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T I Collectables, Part III, Wheelock Souvenir China

The Wheelock family began selling china in Wisconsin well before the Civil War. In the early 1890’s one of the many Wheelock children, Mr. Charles Wheelock, had the vision to expand their business into the latest craze, souvenir china. The business grew quickly and soon they employed over thirty salesmen selling souvenir china in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The Wheelock mid west business was no longer regional. It had grown to international proportions.

Wheelock was not the manufacturer of souvenir china, as some believe, but the importer. Because Germany and Austria had the raw material to produce high quality hard paste porcelain, those two countries were the major source of souvenir china. The procedure was as follows. The scenes or pictures were selected in the area where they were to be sold, usually from postcards. They were then sent to Europe for processing. The next step was to make a transfer print of the picture which was then applied to the china. Initially the pictures were black and white but later many were hand colored at factories. Eventually transfer prints were done in color eliminating the step of coloring by hand.

This helps explains the picture but it didn’t stop there. Many porcelain pieces were color tinted and some were decorated in a variety of motifs such as flowers or leaves. All of which added their beauty. Finally, the piece was glazed and fired in a kiln before being sent to the United States .

Not all souvenir china has the importer’s mark on the bottom as many have no mark at all. Some were marked with the store’s name where the item was to be sold along with the word “Germany.” The McKinley Tariff Act of 1891 required that all imported items be marked with the country of origin. It seems logical that unmarked souvenir china date before the McKinley Act.

Charles Wheelock and his right hand man John Roth were astute business men and quickly developed a turnaround time with foreign manufactures which other importers were unable to duplicate. The result was Wheelock was able to fill orders faster than their competitors. The Wheelock souvenir china business was second to none. 

In my opinion the golden era of souvenir china coincided almost exactly with the golden era of the Thousand Islands. World War One led to the decline of souvenir china’s popularity and availability at about the same time the Thousand Islands began to lose its appeal as a tourist destination. The sale of Wheelock souvenir china continued to hang on until 1922 but the glory days were long gone.

 After the importer’s mark, many consider the picture as the second most important factor in determining value. Probably the Thousand Island House was the most common image. Visitors to The Islands loved to show their neighbors back home where they stayed or a steamship on which they sailed. The design or shape of the china is definitely a factor in assessing the value – the more unique, the more desirable. The variety of images, shapes and colors of souvenir china seems almost inexhaustible. Take a look at the different shapes and colors included in this article. It’s only a small sample but you get the idea.

There were at least two other importers of souvenir china who sold their wares in the Thousand Islands during that time. P.C.C. [no idea what the initials stand for] also imported their china from Germany and may have been the first to do business in the Thousand Islands. The other importer was John Roth who left Wheelock in 1909 to form his own business which he named Jonroth. Obviously, he was well qualified having worked over fifteen years with Wheelock. It’s a matter of personal preference but my favorite souvenir china is Wheelock.

Collecting was an enjoyable hobby for many years but my attitude recently changed and I now regard souvenir china as a link to the early history of the Thousand Islands. Once those pieces are gone, they can never be replaced.

By Robert L. Matthews, Fishers Landing

This the third of three articles Robert L. Matthews will write this winter giving us a sample of Thousand Islands memorabilia. The first,  TI Collectables, Part I Squiggle Glass, appeared in the November 2011 issue and last month  TI Collectables Part II, Four Track Series Brochures was published.

Robert  is the author of two popular books:  Glimpses of St. Lawrence Summer Life: Souvenirs from the Thousand Islands: Robert and Prudence Matthews Collection, and A History of the Thousand Islands Yacht Club, published in 2009.  Bob presented five articles last winter.  He and his wife Prudence ( well known River artist whose work was presented in Hooked on Prudence in 2009) have one of the most extensive collections of  Thousand Islands memorabilia.  When not at their beautiful River cottage at Fisher’s Landing, they live in St. Petersburg, Florida.

NOTE:  Do you have a favorite Thousand Islands souvenir story?  If so tell us about it in our comment section.

Posted in: History, Artists
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The Muir's at The Boat Ramp
Comment by: The Muir's at The Boat Ramp ( )
Left at: 11:19 AM Sunday, January 15, 2012
Really enjoyed this article and info on our Fishers Landing residents interests.
renee futch
Comment by: renee futch ( )
Left at: 11:16 AM Saturday, January 28, 2012
would like to buy some of the old china. do you know where I might find some.......
Comment by: Mike
Left at: 3:41 PM Friday, February 3, 2012
I remember as a kid I would see broken pieces of China when walking near and about the ruins of the castle on Calumet Island; very small pieces of blue and white I recall. I never kept any, but they fired my childhood imagination of what life was like there before the fire. Thanks for a great article!

Joyce Collins
Comment by: Joyce Collins ( )
Left at: 12:34 AM Sunday, May 27, 2012
Help, please.
I have a small, retectangular, dish that is, I think, around vintage 1892 with a circular identification on the bottom that states: Wheelock, Made in Germany, for Great Western Tea Co., Vancouver, WA. It shows the Vancouver, WA. courthouse on the front side, and on each side of the courthouse are what looks like pink wild roses. It is in color.

Would anyone be able to give any information on the company and history of this dish. Any information would be helpful. Joyce
Anonymous User
Comment by: Anonymous User
Left at: 7:05 PM Saturday, July 14, 2012
Bonnie Felton
Comment by: Bonnie Felton ( )
Left at: 12:35 PM Wednesday, March 6, 2013
I have a small bowl that has a pink rose on the bottom. The underside says Wheelock Trade 1 Mark 8965. Any idea when it was made? Thank you.
Brenda Magee
Comment by: Brenda Magee ( )
Left at: 1:10 PM Wednesday, March 26, 2014
On a small rectangular dish is the vividly colored picture of "Exterior-West Baden Hotel, West Baden, Ind." It is very decorative with scalloped edges, pink roses (or peonies) in the middle of each side and gold designs around the edges in between the roses. On the back is a square red mark which reads: WHEELOCK
Made in Germany
General Mdse.
West Baden, Ind.
I was wondering when it was made and if there are any collectors interested in such a piece. Your article was wonderful and the first time I have found out anything about this antique (or vintage) souvenir. Thanks so much for your help.
Bob Matthews
Comment by: Bob Matthews ( )
Left at: 2:50 PM Sunday, March 30, 2014
Hello........glad you enjoyed the article.........I tend to write at the time of my greatest interest in a
subject and since that article was written a while back, my information may be a bit
sounds like you have a nice piece of souvenir china with a Wheelock mark on the back.....Wheelocks
were and are my favorite pieces of souvenir china........yes, there is a market for your piece and probably
the best market is .......when you bring up ebay type "Wheelock souvenir" and you will see
the many pieces and their asking price........most collectors [myself included] buy their hometown or their
favorite place [for me it's the Thousand Islands]........souvenir china made in Germany dates it pre WW I
so it could be 10, 20 years before 1914.........if you're a collector, you may have your first piece.
hope this helps, Bob Matthews
Carla Kite
Comment by: Carla Kite
Left at: 2:26 PM Sunday, April 26, 2015
I have a plate that is marked on the back with---Wheelock & Co.--Germany--American Beauties. It is not a souvenir plate but one with roses and greenery with a gold border. There is embossing on the flowers but I don't know if the entire design was from some sort of transfer technique or hand painted. Can you shed some light on this for me? Thank you!
Joyce Collins
Comment by: Joyce Collins
Left at: 5:47 PM Sunday, April 26, 2015
Thank you for the information about Wheelock China and eBay to check the value. Since the picture on the piece I have is of the first court house in Vancouver, Washington. That court house burned down and this is the only dish of this type I have seen. It will be a good piece to donate to the local Clark County Historical Museum. Again thanks for the history of Wheelock Co.
Karen Michalski
Comment by: Karen Michalski
Left at: 4:07 PM Thursday, August 20, 2015
small pitcher exterior: Scandinavian Lutheran Church Argyle MN
Wheelock Dresden
inside square marking says:
made in Germany
the Mammoth One Price
Olson & Holen
Argyle, Mn
Nancy Campbell
Comment by: Nancy Campbell
Left at: 11:31 AM Saturday, September 5, 2015
I have a cream and pitcher set made by Wheelock in Vienna.

The design is pink roses. Some repaired damage to creamer.

Is this set of any value to any collector out there?

Nancy Campbell
Devon, Alberta, Canada.
Patricia Brandt
Comment by: Patricia Brandt
Left at: 1:25 PM Thursday, November 19, 2015
Thank you for this very informative article. I just yesterday found a Wheelock plate at a thrift store for $2, in perfect and excellent condition. The Wheelock mark is there and another mark with a crown and initials BRC. The plate depicts the Parliament Buildings, Victoria B.C. Parade erg Memorial Gate. No chips! Which seems a miracle, as this beautiful souvenir was haphazardly amongst many dishes! It is delicate and stunningly painted! I wonder about it value for resale?
Bob Matthews
Comment by: Bob Matthews
Left at: 3:37 PM Friday, November 27, 2015
Hello Pat and others who have questions regarding the value of souvenir china such as Wheelock. Pieces that are damaged have little value. Those in good condition have value but finding a buyer sometimes presents a problem. Listing the item on ebay is probably the best solution but the description should have as many "key" words as possible. A collector's interest might be in a location, light houses, fishing if you don't include a detailed description, the buyer might not find the item. For example he or she might look for "thousand islands" while the listing is "1000 islands." Hope this helps.
Betty Townsel
Comment by: Betty Townsel
Left at: 1:49 PM Friday, June 10, 2016
Hello, I have a beautiful little china teacup that has two pears painted on the side of it and also have what looks like two glided designs over each pear. There is a manufacturing green mark which reads: CALIFORNIA (PSST? can hardly make out this word..), WATERLOCK & CO 1 GERMAN and the word WATERLOCK is under what looks like a crown and a wreath that doesn't appear to join at the bottom of the wreath. It also has two slight imperfections on the rim. Can anyone tell me anything about this adorable little teacup? Is it of any value to a collector? Thank you.
Coleman, Florida
Debbie jonas
Comment by: Debbie jonas
Left at: 7:18 PM Thursday, November 30, 2017
I have a cup about 2" tall. It is dark blue with gold trim and a picture that says 'the Georgetown loop'. Stamp on bottom says 'wheelock Dresden germany' What might be the value? Please respond to email address. Thank you.
Lynn Hubert
Comment by: Lynn Hubert
Left at: 1:37 PM Thursday, August 23, 2018
I have a small plate that has a scene of Mount Hood,Oregon painted in the center with some pastel pink & yellow on the rim along with gold filigree.
The back of the plate is printed with this "Wheelock made in Germany for Charles Knecht, Albany Oregon Weimar
Not sure if this is anything valuable or not? Help?
PS - I live in Albany OR
Thank you for any help or info you can give me.
Lynn Hubert
Ruth Andrus
Comment by: Ruth Andrus
Left at: 12:06 PM Tuesday, January 8, 2019
I have two small plates, family pieces, advertising O.G. Johnson Jewelers and showing the court house on one and the grammer school on the other. One stamp is worn off, but the other is very clear and reads Wheetlock made in Austria for O. G. Johnson jeweler. Florence Wis. and under the box reads Vienna. Can you tell me if these have value. No dates on the pieces, but this was my husbands great grandfathers brother who owned the business, so it had to be around the mid 1800's.