Exporters Dedicated to Their Goal

By Anne McCollam

May 18, 2018 4 min read

Q: My grandmother owned this porcelain vase in the early 1900s. It is decorated with palm trees and a boat sailing on a sea. The height is 7 inches, and it is 4 inches at the widest part at the top. Marked on the bottom are the words "Hand Painted Nippon" and the letter "M" in a wreath. There are no chips or cracks on the vase, and it is in very good condition.

What can you tell me about my vase?

Q: Your vase was made in Japan. According to the McKinley Tariff of 1890, objects must be marked with their county of origin. "Nippon" is the Japanese word for Japan, and it was included on marks on porcelain that was exported to the United States from 1890 to 1921.

The letter "M" stands for Morimura Brothers and was used from 1891 to 1941. Yutaka Morimura and Baron Ichizaemon Morimura founded an exporting firm in Tokyo, Japan, in 1876 and soon opened a New York branch called Morimura Brothers. They were dedicated in their goal to provide exceptional art and porcelain that appealed to the American market.

Similar scenes on Nippon porcelain were popular in the 1920s. Your vase would probably fetch $50 to $75.

Q: This number is marked in black on the bottom of a pottery pitcher that I bought around 1995. There is no manufacturer name included, just the numbers. Friends have been curious about the mark and its significance, as have I. The pitcher appears to be hand-painted with stylized blue flowers and green leaves. It has an applied handle and stands about 7 inches tall.

Any information you can provide will be appreciated.

A: Marks on pottery and porcelain can be a treasure trove of information. They can help identify the maker, country of origin and vintage of an object. Marks are stamped, hand-painted or impressed. Some pieces have only a paper label that is removed by owners or lost over time. A plethora of mark shapes and letters that include animals, shields, crowns, banners, suns and stars have been used for centuries. There are excellent books of marks that help solve the mystery of the name of the factory that used a specific mark, the location, the type of material used, the date of manufacture and the years of factory operation. Pieces marked with only numbers are problematic and difficult to identify.

Alas, I have no information on the history of your pitcher. Although its origin may remain a mystery, I'm sure you will continue to enjoy it.

 "Nippon" is the Japanese word for Japan.
"Nippon" is the Japanese word for Japan.
 Objects that are only marked with a number can be a mystery.
Objects that are only marked with a number can be a mystery.

Address your questions to Anne McCollam, P. O. Box 247, Notre Dame, IN 46556. Items of a general interest will be answered in this column. Due to the volume of inquiries, she cannot answer individual letters. To find out more about Anne McCollam and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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