Springfield, Ill., was site of Tea Leaf Club’s 2008 convention

Over the weekend of Sep. 18-21, the Tea Leaf Club International held their 29th annual convention in Springfield, Ill. The convention theme, “Linc Up for Tea Leaf,” was derived from the name of Springfield’s favorite son, Abraham Lincoln and many Lincoln-related activities were part of the busy weekend.

The unofficial start of the convention was a garden party held at the Vachel Lindsay State Historic Site, where this “Prairie Poet” lived for many years. Interestingly, before the Lindsay family purchased this house it was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Clark A. Smith, Mary Todd Lincoln’s sister and brother-in-law. It was in this home where Mrs. Lincoln spent the last years of her life.

Friday was tour day and the schedule included a visit to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and a bus trip to the New Salem State History Site, a reconstruction of the little village where young Abraham Lincoln worked and studied.

On Friday evening the first formal activities of the convention begin. This year they included several fun events beginning with a presentation by Lincoln impersonator, Lon Pressnall, a life member of the Association of Lincoln Presenters. Dressed much as Honest Abe would have been, Pressnall welcomed the tea leafers to Springfield and then gave a presentation about life in and around mid-19th century Springfield. Later in the evening member Mae Jean Gilger talk titled “Spittoons, Spittoons, Spittoons,” and discussed how these utilitarian objects of the past were manufactured and used by all levels of Victorian society. Gilger and her late husband, Jim, had gathered a major collection of spittoons. Rounding out the evening was a top and bottom market and silent auction as well as a chance to shop at the club’s giftique booth.

Saturday is always the busiest and most exciting day of the weekend. The main focus of the day is the annual Tea Leaf Club auction where club members can consign rare and unusual pieces of tea leaf lustre ironstone china, lustre-trimmed Moss Rose pattern china and other copper lustre designs.

There is an auction preview before the action gets underway around 10 a.m. A break in the bidding is held around noon when the regional luncheon is set up. Club members from the various nationwide regions of the country join with the members from their home region and, in addition to sharing a nice luncheon, also have a chance to plan for a regional meeting next year.

The auction resumed and wound down around 4:30 p.m. The auction offered 290 lots of tea leaf and related ironstone china. Some pieces of note that were sold included: a Shaw hanging leaves tea leaf 3-pc. soap dish, $575; an Elsmore & Forster Portland shape teapot with reverse teaberry decoration, $450; a J. Furnival paneled grape shape tea leaf hot water pitcher, $325; and a Davenport fig cousin shaped shaving mug with pink lustre, $1,050.

After taking a rest for a few hours, attendees reconvened for the annual banquet and awards presentation. After dinner an entertaining “Past President’s Debate on Tea Leaf” was held with four past club presidents “discussing” how and what it is the best way to collect.

As always, the Sunday morning table sales close out the weekend’s activities and offer the members a chance to examine tables full of fine tea leaf and related china wares and perhaps find another treasure to add to their collection. After fond farewells the convention attendees headed home to all points of the map promising to meet up again at next fall’s big event.

For more information on membership in the Tea Leaf Club International, contact the membership chairs Peg and Carl Schilling, 3120 E. Titus Ave., Des Moines, IA 50320.

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