In the late 1950s, there was revival of interest in commemorating depictions of local churches on ceramic plates. This had been a practice that had become popular in the 1890s through the early years of the 20th century when churches contracted with porcelain companies in Germany to produce decorative china with coloured images of the church fired on them. Commemorative china in this early period was not confined to plates. The range was quite impressive – everything from small saucers and cups to candy dishes and bowls – even miniature china boots!
However, the golden era of commemorative china church plates was from the 1950s through the 1980s. Seemingly rare was the congregation in Canada (particularly among the mainline historic Protestant churches) that could resist the temptation of having a plate decorated with its church’s image. For an additional charge, the congregation could have an historical summary of the church printed on the reverse.
One of the attractions of the plate – and one which would have favoured the profit margins of the companies – was that the churches used the sale of the plates as a fund-raiser. So, it was not unusual for even small congregations to order a large quantity so that they could sell them to “their sisters, their cousins and their aunts”.
There were two Ontario companies which cornered the market in the decoration and sale of these plates – namely, the Canadian Art China Company of Collingwood and the Creemore China and Glass Company of Creemore.
The legacy of this practice is that there remains a visual record of Canada’s churches at the height of this country’s Christian era. Many of the churches commemorated have now been demolished or renovated for a purpose other than as a centre for Christian worship and service.
As of Jan. 2013, the Museum has a collection of over 400 commemorative china plates in this collection. Also included are commemorative mugs and bells. Owing to the fact that the United Church of Canada does not maintain a national museum, the National Presbyterian Museum also collects commemorative plates of United Churches which were constructed by The Presbyterian Church in Canada prior to Church Union in 1925.