SAVANNAH, GA – Telfair Museums presents Tea for Two: British and American Tea Traditions, an exhibition that explores the universal love for tea and features the finest tea objects from the museum’s permanent collection. On view July 26 through January 12, 2020 at Telfair Museums’ Jepson Center, Tea for Two also includes period furnishings and portraits to provide visitors with a complete look into 19th-century tea service traditions in the United States, with specific emphasis on those in Savannah.
First touted as medicinal, tea drinking grew increasingly popular in the western world when it morphed into a social activity, often taking place within the female-centric parlor of a home. Women of all socio-economic classes participated in the activity, which resulted in the rapid expansion of female consumerism of silver and porcelain. Included in the “tea equipage,” as it was then called, were teacups, saucers, a teapot, a hot water urn, bread and butter plates, teaspoons, cream pitchers, and a sugar bowl with tongs.
The popularity of tea drinking in 18th-century America had a direct connection with the growth of the British pottery and porcelain industry, as well as the prosperity of such companies as Wedgwood, Spode, and Royal Doulton. As British silversmiths designed and crafted complete tea services, American
merchants imported them to satisfy their growing tea needs. It was at this time, too, that English Staffordshire porcelain as well as American-made silver were regularly shipped into the Port of Savannah, therefore providing the city’s elite, such as the affluent Owens, Telfair, and Habersham families, with purchasing options far surpassing those of any inland towns.
From practical items like tables, tongs, and tea caddies to elaborately decorated silver tea services, Tea for Two highlights everyday objects once used here in Savannah and provides insight into the tradition of daily tea drinking.
“On winter days after school, my mom, two sisters, and I would sit at the kitchen table and brew tea in my grandmother’s teapot – it was our tradition,” said Cyndi Sommers, Telfair Museums’ Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts. “I’m excited to bring that same nostalgic feeling to this exhibition through the creation of vignettes with portraits, tea sets, and all of the involved furnishings.”
Tea for Two: British and American Tea Traditions is organized by Telfair Museums and curated by Cyndi Sommers, Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts.
Investment is provided by the City of Savannah.
About Telfair Museums:
Opened in 1886, Telfair Museums is the oldest public art museum in the South and features a world-class art collection in the heart of Savannah’s National Historic Landmark District. The museum encompasses three sites: the Jepson Center for the Arts, the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, and the Telfair Academy. 2019 marks the 200th anniversary of both the Telfair Academy and the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters. For more information, call 912-790-8800 or visit www.telfair.org.