The Railroad Commissary

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Centenary Pattern    (a.k.a Colonial Pattern)

Making sense of why some Centenary pieces cost more than others, when they all look pretty much the same. Its all in the backstamp!!

Scammell's / Patent Applied For The oldest backstamp is for Scammell's Lamberton China.  The Words "Patent Applied For" appear at the bottom of the backstamp.  These pieces are from the late 1920's and are fairly scarce, probably the second least common variety of Centenary, and they are eagerly sought after.  This wording could also appear beneath the full-sized shield logo on dinner plates

Scammell's / Design Patented The next backstamp, chronologically, is the very familiar Capitol logo, but the words "Design Patented" appear at the bottom of the backstamp.  This backstamp appeared from the very late 1920's until 1954, when Scammell's sold out to Sterling China and the Lamberton plant was closed.  These are reasonably common.  While the supply is much greater, and demand less, this is still a desirable backstamp as is shows nearly certain vintage dining car usage.  This wording could also appear beneath the full-sized shield logo on dinner plates.

Sterling / Lamberton China Beginning in 1954, Sterling used the same Capitol backstamp, but one that shows the manufacturer as "Sterling Lamberton China".  The change reflects Sterling's buyout of Scammell's and the transfer of production to Sterling's, East Liverpool, Ohio factory.  These are less common than their Scammell's counterparts (as the period of their production was short), but are prized about equally.  I should note that some people claim that the quality of the Sterling made Centenary pattern pieces was poor, and that this led to the transfer of the manufacture to Shenango.  In my opinion, this is little more than ledgend.  Yes, indeed, some Sterling pieces were flawed, but on average, they are certainly no worse than Scammell's pieces.  I believe that this is one of those "facts" that is "true" only because it has been repeated often.  I suggest that collectors let the pieces speak for themselves, and do likewise for the facts, when they become known. Indeed, a more likely reason for the shift away from Sterling was the fact the New Castle, Pa. was on the B&O, while East Liverpool, Oh. was not.

Buffalo In the meantime, Buffalo China coaxed an order for Centenary Pattern china out of the B&O.  Apparently this didn't lead to harmonious relations, and the order was never repeated.  While these pieces are generally quite similar to all other pieces of this pattern, Centenary with the Buffalo backstamp are the most scarce and fetch fantastic prices.  This backstamp was a similar Capitol logo, but attributed to Buffalo China.

The Shenango backstamps In 1949, Shenango started receiving some orders for Centenary china.  By the late 1950's they had become the sole producer of Centenary china, and continued so until the end of dining car service - and beyond.  All the following patterns are variations of the Shenango backstamp.

Shenango / green Native Potter Occasionally, Centenary pieces are seen with only the green Native Potter (seated on a carpet) Shenango backstamp (no Capitol logo).  As use of the green Native Potter stamp ended in the 1950's, these assuredly saw dining car use, and may well be the oldest of the Shenango-made Centenary pattern. They don't seem well known, so they don't seem to fetch the really high prices, but as they are somewhat scarce, and undoubtedly saw dining car service, they ought to be worth more than Scammell or Sterling "design patented" pieces.

Shenango / Capitol Then came pieces with the traditional B&O Capitol backstamp, but attributed to Shenango China, New Castle, Pa.  This version had no other marking, specifically, no Native potter.  At first, these pieces were primarily dining car china, but Centenary pattern china became a very popular souvenir item at the B&O RR museum store, so much so, that after dining car service ended, the pattern continued to be ordered just for museum sales.  Centenary pattern had always been sold as souvenirs, and even household use on rare occasion, but not on this scale previously.  Because it is more common, and because a fair percentage of it never saw dining car service, collector demand for these Shenango marked pieces is a bit softer, yet they are still widely collected.

Shenango / rubber stamp Some pieces have been seen with rather basic rubberstamp backstamps bearing the words "Shenango China / New Castle, Pa / USA / and a date code.  So far, these date codes have been seen bearing a number of "25" (the code for 1967) or higher.  At that late a date, there is a good likelihood of souvenir items, but dining car use is still quite possible.  A date code of 29 or higher, though, absolutely precludes dining car use.  This backstamp seems to correspond in period of useage to the black Shenango Native Potter backstamp, but on smaller items.  It can appear with or without the B&O Capitol backstamp.

Shenango / black Native Potter I In 1968 Shenango supplemented the B&O Capitol backstamp with a black Native Potter backstamp.  At first, the Native potter figure was similar to the earlier figure.  Some pieces have only the Shenango Native Potter backstamp, without the B&O Capitol backstamp.  This Shenango Native Potter backstamp lasted through the end of B&O passenger service, and thus, are the last pieces of B&O Centenary china that can be considered to be authentic dining car china.  Even so, these were made during the last few years of passenger dining car service when, due to ever more train cut backs, there were fewer dining cars in operation.  Like those before them, these pieces were made for railroad use use, but many, probably most, were sold through the museum store.

Shenango / black Native Potter II Soon after B&O passenger service ended, the logo was altered with a more stylized Native potter figure.  It is not possible that any Centenary piece with this more stylized Native potter backstamp ever saw dining car use.  As they were never actually dining car china, authentic dining car china collectors will not add them to their collections.  One must be cautious when buying Shenango pieces from photos at times the Shenango logo is not exactly near the B&O logo unscrupulous dealers will only show the B&O logo (omitting the Native Potter logo) in order to make their piece appear to be the earlier style.  Indeed, one of the most active on-line auction dealers in Centenary china has been caught doctoring his photos so as to erase the Indian potter backstamp use great caution in buying from lesser known dealers!!  The Railroad Commissary does not stock such pieces as they were purely commemorative and never saw dining car service (except maybe those that we buy as parts of large collections - but they would be listed only in the "Bargain Basement").  

Shenango / later dates Yet later, the Native Potter backstamp was discontinued, but then the upper right date changed from 1927 to 1977, then 1978, then 1993.  This backstamp looks very similar to the earlier Capitol / Shenango (no Indian) backstamp, so care must be taken when buying Shenango Centenary china.  Often the front pattern was also somewhat modified on these later pieces, causing the white border between the inner and outer designs to be significantly wider.  These too are simply "collectors" plates, but not for authentic dining car china collectors.  Again, the Railroad Commissary does not stock such china (except maybe in the "Bargain Basement").  

Shenango / Syracuse Finally, yet another version of the Shenango backstamp was made but after Shenango and Syracuse china had merged.  This backstamp looks very similar to the earlier Capitol / Shenango (no Native Potter) backstamp, including a reversion to the 1927 date in the top right corner, so again, care must be taken when buying Shenango Centenary china.  Any mention of "Syracuse", or "Special Edition" in the backstamp makes it a long post-dining car service commemorative item.  Indeed, these pieces were minted in the 1990's.  Again, the Railroad Commissary does not stock such china.

Thanks to Dennis McGrath of Ellarslie, the Trenton City Museum for additional Scammell's information.

lists of items found in each phase

The following is a list of B&O Centenary china which has been confirmed to exist. Please note that this list is still "under construction". there were, no doubt, many other pieces made by some, probably all, of these manufacturers and these will be added once substantive evidence of their existence surfaces. Also note that there were sometimes several variations of a number of these items - some of which are very rare. Even though incomplete, it can serve as an interesting checklist to compare against the items in your collection.

Scammell's / Patent Applied For :

butter pat
"Penn" demitasse & saucer (w/ fill line)
"Penn" cup & saucer
12 oz. pitcher "route scenes - both Thomas Viaduct"
6 1/2" bowl
7" bowl (w/ wide rim)
6 5/8" plate
8 1/4" plate
9" plate
9" soup plate
11 3/8" platter
13 7/8" platter
15" platter

Scammell's / Design Patented :

butter pat
"Penn" cup & saucer (w/ fill line)
"Streamline" cup & saucer (w fill line)
"Streamline" cup & saucer (w/o fill line)
"Penn" demitasse & saucer (w/ fill line)
"Penn" demitasse & saucer (w/o fill line)
"streamline" (tall) demitasse & saucer
bouillon cup (wide design) (w/ fill line)
bouillon cup (wide design) (w/o fill line)
cup cover, 4" (not BS / presumed Scammell's)
double handle cup
single egg cup - double-ended type
double egg cup
gravy boat
12 oz. pitcher "route scenes - both Thomas Viaduct"
12 oz. pitcher "route scenes - Thomas Viaduct & Potomas Valley" (fill line)
12 oz. pitcher "route scenes - Thomas Viaduct & Potomas Valley" (no fill line)
12 oz. pitcher "locomotive pictures"
2 qt. pitcher "route scenes"
ball pitcher
sugar bowl "route scenes"
teapot "route scenes"
teapot "locomotive pictures"
chocolate pot "route scenes"
ashtray / match holder
5" baker
5 1/2" baker
6 1/8" baker
5 3/8" bowl
6 3/8" bowl "Carrollton Viaduct / locomotive pictures"
6 3/8" bowl "Thomas Viaduct / floral background"
6 3/4" compote (with four train scenes)
6 3/4" compote (with seven train scenes)
11 3/4" celery trough (with one flower ring)
11 3/4" celery trough (with two flower rings)
hot food cover
6 3/4" plate
8 1/8" plate
9" plate (replaced by 10 1/2" plate in early 1930's)
10 1/2" plate (w/ full shield BS)
10 1/2" plate (w/ regular BS)
10 3/4" divided plate (round upper scenes)
10 3/4" divided plate (tapered upper scenes)
5 5/8" baker
8 1/4" platter
11 7/8" platter
13 7/8" platter
15 3/4" platter

Sterling / Lamberton China :

12 oz. pitcher
5 7/8" oval bowl
6 1/4" bowl
celery trough
8" platter
11 1/2" platter

Buffalo :

6 7/8" plate
8 1/4" plate
9 1/4" plate
8 1/2" platter
10 3/4" divided plate
11" platter

Shenango / green Native Potter :

Shenango / Capitol (no Native Potter) :

butter pat
"Penn" demitasse & saucer
"Streamline" cup & saucer (triangle pointed handle - earlier)
"Streamline" cup & saucer (rounded handle - later)
bouillon cup
double egg cup
gravy boat
12 oz. pitcher
chocolate pot
6 1/8" baker
6 3/4" compote (with seven train scenes)
6 3/4" plate
7 1/4" plate
8 1/8" plate
9 1/8" soup plate
10 1/2" plate
11 1/2" platter

Shenango / rubber stamp :

butter pat
"Streamline" cup
bouillon cup
double egg cup
12 oz pitcher
gravy boat

Shenango / black Native Potter potter I :

sugar bowl (w/ lid) (no B&O markings)
12 oz pitcher
6" bowl
6 1/2" plate
10 1/2" plate
11 1/2" platter
8 1/4" platter
15" platter

Thanks to Gretchen Nile Baldwin, Mark Toll and Doug Wheeler for additional information.

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