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History of Cow Creamers

There are some antique designs which are so popular that they have become timeless; originating centuries ago whilst still being imitated by new items today. The cow creamer is one such design, having had iterations across many years; this bovine creamer is often made today from materials like porcelain, ceramic, and silver.

As one of the most popular designs for its purpose, the cow creamer has an established history which stretches back to the 4th century BCE.

Cow Creamers
Cow Creamers History
History of Cow Creamers

The History of Cow Creamers

Before drinking tea with milk was a common practise among the British upper classes, jugs and drinking vessels of all kinds were made in the form of various animals. Materials like clay, animal horn, and stone were often utilised to create these pieces which were used as a part of daily life. While this example is specific to Ancient Egypt, cow and bull-themed pottery can be found in civilisations around the world, from Hindu depictions of Shiva’s bull steed, Nandi to Spanish Torito models believed to bring good luck.

Although tea was an omnipresent beverage in Chinese culture for millennia before extensive trading brough it to British shores, it was not practised to serve it with milk. Milk or cream became a component of tea in Europe during the 1700s. Dutch merchants travelled broadly to all parts of Asia as well as to England, bringing the concept of tea to the British nobility in the early 1600s. At that time, tea was consumed in much the same way by both the Asian populace and the European, without milk. Tea itself was a luxury that was too costly for the average citizen, not being widely spread and consumed until the latter half of the 18th century.

It is not clearly known why milk was added to tea, but it is a long-held belief that it may have been utilised to balance out the less palatable bitterness of tea leaves. Equally, the nutritional value of milk made it a popular additive for both the wealthy and working class. During the industrial revolution particularly, working class Britons sweetened their tea with plenty of milk and sugar to delay their hunger and give them the energy to work throughout the day.

Tea drinkers enjoyed their beverages with milk regardless of their social status, but only the wealthy elite could enjoy a full sterling silver tea service. Cream jugs were an essential component of a tea set, and for the British upper classes they were uniformly crafted from silver. The cow creamer itself was a creation of Dutch silversmith, John Schuppe, who had registered his trademark at the London Assay Office in 1753.

John Schuppe

Little is known about Schuppe’s origins, with it being difficult to trace if he had emigrated from Holland directly or if he was perhaps a German citizen originally; other workers in London at the time with the surname Schuppe had originated in Germany. He created the silver cow creamer design, and it was in immediately popular commodity. Schuppe created subtle variations in his cow creamers, with some having a mirror finish on their skin, while others featured chased decoration across the entire cow to simulate its hair.

All Schuppe cow creamers are distinguishable through their curled tails which form handles, their low-slung udders, the hair decoration on their heads, and the use of an insect on their back to create a handle to open the creamer and refill it as needed. Often, the lid on the cow’s back would also be ornamented with etched floral decoration. The cow’s facial expression is usually one of cartoonish proportions, with a mouth agape to allow the milk to freely flow.

The social elite of England adored this design, and it was swiftly imitated by both other silversmiths as well as craftspeople with other specialty materials such as clay and ceramic, meaning that middle-class and working-class people soon had cow creamers of their own. The popularity of this design was such that replicas of it were crafted across England, soon being spread through Europe and North America.

Dutch and German silversmiths were those most often responsible for crafting cow creamers, with a vast majority being commissioned by members of the British upper class who had become so fond of the design.

Throughout the decades since this time, the cow-style creamer has maintained a certain level of popularity even among those who do not regularly use tea sets. While most modern-day tea-drinkers simply pour tea from the carton, there is a significant movement of those who keep their milk stored in creamers for the explicit purpose of inserting some joy and whimsy into something as mundane as a morning beverage.

Both naturalistic and stylistic interpretations of the cow creamer have been made with varying degrees of popularity, with the stylised designs giving way to more realistic ones in the early 19th century. Some notable differences can be seen in the cow’s legs, which have evolved from being very thin and spindly with rounded, flat-looking hooves to a more substantial, thicker leg with more realistic hooves.

Whatever the style or materials used to make cow creamers, they remain highly popular today both for the practical purpose of serving milk or cream in addition to the more sentimental practise of collecting antique and vintage items. Antique silver cow creamers were instantly widely-loved by Britons and Europeans alike, and today they are among the most collected types of teaware.

Andrew Campbell started trading in antiques during the 1970s. Initially, Andrew lived in the South of England, travelling the country, searching for items of silver to buy. Andrew sold these items at various London markets and antique fairs. Over time, and through selling at a range of venues, Andrew built up a large and diverse customer base from private buyers to national and international trade customers.
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