The City of Thomson and Colonial Virginia have something in common - a large number of commemorative plates. The seventh in the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce's series of historical plates has been designed featuring the Laura Jones Elementary School.
Thomson resident and Importer Jack Roth markets the Staffordshire wares, which are dishes made in England with the same cutting copper engraving techniques used in the 1830's.
"Thomson is unique in that it is the only town in America that I know of that has so many different designs," Mr. Roth said. "Although Williamsburg, Va., could have more."
And Mr. Roth should know because his company, John H. Roth and Company, is the sole importer of the Staffordshire wares.
The plates are designed especially for Thomson, feature a local historical site surrounded by a border of camellias and are available in blue-on-white and pink-on-white. A brief history of the featured site is printed on the back of the plate.
Mr. Roth said the Thomson plates are the only Staffordshire wares that feature camellias. The images on the plates are hand-engraved on copper with the same style of artwork used on United States money, Mr. Roth said. The process is labor-intensive and takes a craftsman over 65 hours to complete. Mr. Roth said many people have suggested that he take pictures and use the computer to make the image for the plates.
"The computer work comes off too perfect," he explained. "With the engraving, you get the irregularity of the handwork. So it has an artistic bent and is much more appealing to the eye."
The Laura Jones School on the newest edition also means Thomson is the only community with three continuous properties on its wares, Mr. Roth said. The school once stood where the First United Methodist Church of Thomson's Family Life Center is now located. A memorial hallway inside the Life Center features the original brick, lockers, seats and a radiator, as well as photos and markers from the old school. The surrounding properties available on previously made plates are the McDuffie County Courthouse and the First United Methodist Church of Thomson.
In addition to the courthouse, other previous plates in the Chamber's series include the Wrightsboro Church, the Thomas E. Watson House, the Depot, the Rock House and Hickory Hill. According to Carolyn Gilbert, the chamber director, one more plate will be made next year to make a complete set of eight.
Mr. Roth said other Staffordshire plates imported for Thomson, but not included in the Chamber's historical set, include the First UMC, the First Baptist Church of Thomson and Sweetwater Baptist Church.
The newest plate will be available at the beginning of December, just in time for Christmas, Mrs. Gilbert said. The price has not been set, but is expected to be around $40.
"It was never a money maker for the Chamber," Mrs. Gilbert said in a previous interview. "It's just something we wanted to do for the community."
For more information, or to purchase previous plates in the series, visit the Chamber of Commerce at the Depot on Main Street in downtown Thomson, or call 706-597-1000.