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Society of the Cincinnati Porcelain

Chinese export porcelain bearing the Eagle insignia of the Society of the Cincinnati is one of three marks of membership in the Society created in the eighteenth century, along with the gold Eagle badge and parchment certificate. Displayed on tables from Virginia to New England, the Cincinnati china represented the patriotism of its owners as well as the Society's ideals. The Society's museum collections contain nine pieces of this important porcelain.

The central character in the story of the Cincinnati porcelain is Samuel Shaw (1754-1794), a Revolutionary War veteran, original member of the Society, and prominent figure in the United States' early trade with China. A native of Boston, Shaw rose to the rank of captain in the Continental Artillery during the Revolutionary War. He then became an aide-de-camp to Gen. Henry Knox from June 1782 through November 1783. During the same time, he also helped Knox organize the Society of the Cincinnati in the army's camps along the Hudson River. Shaw acted as the secretary of the group and penned the minutes of its formative meetings during the summer of 1783.

The June 10 meeting approved Pierre L'Enfant's design for the Society's insignia, a double-sided bald eagle bearing scenes of the organization's namesake, the ancient Roman citizen-soldier Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus. Known as the Eagle, this design was intended as a model for the gold and enamel badges, which L'Enfant directed to be made in Paris in 1784. But it also became the basis for the decoration on the Society porcelain that Shaw commissioned in China the same year. Read More<

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