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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Plates

Wedgwood issued its first set of plates for MIT in 1930: 12 views, available in either blue or mulberry, on a 10.25 inch diameter Queensware (earthenware) plate. They chose a floral and foliage border originally used by Wedgwood on a dinner pattern entitled "Chinese". Although mulberry is closer to the school's colors (red and gray), the blue and white plates proved so much more popular that relatively few of the mulberry plates were produced; they are fairly scarce today.

In 1952, MIT authorized Wedgwood to produce a new edition of eight views, based on the engravings of Samuel Chamberlain (MIT Class of 1918), whose photographs and engravings have been widely published in books and magazines, as well as a series of books on New England travel destinations and historical sites. These 1952 plates were originally issued with the views printed in black on a 10 inch diameter Queensware (earthenware) plate. Sometime thereafter, these same eight views were issued in a limited edition of 250 sets, with the engravings in sepia (brown) on a 10.75 inch diameter bone china plate, with a cream-colored border and a gold edge. These bone china plates are very elegant as well as being very scarce. Very few schools (Coast Guard Academy and Princeton being two besides MIT) commissioned these bone china sets from Wedgwood and were in all cases produced as limited edition presentation sets for donors or others with specific connections to the school.

From "Commemorative Plates by Wedgwood", a pamphlet published in 1931 by Jones, McDuffee & Stratton, the major US china importer of the time, based in Boston, we learn more information:

"It is only natural that the plates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, should suggest that strength which is characteristic of the work of properly trained technical men and women. Expert handling of the masses of several units focusing the various elements of the great institution gives the design a special charm. Particularly interesting among these group pictures is the airplane view of the main educational buildings. We chose for the border design an ancient Chinese pattern [actually the stock Wedgwood china pattern named "Chinese", a bit mis-stated here] which seemed to frame particularly well the architecture of MIT. Engineers love beautiful things. At least their response, in proportion to the size of the Tech alumni body, was the largest among the several series." [How did we get from here to "MIT grads only eat on paper plates", the 21st century take on Techies? ...ed.]


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