Women of all social classes were involved in the Great War in a variety of roles. Lillian Gary Taylor (1865-1961) represents a woman of substantial financial means and social connections who participated in the war effort in a special way by envisioning and designing the Liberty China and Queen’s Ware tea service for the purpose of raising funds for war relief.
Taylor’s father, General James A. Gary (1833-1920), was a wealthy textile manufacturer from Baltimore, Maryland, and an active politician who made an unsuccessful bid for Governor of that state. He also served as Postmaster General, a cabinet-level position, in the McKinley administration.1 Taylor's family’s wealth allowed her to travel widely, beginning with a European tour at the age of 16. Thirty-three years later, her travels placed her and her husband in Austria only days after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in Sarajevo, on June 28, 1914. Taylor and her husband remained in Austria during the ensuing confusion and returned to the United States via The Hague and Great Britain in late August 1914.2
Inspired to help the war effort, Taylor wrote, "When our country entered the Great War I decided to have this chapter in our history commemorated by a patriotic china, to be made by a great potter and that I would devote all profits to the war sufferers."3 Utilizing her financial resources and social connections, Taylor implemented her vision. She designed the armorial decoration for the pottery that included the flags of eleven Allied countries and a shield with the Stars and Stripes. Her friends, who were professional designers, refined her motif.4 Taylor selected Josiah Wedgwood & Sons (founded in 1759) of Etruria, England, to produce the ware. She made arrangements for production directly with Francis H. Wedgwood (1867-1930) and received the first order in September 1917.5 In order to ensure that all profits from her tea service were used for charitable relief, Taylor exclusively marketed and sold Liberty China from her home, keeping a set in her parlor to show to potential buyers.
In 1924, after selling 9,251 pieces, including 384 teapots, Taylor privately published a book detailing how the $14,203.14 earned on the sales was distributed to various war-related charities.6 The American Red Cross and its subcommittees received the largest amount. Over forty other international war-related charities including the American Committee for Relief in the Near East, the Serbian Orphans, and the Star and Garter Hospital received funds from Taylor’s fundraising efforts. Production of Liberty China and Queen’s Ware ceased on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918.
Credit for the written content of this section goes to Greg Bingham from the Division of Home and Community Life.
Barbara D. McMillan, "Tea and Empathy: The Architects’ Tea Service, 1932-1933, and Its American Precedents," Studies in Decorative Arts, 8 No. 2, (Spring-Summer 2001), 105-129.
Lillian Gary Taylor, Liberty China and Queen’s Ware; Manufactured and Sold Solely for the Benefit of Various Allied War Charities, reprinted by Elaine and Byron Born, Christmas 1978, (Doubleday, Page & Company, 1924).
1 Wiki on March 15, 2016.
2 Lillian Gary Taylor, Memories, Volume I, abstract published online by Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia. Also "Cable Word, ‘All Well’ Many Baltimoreans in Europe are Heard From, "The Baltimore Sun, Aug. 11, 1914.
3 Lillian Gary Taylor, Liberty China and Queen’s Ware; Manufactured and Sold Solely for the Benefit of Various Allied War Charities, reprinted by Elaine and Byron Born, Christmas 1978, (Doubleday, Page & Company, 1924), 1.
4 Ibid., 2-3.
5 Ibid., 4.
6 Ibid, 7. Liberty China is also discussed briefly by Barbara D. McMillan, "Tea and Empathy: The Architects’ Tea Service, 1932-1933, and Its American Precedents," Studies in Decorative Arts, 8 No. 2, (Spring-Summer 2001), 105-129. McMillan’s article discusses the charitable aspect of the tea services.
Lillian Gary Taylor and Robert Coleman Taylor in 1905, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia