Dr. Frederick C. Freed donated the collection of teapots that date from 1750 to 1860. The doctor traveled extensively internationally and collected teapots while he was away. He was born in the city of Trenton, Tennessee in 1889 and went to school in Nashville for his premed. He completed his Doctorate in Medicine in 1913 from Jefferson College in Philadelphia. He did his residency in obstetrics and gynecology in New York at Bellevue Hospital. Dr. Freed opened a practice in the city and remained there for forty years.
While the doctor was on his travels he began collecting veilleuses-theieres. This is a type of nightlight teapot; not the typical teapot that brews tea. Throughout the time he collected teapots there were more than six hundred and fifty in his collection which was the largest private collection in the world.
The museum was founded in Trenton, Tennessee thanks to his brother, Sylvane Freed. When the doctor was visiting him in Trenton he asked what he was going to do with his massive collection. At that time he thought he would leave them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His brother convinced him to donate them to his hometown and the museum was born.
Dr. Freed's home at 304 East Eaton Street is open for public tours or meetings. The address of the Trenton Teapot Museum is at Trenton City Hall, 309 College Street, Trenton, TN 38382. There is no charge to enter the museum and it is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. If a large group wishes to visit they should call ahead of time.
The first teapots were donated in 1955 when Dr. Freed gave the city five hundred and twenty five of them. It was over a period of several years that they were dispersed. They were first displayed in the lobby of the Peabody High School Auditorium.
The teapots remained in this location until a new Municipal Building was constructed. Dr. Freed made sure a special display case was constructed to house the teapots permanently. They reside in the council chambers. More than three thousand visitors come to the Municipal Building in Trenton to view the teapot collection.
Within the United States there are only two other collections that are near the same magnitude. The two collections belonged to Frances Parkinson Keyes and Harold Newman. Similar collections can be found in Europe in France, Switzerland and Italy.
The earliest teapots were used as food warmers, with a bowl instead of a teapot. They used this top of veilleuses for porridge, soups or drinks for an invalid in a hospital or sick room. Because of the design of these teapots they were often used to brew tea with medicine in them for infants and for their light. They became the first nightlights because most of them were translucent.
The popularity of these teapots with aristocrats in Europe produced many unique designs. Some were figurines or in the form of a person. They even had the crests or insignia of the families of distinction.