Tuesday, January 22, 2013

If Teacups Could Talk ~ Mrs. Richards

Meet Mrs. Richards.  This is all I have of her, but this was all I needed.

 Mrs. Richards
I never met the real Mrs. Richards.  In 1997, I was browsing in a quaint town by the name of Paris...in Tennessee...yes, Paris, Tennessee.  This little town, the home of my sister in law was also home to a remarkable number of antique shops.  I walked into this shop and fell in love.  Set all around the room were dozens of tables, with dozens of china and tea sets.  Some were total and complete, on other tables were tea sets ready for a hot cuppa.  On other tables were parts of sets...odd pieces.  It was in this shop that I found Mrs. Richards.

In a small side room was wall display case, with beautiful leaded glass windows.  Behind the glass, on a layer of white satin were china pieces.  My eyes fell upon the tea cups.  I noticed the graceful foot holding up the delicate bowl.  An intricate handle sported a perfect little thumb grip and I fell in love with Mrs. Richards.

On the glistening satin sat a pristine white card printed with :Mrs. Richard Collection" on the front.  I picked up the card and read the back.

Mr & Mrs Richards lived in Prussia.  They were Jews in Prussia as the Nazi regime was rising in popularity.  Whether it was a gut instinct or something happened in their village, Mr. Richards told Mrs. Richards to pack the essentials into their trunks.  They were going to America.  Mrs. Richards refused to leave without her wedding china.  She carefully and tightly packed the entire set among the gowns in her trunk.

It wasn't recorded as to why, but 2 nights before they had plans to leave, they fled their home with only 2 of their trunks.  They journeyed across the ocean, and once in America settled into a Jewish community in Chicago America.  Mrs. Richards reportedly told new friends upon arriving at Ellis Island, she would drive over from Chicago to visit them in Philadelphia.  She had no concept of the distances involved.

They arrived in Chicago and moved in with distant relatives who had already arrived.  With trepidation and resignation, Mrs. Richards opened her trunks.  They did not know which trunks they had grabbed that desperate night in Prussia.  Would it be the trunk of blankets and linens?  Or would it be Mr. Richards scholarly books, and elementary navigational instruments?  But it was with a shout of joy that she opened her trunk to find her gowns and her complete unbroken wedding china.  Mr. Richards had secretly marked it.  It was entirely by chance that she had grabbed Mr. Richards books and tools.  They were thrilled to finally have more than what they carried in their carpet bags.  They gleefully unpacked their clothes and personal items.  Everything they left back home seemed worthless now they were safe in Chicago America.

February 1997,  the long widowed Mrs. Richards died at age 98.  She left her wedding china to her great granddaughters.

They did NOT want great grandma's china and offered it up at auction in Chicago. There an antique shop dealer was traveling for business.  She purchased Mrs. Richard's china and sold it piece by piece to other people like myself...a sucker for a good story.  I bought 2 tea cups and saucers, later giving one to a friend.

How could anyone sell Great Grandma's China after knowing how she fled with them from the Communist?

Okay in truth, this is what was written on the card in the Paris TN shop...
This set of china was smuggled out of Prussia when Mrs. Richards fled the Nazi's in Prussia early in this century (1900's).  She smuggled them out of the country in her garment trunk.  Upon her death they were left to her great grand daughters who chose to sell the pieces rather than keep them.
I was instantly appalled at the callousness of anyone selling such a family heritage and heirloom.  Immediately in my mind, I pictured a desperate husband and wife frantically pulling their trunks with them as they fled the oncoming Nazi army.  I could hear the Fiddler on the Roof musical playing in my memory. 

I paid 22.50 a piece for those tea cups and saucers.  I think I paid 2.50 for the cup and $20 for the romantic story.  I believe every tea cup should have a story.

With any luck they will...be watching for Becky's story next month as she carries the last tea cup from Philadelphia to Independence MO where she caught a wagon train heading west.

The title "If Teacups Could Talk" should be attribute to Emilie Barnes who authored a book by that name.  My stories and tea cups are my own.


  1. What a charming story!! I agree, if my grandmother had left me china brought to the US as she fled the Nazis, I would keep it! No matter how ugly I thought it was.

    I have a couple of Mrs. Barnes tea books. They are delightful!!

  2. I LOVED your story! I was kind of disappointed to learn that all of that wasn't written on the card but I adore your imagination!