Trenton Teapot Festival
This small city in West Tennessee is perhaps the only place in the world where city business is routinely conducted in an art gallery.
It is not the City of Trenton cannot afford a municipal building; it is more that the municipal building was designed as an art gallery, and when Trenton's city fathers meet to discuss the city's business, they do it amid the splendor of several million dollars worth of teapots.
We are not talking about the standard blue or gray enamelware teapot or the ceramic dime store variety with painted flowers. These teapots are truly works of art, rare, beautiful and antique teapots properly called Veilleuses-theieres (pronounced vay-uhz tay-air), or Night Light teapots.
The incredible collection of these antique teapots on display in Trenton was a gift to the city from Dr. Fredrick C. Freed, a professor of gynecology at New York University and a native of Trenton. Dr. Freed amassed his collection during 40 years of searching antique shops around the world. He originally planned to present his 500 piece collection of antique teapots to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. They came to Trenton instead at the suggestion of Dr. Freed's brother.
The idea of the veilleuse was born in the 18th century when ceramists in Europe began producing a device of use in sickrooms and nurseries. The veilleuse started out as a simple, utilitarian warming dish set atop a pedestal containing a shallow dish of oil. When the oil was lighted, the contents of the dish were heated. Artists of the period were quick to notice the flame also shone through the translucent sides of the pedestal producing a soft night-light effect. As the idea caught the public favor, artisans began producing more decorative versions designed as containers for tea and other beverages.
Dr. Freed's collection in Trenton stems primarily from the 19th century when French ceramists began producing elaborately decorated veilleuses-theieres which often concealed the fact that they were simply very functional teapots of a warming pedestal.
A teapot spout is the Trenton Collection, for example, might be a bobbin of yarn in the hand of a woman, an opening in the plumed hat of a handsome musketeer, the extended arm of a soldier, or a pitcher in the hand of a goddess riding on the back of a leaping dolphin.
Part of the charm of the Trenton Collection is its small town setting and the obvious pride the city's residents have in their priceless collection of antique teapots. The collection is the basis of and annual weeklong Teapot Festival each year in May.
It usually begins with the lighting of the teapots ceremony at City Hall. Music and fireworks show highlight the first evening of the festival. Other highlights include a parade and the chocolate extravaganza. Tennis and softball tournaments, along with other athletic competitions, are featured each day during the festival.
An arts & crafts show, antique car exhibition, fireworks, display and street dance highlight the final day of the event. The teapots may be viewed all year round, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. When City Hall is closed, visitors ask the firemen next door to get the key for them.
For more information on the "World's Largest Collection of Teapots," contact the Greater Gibson County Area Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 464, Trenton, TN 38382. Telephone (731) 855-2013.