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Deutsches Technikmuseum - April

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Exhibit of the Month April 2011

Photo: A bulbous light blue coffee pot, made from porcelain, designed in the twenties. The spout is broken.

The Mitropa coffee pot © C. Kirchner/SDTB

Broken Coffee Pot, around 1932

A damaged coffee pot poses a mystery — and tells a story.

The word "Mitropa" shows that it once belonged to the Central European Sleeping and Dining Car Company. The company was founded during the First World War to manage trains in the German sphere of influence.

"Form A 85" is found on the bottom of the pot, along with the name of the manufacturer: Bauscher in Weiden. The town is located in the Upper Palatinate, where suitable clay deposits became the foundation of the porcelain industry. For a hundred years now, Bauscher has supplied the crockery for dining cars.

The pot is broken. It was probably already damaged and thrown away before the Second World War. Just a few months ago, a treasure hunter unearthed it from an abandoned garbage dump.

Surprising view into the interior
Due to the damage, it is in this case possible to see into the interior of the object without having to destroy it for that purpose: the light blue colour of the surface is also found in the building material of the pot, not only in its glaze. It was not assumed that the material was coloured throughout, because the blue colour was generated by using cobalt oxide. A Belgian-French railway company used the light blue colour first in 1890, and Mitropa copied it from 1917.

Cobalt is expensive. It is also used in steel production to make metal resistant to wear. Cobalt had to be imported. When the German Reich began its rearmament after 1933, cobalt was used mostly in arms. The material was no longer available for crockery in the "Third Reich." After 1934, Mitropa porcelain was only produced in white. Even after the Second World War, a return to the traditional colouring was never made.