Jefferson Plate

Chinese Export Porcelain – Plate, 10" diameter, circa 1785-90

Unlike pieces in Europe featuring complex, aristocratic coats of arms, the American branding style reflects our efforts to be democratic.

The fledgling American republic, while taking cultural cues from the European aristocracy, adapted them to republican virtues. This plate is associated with a Thomas Jefferson rallying cry that he used in his personal marketing. A service of porcelain with a pseudo-armorial shield displaying the monogram "J" has long been associated with Jefferson through circumstantial evidence. It reveals how Americans allowed their disdain for heraldic conventions to serve their own purposes.

Some theorize that when a similarly decorated service for Christopher Gore (1758-1827) was ordered, another piece featuring the same pattern was ordered by Gore for Jefferson. The possibility that this service may have been for Jefferson is supported by a single piece: a cider jug in the Cincinnati Art Museum that displays the shield and monogram with Jefferson's personal creed, "Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God." This motto, proposed by Benjamin Franklin for the Great Seal of the United States, was later adopted by Jefferson for his personal seal.