AHS collection span centuries while telling local stories. Of these ceramics, several plates uniquely celebrate and document Arlington history. These pieces are known as commemorative or souvenir plates. Popularized toward the end of the 19th century, plates of this kind were relatively cheap to produce and a novel way to memorialize events. Such plates were rarely intended for practical serving use, but rather assumed to be hung as wall decoration or delicately placed inside a china cabinet for viewing.
This white plate with dark green transfer is one of the best examples of Arlington souvenir plates in the collection. The front of the plate shows nine separate buildings of historical significance in town, including the Jason Russell House. The back of the plate is marked, “Arlington was incorporated in 1807. This heritage plate is one of only 225 ever to be designed.” Noting that a plate was produced as one of a small batch was thought to significantly increase its monetary value.
Another favorite in the collection is a plate celebrating a local iconic piece of art. This blue transferware plate was probably produced during the mid 20th century and is marked “Indian Hunter Menotomy, Arlington, Massachusetts, Cyrus E. Dallin, Sculptor. Made in England for The Friday Social Club, Arlington, Massachusetts.” The central figure on the plate is the “Menotomy Indian Hunter,” a sculpture created by Dallin that still stands in the gardens next to Arlington Town Hall.
Commemorative plates, and other practical ceramic objects, are a simple and fun way to note important events and memory. Plates such as these in the Arlington Historical Society’s collection show off significant local art and architecture, reminding us of the importance of decorative objects in relaying history.
Written by Selena Shabot, Intern