Henry Clay Papier Mache tea caddy decorated with painted anthemion border & classical Etruscan style figures with a silver escutcheon and hall marked swing handle on the lid. The interior of the Henry Clay tea caddy features a papier mache floating lid with silver handle and traces of its original lining. It also comes with its original key and working lock.
Henry Clay was an assistant to one of the pioneers in papier mache by the name of John Baskerville who started to imitate the highly polished items, that were being imported from Japan, using lacquered papier mache. Which would become known as "japanning". By 1772 Clay had learned enough to start up his own business and in the same year patented a new process for making "paper ware" which involved sheets of paper being soaked in paste and pressed together on a plate. Once separated from the plate they were baked in a hot stove to remove any flexibility, whilst at the same time being coated in varnish or oil. The final product was used like wood, and once coated with colour and oils could be polished to a high shine. Around 1785 Henry Clay acquired a retail premises in London's Covent Garden. George III was one of his patrons by 1792 and Clay adopted the title "Japanner to His Majesty."