Hooray! Celebration time–this is the 100th myth for this blog! Who knew there were so many? Certainly not I, who originally hoped for a couple dozen and planned to stop when I ran out. No doubt I will run out, but not for a few more months, considering how many of you are sending in myths I hadn’t heard or hadn’t remembered. Don’t stop. So here’s the 100th myth, thank you Martin Willis.
Antiques dealer and auctioneer Martin Willis told me that he’d always believed this myth, one that he heard from his father decades ago, a man who was also in the auction business. Then he looked into it and learned it was false. He’s right on the money about that!
The story goes that in 1890, the McKinley Tariff established the requirement that all imports show their country of origin. Porcelain dinnerware was coming mainly from China and was marked accordingly. So far, so good. Here comes the myth in the punchline . . . So that’s why Americans refer to their dishes as “china,” because it said China on the back.
Americans do call plates, cups, and saucers “china” but not because of the McKinley Tariff. Historians find the word “china” in inventories from the 18th century. It became shorthand among early American settlers because much originated in China or was made in England to approximate Chinese wares, not because pieces were stamped CHINA.