This pretty antique plate is made of papier mâché, which is the original French term that translates to "mashed paper." On August 31, 1880, US patent number US231657A was issued to Richard De Planque of Philadelphia, PA, for a "plaque for painting and decoration." Following are parts of his application for the patent (we have corrected some printing errors in the original to make it more readable):
"RICHARD DE PLANQUE of PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA.
Be it known that I, RICHARD DE PLANQUE, a subject of Russia, (having declared my intention of becoming a citizen of the United States,) have invented a new and useful Improvement in Plaques or Shapes for Painting and Decoration, which improvement is fully embodying my invention.
My invention consists of a plaque formed essentially of pasteboard, binders, cloth-boards or other similar paper material, prepared in such manner as to be light, durable, and cheap...
Referring to the drawings, figures 1 and 2 represent a plaque which may be circular, oval, or other desired shape for painting, ornamentation, and decoration generally. Figure 3 is a section. A copy of these original drawings is shown in the next to last photo; we'll send it along to the buyer, along with a copy of the application.
In preparing the plaque I take...paper material and cut the same into proper shape and saturate it with glue-water, after which, while it is wet, it is stamped or pressed into a dishing form, and when dry it will be found to retain its shape, owing to the stiffening action of the glue. The plaque is now coated on both sides with a compound of glue and Whiting and said thick coating is sandpapered...in order to have a uniform and smooth surface. "
By 1896, Richard de Planque was listed in directories as a papier-mâché manufacturer. The label on the reverse of the plate bears his trademark and the patent date.
The front of the dish was skillfully hand painted, depicting a wooden planter box full of pansies set against a hazy, pale backdrop. Its round shape, slightly warped, measures 12 inches in diameter and weighs a mere 9 ounces. Given the fragility of the material, both the plate and the painting are in surprisingly very good condition, with minor wear to the paint and a few tiny chips on the rim. It displays beautifully, a lovely survivor for over a century past.