Claude Ann suggested I write about cup plates, about which I knew almost nothing. That meant a trip to Google to do some research. Plus Claude Ann sent me some information that helped.
Before Claude Ann asked me, all I knew was that in the late 1700s and 1800s Americans poured tea into the saucer to cool, then drank from the saucer. The cup plate was used like a coaster to hold the cup to keep it from dripping on the table. Frankly, this sounds odd to me. Why not let the tea cool in the cup and drink it that way vs. trying to hold a shallow saucer full of tea? I would surely spill all over!
Claude Ann said her father used to pour his coffee into the saucer to cool and the cup would drip on the table cloth. Coffee and tea both stain so bad!
After researching cup plates, I still prefer drinking my tea from a nice big mug in the evening, but here you go, a bit about cup plates with a video at the end.
Cup plates were made from glass or china. They were an opportunity for the hostess to show lovely little pieces around the room when guests came to enjoy “a dish of tea”. Many cup plates featured famous people or events or locations. The variety and quality, plus the small size, make these outstanding collectibles.
This is a neat example honoring President Harrison.
Here is a photo from Claude Ann of a collection. Notice the lovely colors!
You could easily collect around a theme, like a person or place, or by maker or even color. In fact some of the cup plate makers capitalized on our universal desire to own a remembrance of a happy trip and made these little treasures for local souvenir shops in holiday destinations!
Cup plates were almost solely an American fashion. European tea drinkers used the cup. What I did not find out was whether English or French people also poured tea into the saucer to cool, then poured it back to the cup. Does anyone know?
One reason to pour tea into the saucer was that cups did not have handles. The saucers were deeper and wider than ours are today. Maybe it wasn’t any harder to drink from the saucer than from the cup!
Here is a neat video about tea cups and cup plates. At about 1 minute 40 seconds shows a lady drinking her tea quite properly from the saucer.