I forgot how lovely they were. I have 6 dinner plates, and I should start putting them to good use.
I looked into the Willow pattern, and found they were designed by Thomas Minton around 1790, and they have been in use for over 200 years now! Minton lived from 1765-1836, a noted English potter, founding Minton and Sons in Staffordshire in 1793, which grew into a major factory with international reputation. He mostly produced domestic tableware in blue transfer printed or painted.
By the way, the Blue Willow has an interesting marketing story, which you can see on http://dressedintime.blogspot.com! Check it out!
Porcelains from China were always in high demand in Europe, but importing them was pricey. In the 18th Century, the demand began to wane, and by the second half of the century, the trade was in serious decline. The English, as well as the new Colonists, began making their own, using designs from the Orient, with an English flare. The Colonists took the idea a step forward, using the blue along with American themes, including maritime. People were happy to purchase these exotic dining ware, at reasonable, domestic prices.
But, while production was being churned out in China, their factories were booming! Above is an interesting print that can be found in the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA. I visited there last Fall, and saw their wonderful exhibit (part of the permanent collection) of Asian porcelains.
This print shows the factory workers packing the plates, utilizing straw baling. In the Peabody, you can see one of the bales (about 2' long x 12" wide), left unopened, that has been x-ray'd. Inside you can see the cups and saucers stacked, one after the other. Today, I guess we would use bubble-wrap!