“Rudduck and Comp., Complete Shop Fitters for All Trades, 262 Old St., London, E.C.,” reads the embossed label on the back of one of this pair of 19th century toleware tea canisters. According to a turn-of-the-century review of the firm in the journal, “The Chemist and Druggist,” Rudduck manufactured “leading lines in shop fittings (and the) solidity and daintiness in design are both exhibited in their products, and show that the firm can meet all tastes in the manner of shop and office fitting.”
The Chinese characters on these two canisters are artfully depicted, no doubt copied by Rudduck from the actual wooden tea crates that came in regularly to shops from China. Rudduck supplied beautiful and rugged toleware canisters such as these to shops which then were able to sell tea in smaller quantities to their customers.
This is a fine pair of large tea canisters. The original showy paint has the right amount of wear; too much wear is ugly, too little and you have to wonder how original it is. There are just a few expected knocks and dings in the tole, enough to denote their age, but nothing to detract from their attractiveness; if it’s character that is sought, these canisters have it. In addition, both canisters have retained their original covers. (One lifts off easily enough, but the other is tight and I don’t want to force it.) There is only a very small amount of rust here and there, but not readily noticeable.
If you could go back in time and place them in a tea seller’s shop, they would look perfectly attractive and natural there as they would today in your home. The reviewer for “The Chemist and Druggist” was certainly justified in his good opinion of Rudduck products, considering how prone these pieces were to all kinds of damage.
At 17 inches high, 9-1/4 inches in diameter and 29 inches in circumference, this pair is among the group of the larger tea cans. The original enameling is still very much intact and has developed a good, soft sheen. On the bottom of both tins, a collector has placed a green velvet cloth to prevent the metal from scratching their table.
Their impressive size, along with their wonderful original gilded decorations and their very nice condition, makes for an exceptionally decorative pair of “shop fittings.”
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