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Today, we categorize our friends. We have best friends, friends, acquaintances, fake friends, that one awful person whom you still talk to and have no idea why (in Latin, we would refer to that person with the pronoun “iste”). We determine our popularity and self-worth by the number of friends we have. Superficial? Yes. Whatever happened to quality over quantity? While this fad of categorization has ballooned with the creation of social media, I am here to tell you that friends have always been sorted.

Exhibit A.

Here is another treasure from last weekend’s antique show: the wackiest Limoges vase I have ever seen. That thing in the middle might look like a dial from an H.G. Wells time machine, but actually, it is a circle of friends.

That lovely young lady in the center of the wheel was the owner of this vase. We don’t know her name, but amazingly, we can see her. How often have you wondered who owned something before you did? I know that I wonder all the time. What a rarity to actually catch a glimpse! Regardless of who she was, we can be certain of one thing – In 1892, Miss Anonymous wanted to make her group of friends known to all viewers and users of the vase. This probably included herself. It’d certainly be an effective means of remembrance in later years. What’s more, the friend wheel and the back of the vase are adorned with sprigs of forget-me-nots. Like a fine wine, 1892 must have been a stellar year. In fact, only two friends made the cut to appear on the wheel afterward (in 1893). 

The process of making such a friend wheel is fascinating. All of the names are written in the same handwriting; probably by Miss Anonymous. It seems that the central photograph was surrounded by a series of wedge-shaped paper names. Then, the collage was photographed and transferred onto the vase. Because the final names were added to the wheel in 1893, the transfer work must not have been added to the vase until that year. Talk about an intensive project! I’ve seen a process similar to this on a fundraising church quilt, where donor names surrounded a central image of a church. 

The bottom stamp indicates that this vase was manufactured by Martial Redon between 1891 and 1896; likely the earlier end of the date range, as the wheel project was in the works since 1892. The vase would have been produced as a blank in Limoges and exported to the United States for decoration. Its paint job appears quite homespun and improvisational. Yellow paint even seeps beneath the lines of the wheel, suggesting that the entire vase was painted before the transfer work was applied.

As a final gesture, I will leave you with a list of the names on the wheel. Apparently, Miss Anonymous lived in a German community and had many male friends (hubba hubba!). Are any of these names significant to your families?

H. Regelius, Fred Frank, Alex Boas, Charles Kaufman, Will Blacher, Carl Shubert, Ella Mahler, George Weiss, Mamie Birch, Katie Hartman, Al Hattendorf, Ernst Rauh, C. Julinden, Mr. Fix, A. Schildauer, Jaku Hirstius, Fritz Dramen, Rollie Nerr, Gretchen Schildauer, Morris Nerr, Fred Uhl, Art Vincent, J.W. Kunan, Charles Sell, Albert Shurer, Lizzie Dahler, Ollie Rauh, John Beltz, August Hirstius, A. Sundheimer, Maud Mahler, Mr. Zapp, Tudie Stofft, Willie Arnold, Frank J. Dorn, George Kramer, Evril Buchwals, Julius Keubler, R. Rasch, Edward Beltz, A. Saltzer, Charles Beltz, T. Frichtle, Phoebe Kraft, Willie Schuck.