The current “Children’s Tea Sets and Miniatures” exhibit at the Cultural Center is an amazing collection of European, English, German, French, American, Nippon and Occupied Japan miniatures that will be of interest to everyone — men, women and children.

We are fortunate to showcase this collection by Catherine Sasnett who has done similar displays and lectures for the Cobb County Library System, Cobb County Lunch and Learn Series, churches, and independent living facilities. She has also participated in a national convention display in conjunction with her affiliation and competition in the United Federation of Doll Collectors.

Catherine Sasnett is sharing her beloved collection of china, semi-hard porcelains, ironstone and early glass examples of children’s tea sets and miniatures that span 100 years, 1860 through the 1950s.

She exclaims, “My collections have been and continue to be a labor of love and I so enjoy sharing my passions.”

Most of the sets Catherine has chosen to display are from 1870 to the early 20th century. There are a few earlier and a few later. The sets are identified by country of origin and by manufacturer if known.

The exhibit also includes children’s dinner service pieces as well — oyster sets, soup sets, complete dinner service — all child sized. In addition, miniature glass objects — Depression era milk glass, cut glass cake plates, condiment sets and a punch bowl set. Pewter and tin eating utensils are included.

For generations parents have given child-sized tea sets and dinnerware to children. For some, it wasn’t just a toy but a way to teach good table manners and to learn social skills and graces.

Drinking tea in small groups as a social activity was important in expressing gentility and refinement in the 19th century. The 1883 book, The American Girl’s Home Book of Work and Play, from the Rare Book Room at the Winterthur Library, illustrates how toy tea sets were used to teach girls the ritual of brewing and serving tea to guests.

The book discusses “Make-Believe Housekeeping” and concludes, “The transition is an easy one from the make-believe to the real, and a child who has this training will never feel the terror of housekeeping that fills many a girl before marriage.”

Similarly, an article in the July 1866 issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book called “Domestic Education” indicates that competency in the tea ritual was an important part of a young woman’s maturing:

“The next great step is in allowing little miss to make the tea, which is a very great promotion indeed, and ere many years go by she presides at the tea and breakfast table with a perfect sense of what is required of her; and to the great relief of mamma, who knows that if she goes out to tea she leaves some one behind who is quite capable of conducting things satisfactorily in her absence.”

Clearly, managing a tea service was an important aspect of a young girl’s education, and toys like the tea set were important in gaining this skill.

The “Children’s Tea Sets and Miniatures” exhibit will be on display at the Cultural Center through February 2022. The Collector’s Display Cabinet is in the main entry hall of the Cultural Center and can be viewed Tuesdays-Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

(The Collector’s Cabinet at the Madison Morgan Cultural Center was created to highlight collections of members as well as non-members. The collections are displayed just inside the front door of the Cultural Center for the enjoyment and education of guests. If you have a collection you would like to share, or know someone who does, please leave a message for Jan Manos by calling the museum at 706-342-4743.)


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