Norway Historical Society
Norway, Maine
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Norway Souvenir China
Norway Souvenir China

Souvenir China Exhibit

Created by Ann Siekman, Trustee and Charles Longley, Curator

Souvenir means “to remember.”  A common practice of travelers is to bring home physical reminders of their vacations.   Today, people often purchase T-Shirts as reminders of their travels.  From the 1890s to World War II, travelers purchased souvenir china that depicted the scenes and buildings in the locations they visited.   These were made in a variety of shapes, i.e. plates, cups & saucers, pitchers, small boxes, toothpick holders, mugs, etc.  Many of the views depicted were the same used on postcards of the day.  From 1890 to the beginning of World War I, the china was produced largely by German firms, but also in Austria and England.  In the 1930s cheaper forms of china from the Far East were introduced. 

The story of souvenir china in the United States starts around the time of the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1892-3 with Charles Wheelock and John Roth who ran a successful retail store in Peoria, Illinois, selling crockery, china, and glassware from around the world.  They saw an opportunity in souvenir china and seized it during Roth’s buying trip to Europe in 1894.  They were motivated by the marketability of these wares and developed a sales force of 31 commercial travelers and a national distribution system that did not yet even know the automobile.   

Souvenir china was sold in stores to visitors or local residents.  These are distinguished from advertising items that were given to customers or commemorative items that were sold by an organization as a fund raiser. 

Our thanks to Michael Cullinan, Roberta Gordon, Anna Holt Henderson, Mildred Kaas, Dick and Marilyn Jones, Arsene Blaquiere and Hope Bradford Millett, who donated the objects shown here.

These items were made in Germany for Hobbs Variety Store and depict the Steep Falls section of Norway.  There is considerable detail in the picture.  

A dessert or salad plate
Looking up the falls toward the Lower Main Street bridge
A demi-tasse and saucer

These pieces, with a color picture of the Opera House Block and gilt decoration, were made in Germany for G.A. Kenerson's store.  They date from after 1894, when the current building was built.

This trivet was made in Germany for Hobbs Variety Store.  Some artistic license was taken with the illustration, as the only building pictured is the Hobbs store.  A correct view would at least include the Universalist Church at the head of Main Street.  The captions notes that this is Main Street, showing Witherell Park.  The park can't really be seen because it is hidden behind the big tree on the right.

These ornate pieces also show the Opera House.  They were made in Germany for F.H. Beck, who had a store at the corner of Main and Cottage Steets, the current location of Key Bank.

Posey Vase or Toothpick Holder
Small Mug Porcelain Shoe

The small plate on the left was made in Austria for A.J. Nevers and pictures the large Norway Hall on the right, with two smaller buildings.  Norway Hall was the original Opera House and all these buildings were destroyed in the fire of 1894.  Norway Hall was replaced with the current Opera House.  When Mr. Nevers passed away, his wife continued the retail business.  The cup and saucer were made in England when she ran the store, and show the original Norway High School, which also was destroyed in the 1894 fire.

Each china
manufacturer had its own distinguishing makers mark, printed on the bottom of each piece.  This mark also identified the store for which the piece was made.

One of our most recent acquisitions is this striking blue boot, showing the boat landing on Lake Pennesseewassee; originally sold at Beck's store.  The location pictured was on the southern end of the lake, near the village.  This picture also is a bit misleading, as the buildings shown are much more elaborate than in real life.

This particular piece is even more interesting, as it came with 55 year old correspondence between an antique dealer in Louisiana and Norway's Town Manager.

Hobbs Variety Store was located at the corner of Main Street and Greenleaf Avenue.  The first floor retail space was shared with Clark's Drug Store.

Photo coutesy of Sid Gordon

Frank Beck (left) in front of his store at the corner of Main & Cottage Streets, circa 1900 to 1910.

Historical Society Collection


1895 Newspaper Ads