Sunday, October 19, 2014

Steeped in History: A surprise in every box!

Did you ever get excited about cracking open a Kinder egg to see what treasure might be waiting within? Or how about the classic Cracker Jack? From my ever diminishing memories of childhood life, I recall always getting a crappy plastic ring! I always looked forward to opening sugar-induced cereal boxes and shoving my arm to the bottom in order to retrieve the toy give-aways. Another surprise I enjoyed getting was what was hidden in Red Rose tea boxes. Yup. Even tea had gifts. These came in the form of tiny ceramic figurines of animals, houses, nursery rhyme characters, holiday themes, and so much more.

Mom's Wade Whimsies.

These tiny treasures were created by George Wade Pottery in Burslem, England. The company began as a small shop in 1810 producing mostly bottles, pottery, as well as ceramics for industrial use. Later on, Wade began making Art Deco figurines, and then designs of various animals. Along the way, the company ran into obstacles concerning different moulds, colours, and glazes. Even World War 2 had on impact on the company. Ceramic production was limited to design for functionality only rather than a thing of beauty.

The ceramic small wonders were introduced to Canada by Red Rose in 1967 by offering them in their boxed-tea sold at a premium. In 1983, they were open to the U.S. market which saw their popularity rise even further.

On a more interesting note, because these mini-marvels had rough, unglazed, ridged markings on their undersides, they were used as strikers for matches in pubs and kitchens. I remember often colouring the bottoms with magic markers!

Humpty Dumpty.

Wade whimsies are collectors’ items today and are still given away by Red Rose in some countries. Sadly, they are no longer offered in Canada with distribution coming to a halt in 1983. Not in Canada!?! What a pity!


  1. I grew up drinking Red Rose and my mother and I rabidly collected the animal figurines. I would drink so many cups because I want to open a new box and see what was inside :)

    1. Hope you still have your collection Nicole. I'm so glad my mum kept a few sitting out of arm's reach!