Annotations - Louisa May Alcott, "Transcendental Wild Oats" (1873)

Britannia ware

A kind of pewter alloy, primarily made of tin; a cheap alternative to silver. Historic New England's “Ephemera Collection” includes Daniel Boyd's 1829 advertisement of Britannia Ware, which offers “Tea Pots, Coffee Pots, Britannia Tumblers, Sugar Bowls, Cream Pots, and Tea Urns.” It is ironic that Brother Lamb attributes a “symbolical” significance to this base metal, which is taking the place of the “silver service” that he cannot afford. Earlier in the sketch, the narrator notes that, their possessions not yet having been delivered, “the weary family reposed before the fire on blocks of wood, while Brother Moses White regaled them with roasted potatoes, brown bread and water, in two plates, a tin pan, and one mug—his table service being limited” (1569). Lamb proposes to replace the tin pan that he is trying to balance on his knees with Britannia ware, which is just more tin but with the appearance of silver.