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I bought my first jug of freehand-painted earthenware in a little cottage on the Gaspe Peninsula years ago. It had the name of the owner's grandmother and the date 1820 and it was painted with splashy pink asters and green leaves. Of course, the day has passed when you can pick up such "finds" and if you do see a dated piece today it will be expensive. Usually only experienced collectors and those with plenty of money go in for such pieces today, but there are still plenty of simple freehand-painted plates and pitchers to be found.
Bold freehand-painted designs of conventional flowers and leaves were painted on 19th-century English earthenware made for the African and North and South American trade as well as for English consumption. The colors most often found on this "gaudyware" are red and green, or blue and yellow, but designs painted in pink and green and blue and purple are also found. The best-known design is now called Adams Rose. The flowers and leaves are usually painted in red and green and the design is found on tea and coffee sets, platters, plates, cup plates, vegetable dishes, and even washbasins and pitchers. The pieces are usually marked "Adams" impressed and were made between 1804 and 1860. Similar patterns were made by Davenport and are found marked "Davenport" impressed, with an impressed anchor or an impressed six-petal flower. A Davenport floral design in blue, yellow, and green was also made in about 1800 or at least before 1830.
Freehand-painted pottery marked "Wood" impressed, or "E. Wood & Sons, Burslem," was also made between 1820 and 1846. This ware was also made by many other English potteries, but the majority of the pieces are unmarked, so that the quality must be judged by the color, design, and shape of the individual piece.
Much of the earliest and finest freehand-painted earthenware is marked with a name and a date. This is true of jugs especially, and such jugs were made at Leeds with festoons and floral designs in green, orange, yellow, blue, and brown. Freehand-painted plates and platters had floral designs in the centers and feather edges of blue or green.
The Cambrian Pottery at Swansea made freehand-painted pottery between 1824 and 1831. Swiftly painted designs of flowers, birds, animals, and cottages were used together with a feather edge of blue or green or embossed shell and acanthus borders. The painting is similar in design to that on lusterware made at the same time and was probably painted and decorated by the same workmen.
In the New York Coyrmercial Advertiser, April 25, 1831, Fish, Grinell & Company advertised "100 crates of well assorted painted and edged Ware." Few pieces of this freehand-painted ware were marked, but it was undoubtedly made by all the well-known potters of the period.