So popular was Admiral Nelson – in England, at least – that all manner of souvenirs and toys[i] were produced to commemorate his Naval victories and ultimately, his death.
The Staffordshire potteries churned out fairings, jugs, mugs and tea wares with rousing slogans and effigies of Nelson (figs. 1 & 2).
Meanwhile the Birmingham toymakers set their presses to work stamping out brass handles. The brass drawer knob in figure 3 has a stamped face, spun onto a cast body. The legend reads “NELSON • LORD • OF • THE • NILE” and would have been produced following Nelson’s victory at the Battle of the Nile in August 1798.
At 11:45 on October the 21st, 1805, off Cape Trafalgar, Nelson engaged the French and Spanish navies, famously signalling to his fleet: “England expects that every man will do his duty.” The brass backplate in figure 4 portrays Admiral Nelson in a central roundel within the legend “ENGLAND EXPECTS EVERY MAN TO DO HIS DUTY • TRAFALGAR OCT: XXI MDCCCV”.
The Greek key border around the backplates in figures 5 & 6 is also seen in furniture of the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries, either as inlay (fig. 7), or in the friezes of chest-on-chest and bookcase entablatures (fig. 8).
[i] ‘Toy’ was a contemporary name for small personal and domestic metalwares such as buckles, buttons, commemorative medals, corkscrews, furniture handles and fittings, toasting forks, watch cases and in the nineteenth-century, pressed metal novelties and playthings for children.