Most of us have at one time or another visited the Fair, to return home highly delighted with some small token won at one of the stalls, perhaps the hoopla, or even the coconut shy. Which ever stall it was that benefited from our patronage mattered little compared to the joy we felt at gaining a prize which, more often than not, was a very cheap plastic or plaster figure of a dog, cat or even a human figure worth only a few pence.
Had we lived in the later half of the 19th century, we would
more than likely have come home the proud owner of a little china figure,
which is now referred to as a "Fairing". These Fairings were mostly about
3.5" long and about 2.5" deep and 3" tall, mounted on a rectangular base.
Each one, and there were over 400 different varieties, depicted an amusing
scene either of risqué courtship and marriage, parenthood, politics,
war, children and sometimes animals behaving as children.
If you turn the Fairing upside down there is a good chance you will
find Conta & Boehme’s impressed hallmark, a bent arm holding a sword,
enclosed in a shield. This mark is usually found with an impressed 4 digit
number ranging from the first series 2850 to 2899, and the second series
3301 to the 3380s. Although some of the earlier Fairings had the 4 digit
numbers incised on the base, these will usually be found without Conta
& Boehme’s shield mark. From the 1890s the shield mark may be printed
or the "Made in Germany" mark could be present, but just to confuse you
even further, no 4 digit impressed or incised numbers may be present. But
Fairings have appeared with numbers outside these number sequences such
as "Oysters Sir?" which is numbered 2691.
Interest is now world wide, and collectors all over the globe show great interest in the specialized auction sales held by Andrew Hilton’s Special Auction Services of Reading, England who holds up to four sales each year. Tel +44 (0)118 971 2949 - http://www.thesaurus.co.uk/sas/
Throughout this period Conta & Boehme produced uncaptioned Fairings,
which were primarily for sale in shops and bazaars, rather than fairground
prizes. Also manufactured throughout this period were decorated china Trinket
Boxes and Match Strikers. Some were captioned and the figures on the lids
were identical to those on the Fairings and clearly these too, were included
for the same markets.
The manufacturers obviously borrowed many of their ideas for Fairings
from such printed materials as sheet music covers. Two entitled "Pluck"
and "The Decided Smash" are copies from the cover of a popular song sheet
of the time "Full Cry Gallop". In the case of "Slack" and "How’s Business",
these are very good copies of each side of a Victorian Staffordshire mug.
"Champagne Charlie Is My Name" represents George Leybourne making popular
the song "Champagne Charlie" in the 1860s. There are also a few scenes
of the Franco-Prussian War which include "English Neutrality Attending
the Sick and Wounded".
Conta & Boehme’s production of Fairings prospered from the 1850/70s and at its peak in the 1800s the company had over 800 employees, exporting goods to England, America and Europe. Production of Fairings along with the company’s other extensive range of products including candelabra, jardinieres and figurines continued to flourish until the outbreak of the 1914/1918 Great War, and gradually dwindled until the factory finally ceased production in 1931 after 117 wonderful years of continuous production.
We hope the browser will derive some enjoyment and interest from these Web Pages and gain some insight into the humor that went into the manufacture of these very delightful china ornaments. They were made for the purpose of giving pleasure to the masses who thronged to the fairs, and part of that pleasure of their ownership springs from the high possibility that each was won and given in a spirit of fun and affection.
Conta & Boehme Porcelain J & R Vogel, ‘Release date 1999’
Victorian Trinket Boxes J & R Vogel, First Published 1996
ISBN 0-9645241-0-4 Available from [email protected]
Antiques & Their Values, Victorian Fairings, M Anderson First Published 1982. ISBN 0-86248-37-X (Out of print)
Victorian Fairings & Their Values, M. Anderson, First published 1975, Reprinted 1976. Second edition 1978. (Out of print)
Victorian China Fairings, W.S Bristow, First published 1964, Second Edition 1971. (Out of print)
These web pages were compiled by J & R Vogel, and R Begley, who would be more than pleased to receive your comments or questions regarding any Conte & Boehme items whatsoever.
Our sincere thanks to J & R Vogel for supplying the excellent images