Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Antique Victorian Toilet Stands

In the Victorian era,the lady of the house had various implements and accessories displayed on her vanity. One of the more unusual of these accouterments was the toilet stand, also known as a toilet sets or toilet casters, as they were sometimes called. These were not only used by women, but by men as shaving stands as well.

The simplest of these was a silverplated frame to hold a single bottle of cologne or perfume. Elaborate styles often held two bottles, a puff (powder box), a vase for flowers and a drawer for jewelry, or comb and brush.

These toilet stands were often made in ormolu as well as silverplate. Very little has been said about these beautiful reminders of femininity of the past but the ormolu examples seem to be the oldest, and were made as early as 1840-1850s. In the late 1860s, silverplated examples began to surface.

A 1871 American silverplate catalog states “The bottles in these sets are of the latest Paris pattern and will be changed as often as new patterns are received.” Another calls the bottles “Malachite-blue, pink, white or canary.” And another simply “Aqua Marine decorated.” But in most cases, the glass is not mentioned.

Many of the cologne and powder box sets we see regularly today were probably meant for use in the stands. Toilet sets made up of satin glass, camphor glass, opaline glass and transparent and opaque glass were offered for use in stands. Bottles and boxes were further decorated with cutting, etching and enameling.

The silverplated toilet stands seem to have started in a modest way around 1867, but by 1877, must have increased in popularity. By July of that year, the Meriden Britannia Co., then the leading maker of silverware, was offering 41 different designs. In Sept. 1878, they added 18 new styles, and by Sept 1879, an additional 39 were offered.

Their catalog for 1882 illustrated 71 styles, and for 1886, the variety reached 85 designs. They ranged in price from $2 for a tiny stand holding a 2 oz bottle to $75 for the most elaborate, a fancy stand with bottles for cologne, a puff box, a mirror, and female figures with candleholders for six candles perched upon their heads. The stand was beautifully decorated in a gold finish.

Smaller silver companies in the Meriden, Connecticut area were also making toilet stands. Meriden Silver Plate Co. offered 29 designs in 1879; Wm. Rogers Mfg.Co. of Hartford, Conn. had 15 in 1886; Middletown Plate Co. had 14 in 1882; and Simpson, Hall, Miller & Co. show 9 designs in their catalog for 1886. All of these firms, with others, eventually became part of international Silver Company.

Many ormolu toilet stands were made in France, these were very popular around the Napoleon III period and are termed Palais Royal. Many were fitted with beveled mirrors and decorated with metal leaves or flowers.

By 1890, the heyday of the toilet stand was basically over, and only a few stands were being offered. By the turn of the century, these were considered “old fashioned” and silver makers were no longer producing them.

Despite the hundreds of styles offered by the companies in the 19th century, these toilet stands are not found easily and are considered very rare today.

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