The Titanic—Were These Pirkenhammer Dishes On That Ill-Fated Ship?

Updated on April 2, 2018
Hanavee profile image

Brian Gray obtained his degree in Language from Lee University and has been a published author and professional writer since 1985.

Pirkenhammer Sugar Bowl From the Turn of the Century

Finding an Exquisite Set of Pirkenhammer China

The famous White Star Liner Titanic will always hold a special place in our hearts. Just the name of that magnificent ship immediately conjures up unforgettable and moving scenes from romantic and tragic movies about this great human disaster. Even though the Titanic sank in 1912, the mystique of anything and everything that has to do with this incredible ship is still spell-binding to this day. I remember watching the movie “A Night To Remember” when I was just a boy, and I was so shaken by the experience of witnessing the drama unfold that I had to read the book. I will never forget the human tragedy that was recalled in both of these. My great-grandmother was born in 1876, and I would often sit with her and talk about the “olden” days. She had witnessed so much of history first-hand, so sitting with Grandma was often like getting to take a trip through time. I once asked her about what she remembered of the Titanic, and I will never forget the look on her face. All these many years later, and she still got a very sad look on her face as she described what a horrible and tragic event it was. The dramatic event of the Titanic sinking with so many lives lost was a powerful event, and I think it will continue to haunt us for many years still.

It is, therefore, no surprise that, if a person finds that they have discovered something that may have been aboard that unforgettable ship, it will make them pause and wonder. I will never forget the feeling I had when I first looked at the piece of dinner china that was in my hands, looking at the name Pirkenhammer on the reverse side, and thinking to myself, “Could it be?” “Could what be?” you are probably asking. Could it be possible that I was holding a piece of china from the Titanic? Let’s take a journey.

Pirkenhammer Tureen

A Brief History of Pirkenhammer

The dinner service chinaware that became Pirkenhammer of Austria / Bavaria was founded by Johann Gottlob List and Friedrich Hocke in 1803. The company changed hands in 1811 when it was sold to Johan Martin Fischer of Erfurt and Christopher Reichenbach of Brezova. In 1822, they were licensed at a national level. Fischer died in 1824, and his wife took his place in the company. In 1831, Fischer’s son, Christian, took over the helm. By now, Pirkenhammer was renowned and had achieved the reputation of being literally the best porcelain in Bohemia, valued especially for its exquisite translucent qualities and design. Christian Fischer observed the French manufacturers very closely, and his extraordinary efforts in design and manufacture led to Pirkenhammer china being considered by Europeans as superior to the French. The company prospered. In 1835, Pirkenhammer won the bronze medal at the Vienna Fair, and took the gold medal in 1839. Pirkenhammer’s reputation soared, and so did the prices. Reichenbach retired in 1852, selling his share to Fischer, and at the same time, Fischer’s daughter, Wilhelmine, married Ludwig von Mieg. He became a partner in the company, and the name on the business was now Fischer and Mieg of Pirkenhammer. Pirkenhammer became so famous for excellent and exquisite china that European royalty and heads of state ordered their dinner service from Pirkenhammer. And this is where the story gets interesting. When European royalty traveled, they would have their dinner service carried with them so that their servants could set their meals appropriately. These people were only going to dine on the best china, no matter where they were, and Pirkenhammer was the fashion for anyone who had money enough to have a set made for them. The average person could not afford to purchase this elegant china, it was just that expensive, and this made it all the more a “must-have” for the ultra rich. Knowing the elegant history of Pirkenhammer, when I heard that Pirkenhammer was aboard the Titanic, it intrigued me, but it did not surprise me, especially knowing that European elite who would travel on this ship would have had their own china brought with them for the journey. But, adding to this tale was the story that Pirkenhammer had been asked by the White Star Line, owners of the Titanic, to manufacture sets just for their ship. And here I was, holding a plate marked Pirkenhammer, a plate that was handed down through the years and carefully tended, as was obvious from the mint condition of the service. People who are not of royal lineage do not usually have maids and butlers hand-cleaning their china, and I have seen beautiful antique pieces with their hand-applied gold edges ruined by lower-class relatives who inherited them and stupidly put them in dishwashers. No, these were typical of antique Pirkenhammer. They had been well-cared for, and not only was the gold on the edges still very prominent, but the patterns were as elegant and rich as the day they were made. And what translucence! Holding these piece up to the light is to see one of the reasons they were so prized. At a cursory glance, I estimated that the set of dishes before me was made somewhere around 1900. However, when exactly would take research, and that I could not do unless I bought the entire set. You can guess what I did.

The Rare Titanic Mark on Pirkenhammer

An Adventure Begns

The story of Pirkenhammer chinaware and the Titanic becomes even more intriguing when one tries to research and nail down exactness, because no one is talking. Pirkenhammer has long since been bought out by disinterested parties, changed hands, and no one there is of any help. But, pieces of Pirkenhammer dating to that time do show up with the word Titanic printed on the back of the plates. Adding further excitement and mystery to this tale is the fact that a piece of Pirkenhammer was found in a stateroom aboard the sunken ship, salvaged, brought to the surface... and sold for a very handsome sum to a major casino in Las Vegas! Thus, if you saw a set of elegant and mint-condition Pirkenhammer dishes sitting in front of you for sale, what would YOU do? I bought them immediately. Yes, visions of finding out that these very dishes might have been aboard the Titanic did dance in my head, but it would take much research before I would know anything. It was home with the dishes, and a great adventure began.

Several Pieces of the Pirkenhammer Set

Pirkenhammer Mark Circa 1918

Dating Pirkenhammer Pieces

Dating any pieces of Pirkenhammer begins with looking on the back of the dishes to examine the “marks,” as they are called. All pottery manufacturers used logos that were applied under the glaze to distinguish their line of pottery ware. By researching historical records of these marks, a person can determine who the manufacturer was, where the item was made, the time period, and in some cases, even the year and month it was manufactured. I only knew that the symbol of the crossed hammers was decidedly Pirkenhammer, and that the Pirkenhammer name sadly disappeared after 1945, but I would have to look up the historical records of the evolution of the Pirkenhammer marks, since their marks had changed several times over the years, and these changes in design would tell me when my pieces were made. I was hoping they were before 1912.

The Set of Pirkenhammer That I Acquired

Pirkenhammer Mark on the Cups

The History of These Pieces Will Continue to Be Made

Somewhat anti-climatic, anyone who knows history could have told me what I was going to eventually find...Czechoslovakia was established in 1918. That name is prominently printed on the back of every one of these beautiful pieces, which means that they were made a few years after the fate of the Titanic. My estimate is that they were made around 1918-1920, and the fact thus becomes obvious that these dishes were too late to make the ill-fated trip. These rare and exquisite pieces of antique Pirkenhammer, therefore, survived to be enjoyed without having to be brought up from the ocean depths. While they may not have earned the fame of being pieces brought up by divers, I think there will someday be some romantic soul who will want to enjoy dining on service that was reserved for very special people. This set of dishes will not be going to a museum after all. I put them on display. Their destiny awaits someone special, someone who appreciates the rare value of antique Pirkenhammer...service to royalty.

A Setting of Pirkenhammer

Pirkenhammer Sugar and Creamer

This Number Appears on the Back of Several of These Pieces

Besides the number 6618 that is on several of these pieces, the number 29 is pressed into the porcelain.
Besides the number 6618 that is on several of these pieces, the number 29 is pressed into the porcelain.

Questions & Answers

  • Do all these plates have a number?

    Not all Pirkenhammer plates are numbered. The set of Pirkenhammer dishes that are in my article are all numbered.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Hanavee profile imageAUTHOR

      Brian Gray 

      7 weeks ago from Pennsylvania

      Kelvin Brown,

      Pirkenhammer was the apex of chinaware in its day, and I, too, am fond of the older pieces.

      Thanks for reading my article, and I am glad you enjoyed it.

      Brian

    • profile image

      Kelvin Brown 

      7 weeks ago

      Thank you for sharing your story about this beautiful china. I am an avid china collector, (Currently 8 sets). Your story gave me insight about this brand of china that I did not know.

    • Hanavee profile imageAUTHOR

      Brian Gray 

      2 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Richard,

      When people of the Upper Class, at the time of the original Pirkenhammer production, purchased dinnerware, they were separated from the Lower Class by wealth, education and lineage. Maybe this is something that you missed, but it is simply a fact of history. I have seen extremely valuable dishes that were made for the Upper Class that then fell into the hands of those Lower Class who understood neither the value nor the special care needed for these dishes and, thus, ruined them due to their ignorance. I'm not sure if your comment is meant to show that you did not study history, or that you completely misunderstood the statement.

      Brian

      P.S. Correct grammar would be "unnecessarily offensive," not "unnecessary." Also, I would assume that you meant to spell "Naivete," since there is no such word as "Naivity." And did you mean "...is something 'other than' stupidity..."? Just thought I would help you on your grammar.

    • profile image

      Richard 

      2 years ago

      your comments about so called "lower-class" are unnecessary offensive. Naivity is something else than stupidity... Whats `s your excuse ??!!

    • Hanavee profile imageAUTHOR

      Brian Gray 

      3 years ago from Pennsylvania

      peachpurple,

      And you can guess what I was hoping when I first laid eyes on these exquisite dishes.

      Brian

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 

      3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      If they were used in titanic, it would had worth millions of dollars

    • Hanavee profile imageAUTHOR

      Brian Gray 

      3 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Jodah,

      Thank you for that kind comment. I'm not royalty either, but I do plan on eventually having a cup of coffee out of one of these cups just to make it a special day for me. Someday, someone other than me is going to own them, so while I still have them in my possession, may as well treat myself. I do handle them with tender loving care. Shame you're not just down the street. I would invite you to join me.

      Brian

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      An interesting hub Brian. Imagine having a set of fine porcelain dinner ware similar to that used on the Titanic. They are truly exquisite pieces. It shows my low class but I had never heard of "Pirkenhammer" ..thanks for making me aware.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hobbylark.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hobbylark.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)