|Antiques Digest||Browse Auctions||Appraisal||Home|
PHILADELPHIA (SOUTHWARK) CHINA - 1769-1772 OR 1773
HISTORY. In December 1769, the following card or handbill notice was circulated in Philadelphia, then the largest and most important city of the Colonies: "NEW CHINA WARE. Not withstanding the various difficulties and disadvantages, which usually attend the introduction of any important manufacture into a new country, the Proprietors of the China Works, now erecting in Southwark, have the pleasure to acquaint the public, they have proved to a certainty, that the Clays of America are productive of as good Porcelain, as any heretofore manufactured at the famous factory in Bow, near London, and imported into the Colonies and plantations, which they will engage to sell upon very reasonable terms; and as they purpose going largely into this manufacture as soon as the works are completed, they request those persons who choose to favour them with commands, to be as early as possible, laying it down as a fixed principle, to take all orders in rotation, and execute the earliest first; dealers will meet with the usual encouragement, and may be assured, that no goods under Thirty Pounds' worth, will be sold to private persons out of the factory, at a lower advance than from their shops. All workmen skilled in the different branches of throwing, turning, modelling, moulding, pressing and painting, upon application to the Proprietors, may depend on encouragement suitable to their abilities; and such parents, as are inclined to bind their children apprentices to either of these branches, must be early in their application. All orders from the country, or other provinces, inclosed in letters, postpaid, and directed to the China Proprietors in Philadelphia, will be faithfully executed, and the Ware warranted equal to any, in goodness and cheapness, hitherto manufactured, or imported from England."
The promoters of this enterprise were Mr. Gousse Bonnin, who had probably learned his trade at Bow, and Mr. George Anthony Morris. Later they advertised for bones, so that it is evident they made use of bone-ash in the paste. In 1772 they advertised again for apprentices to learn the various branches of making and decorating china.
Like many others who had before them embarked on the making of porcelain, the undertakers of the Southwark china factory found to their sorrow that it was a very expensive business and beset with difficulties. In 1771 they appealed to the Assembly of Pennsylvania for financial assistance in the form of a subsidy or else of a loan, and they also had recourse to a lottery in order to raise badly needed funds. What success they met with in these directions we know not, but after running the factory for a little more than two years they were obliged to close it, the real estate was sold, and Bonnin went back to England.
THE BODY. The body was a soft paste porcelain of granular texture and of a mellow cream color.
THE GLAZE.The glaze was clear, soft and of a velvety quality.
ARTICLES MADE AND CONTOUR. The articles made were of the "useful" sort and included dinner services, dessert services with fretwork fruit baskets, tea services and all the small table accessories. The shapes were those then current in England and were patterned on those of Bow, Chelsea and Worcester.
TYPES OF DECORATION. The types of decoration included moulded devices in low relief and painted flowers and leaves in underglaze blue. THE MARKS. The mark was a small P in underglaze blue. In the Pennsylvania Museum (Memorial Hall) there is a piece of this ware, belonging to the Franklin Institute, which once formed part of a dinner and dessert service. It is of good quality and compares favourably with the early work of Bow or Worcester.