Collecting antique pictorial souvenir china or view china

souvenir view china
An assortment of shapes, views and themes that one can collect.

Our historical society has a permanent display of view china with old black and white transfer images of our  small town including churches, natural scenes, and our common and I admire and peruse the collection whenever I can. A few years ago, I came across view china in an antique store and noticed that the plate had a great image of a Connecticut scene and we were in Vermont. I thought this isn’t right for it to be so far from its origin. That moment began my crusade to get these beautiful and historic items back where they belong.

Most people don’t realize that view china is quite old because they might link it to kitschy 1950s souvenir dishes. The earlier transfer view china is much older, mostly made in Germany from 1890 to before WWI. Another bonus I enjoy about view china is the story of the merchant that purchased and sold the piece. Some have their name and the name of their shop imprinted on the base of these dishes and so it gives even more depth to the snapshot of a town in an earlier time. As people got more leisure time they were able to take trains (perhaps even a day trip) to various locations and bring back a piece of view china as a memento of the day. This benefitted both the shopkeeper and the tourist. Most view china was not used, although I have seen some used in very interesting ways!

There are two ideas about collecting view china. One is collecting on a theme such as steamships, bridges, beaches, lighthouses, Civil War battle sites, or towns. The other type of collection focuses on the shape of this porcelain such as tea cups and saucers, pin trays, shoes, smoking dishes or pitchers.

A hand colored and stenciled pin tray of Devil’s Den in Gettysburg Pennsylania

I think that as collections of view china are being downsized or split up from estates it is a fresh opportunity for you to begin a collection or try to get them back to historical societies in the areas they picture. If you are interested in more on view china I suggest you get one of the books available, mostly on the used book market.


The back stamp on this pin tray shows a post 1891 Made in Germany stamp
An example of a folded corner dish and sugar bowl featuring Minot’s Light, a lighthouse in Cohasset Massachusetts.
The back stamp shows the name of the shopkeeper who ordered these Minot’s Light pieces. If you were related to Joseph, you could hold something that he must have held at one time!





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  1. This article is fascinating, Mary Ellen. I have collected advertising pieces for many years without realizing that those with scenery on them were called “view china”. Nice to know the adage “never too old to learn something” is a true one.

    Your suggestion about focusing a collection on specific areas (by style or by theme) is a great one – either for new collectors OR for people who would like to refine what they have.

    Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with us. 🙂

  2. Thanks Linda! This is also called Scenic China so if you want to search for some in Google for example try using those words or even “antique ceramic” along with your town,county or state to see what is available. I have seen a photo in a book of western USA scenic pieces.

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