Does the frozen scenery on this Reed & Barton beverage set make you feel like the ice water is really icy? More refreshing? Are you transported to frostier climes in faraway places?
Icebergs “startle, frighten, awe; they astonish, excite, amuse, delight and fascinate”. Depending on where you live, icebergs and polar bears can be as exciting and exotic as a tropical island and flamingoes.
Published in 1884 at the heights of the Victorian era, this trade catalog in the Cooper Hewitt Library illustrates the popular styles and taste of an important era in American history and culture. For some, dining could be an elaborate and lengthy process. If dining at home alone, dinner was five to six courses. When entertaining, as many as thirteen to twenty courses could be served. As more elaborate and specialized tableware was needed, so was the desire for a variety of design patterns.
The highly successful Reed & Barton Co. offered tableware that satisfied the many stylistic tastes of the period, ranging from traditional, classical, and historicist designs to the taste for the unusual and exotic, like these arctic motifs with icebergs and arctic animals.
By the mid-nineteenth century the polar regions and the interior of Africa were the last few unexplored places on the planet. Sailing expeditions to the far North in the search for a Northwest passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans revealed a world unknown to none outside of fisherman. Written accounts and illustrated publications about expeditions showed seascapes with ships and icebergs. The fascination with travel and exploration of far-off places captured the American imagination. Writers of popular fiction use the Arctic for adventure stories. Landscape artists like Frederic Church, in 1859, traveled to Newfoundland and Labrador to study and sketch icebergs and remote landscapes, now on view in After Icebergs part of the exhibition Nature by Design.
Elizabeth Broman is a Reference Librarian, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Library.
 Noble, Loui Legrand. After icebergs with a painter: a summer voyage to Labrador and around Newfoundland. Account of a voyage with the painter, Frederick E. Church. New York [etc.] : D. Appleton and company, 1861