How Lovely Are Thy Branches

I eventually settled on a Christmas tree as a central motif for my design. The tree… was profusely decorated with gifts, baubles and tinsel adorning the fronds. – Harold Holdway

"Regimental Oak" shape dinner plate with "Christmas Tree" pattern

Maker: W. T. Copeland & Sons, Designer: Harold Holdway, “Regimental Oak” shape dinner plate with “Christmas Tree” pattern, designed 1938, earthenware, enamel, transfer-printed, enameled, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Stephen Harrison in honor of George Roland, 1997.181

Many of us are familiar with this festive design that has graced our holiday tables for almost eight decades, but do you know the story behind this cheery tree? The image was born in 1938 in Stoke-on-Trent, a charming city in Staffordshire, England known for its pottery industry. Sydney Thompson, the only U.S. based agent for Spode (Copeland & Thompson Inc.) was visiting the factory in hopes of finding a new design for the holiday season. Uninspired by the current seasonal sketches, Harold Holdway, a Spode designer was tasked with producing something truly magical. Holdway’s original design did not include presents until Thompson let him in on a little secret, “in America Christmas gifts, wrapped in gaily-coloured paper and tied with ribbon, were placed at the foot of the tree,” he said. Spode continued to produce Holdway’s iconic design with slight variations until 2009 and it can still be found in stores today!

Warmest thoughts and best wishes for a wonderful holiday and a very happy new year. We hope your day is merry and bright! – Dallas Museum of Art 




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