On April 24, 1796, Dutch merchant Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest (1739-1801) arrived in Philadelphia from Canton with "A Box of China for Lady Washington." Van Braam designed the porcelain's decoration, which symbolizes his belief in the unity of the colonies that formed the United States and his scorn for their former ruler, King George III.
Martha Washington's Will refers to Van Braam's gift as "tea china." However, two-handled covered cups such as this were used in Europe for serving chocolate and caudle, a warm spiced drink of wine or ale. Chocolate was served for breakfast at Mount Vernon, and Mrs. Washington perhaps occasionally used Van Braam's so-called "States china" to serve this exotic drink.
A: Double-handled circular cup with sides molded with a wide astragal at top and rounded at bottom, single-cusped ear-shaped handles on opposite sides, and a shallow foot ring. The cup is decorated in overglaze polychrome enamels and gilt. The center front of the cup features the interlocking black initials “MW” surrounded by a green laurel wreath at the center of a gilded sunburst. Below the sunburst is a ribbon, touched red at the tips, with the motto “DECUS ET TUTAMEN AB ILLO" written in black. A blue snake, biting its tail, with gilded scales and its top outlined in black, encircles the top of the rim exterior. Below it is a chain of fifteen wide green links outlined in black joined by smaller gilded links, outlined in red; each of the green links contains the name of a state: “VIRGINIA”, “KENTUCKY”, “No CAROLINA”, “So CAROLINA”, “GEORGIA”, “NEW HAMPSHIRE”, “MASSACHUSETTS”, “VERMONT”, “RHODE ISLAND”, “CONNECTICUT”, “NEW YORK”, “IERSEY”, “PENNSYLVANIA”, “DELAWARE”, and “MARYLAND”, respectively. The cusps on the handles are gilded. Gilded scrollwork appears on the top of one handle; nothing remains of the decoration on the other. Traces of gilt appear around the edge of the cup. Pattern name: States
C: High-domed circular lid with a scalloped rim, the remains of a knop, and a high foot ring, decorated in overglaze polychrome enamels and gilt. Around the knop at the top of the dome is a green laurel wreath at the center of a gilded sunburst. A blue snake, biting its tail, with gilded scales and its top outlined in black, encircles the rim. The base of the knop is touched in gilt. Pattern name: States