Fairings (Conta and Boehme of Pössneck)
Fairings first made an appearance in the middle of the nineteenth century as prizes to be won at Victorian fairgrounds (hence the name), and remained popular until the start of the First World War. They are small china statuettes (about four inches tall and two inches wide), all decorative and mainly with inscriptions on the base, some humorous (such as Matrimonial Bliss), often saucy (such as The early bird catches the worm), occasionally moralistic (such as Consomation) or even political (such as English neutrality 1870 Attending the sick). Many of them feature animals, sometimes dressed as or behaving like human beings (such as O' do leave me a drop).
Fairings were once known as 'bedpieces' as beds feature heavily in the domestic scenes. While most are simple ornaments, some take the form of small containers ('pinboxes') and others are match strikers (such as Who calls.) or watch holders (such as Sedan). Original china fairings are now keenly sought as collectors items.
Strangely, for something that seems so quintessentially English, fairings were mainly produced in Germany by Conta and Boehme of Pössneck. This manufacturer developed a mass production technique that no other manufacturer could match. Confusingly, many of the more common fairings exist in numerous variations, such as the most common one, The last in bed to put out the light. Others appear with different captions, and the same caption can appear on different fairings