THE GRAVY BOAT: A COMPLIMENTARY ACCESSORY TO THE DINNER SERVICE

By: John Hogan

The Gravy Boat or Sauce Boat first of all is an elongated, boat-shaped pitcher used to serve gravy. A gravy boat usually sits on a matching platter or under tray, which is used to catch gravy drippings.

ELITE (BAWO & DOTTER) LIMOGES, SAUCE BOAT/TRAY, C. 1896-20

ELITE LIMOGES, PORCELAIN SAUCE BOAT

John Maddock, Transfer Ware Gravy Boat, C. 1896

JOHN MADDOCK, TRANSFERWARE GRAVY

Sometimes the platter or tray is permanently attached to the pitcher (gravy boat). It is usually, but not always, an oval form with slightly undulating rims, a scrolled handle on either side and a lip at each end. A matching ladle often accompanies a gravy boat. The first gravy boat as a complimentary piece to the dinner service seems to have first appeared about 1717. Generally speaking the gravy boat made its first appearance during the first few decades of the eighteenth century. Around 1720 a gravy boat with a handle at one end and a lip at the other became a commonality. Usually when it was attached to the under tray, there would be a lip at each end. When it was not attached to the under tray or platter, it had a handle at one end and a lip at the other. Such Sauce Boats or Gravy Boats were manufactured from various materials such as: glass, pewter, porcelain, pottery, silver, silver plate and eventually bone china.

The demand of the affluent household upon the various chinaware and silverware factories to produce such forms and evolving complimentary forms to the grand dinner service was immeasurable. If a form was novel and functional and did not originally come as part of the grand dinner service, it had to be manufactured by these factories to please their wealthy clients. After all, it was the wealthy and aristocratic who kept these rich factories of Europe in business. The following is an illustration of the two different shapes of a gravy boat. One is French porcelain, the other is English pottery.

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