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( Originally Published 1963 )
Creamware soon became immensely popular. Everyone liked it and it was exported to America too. Other potteries in England and on the Continent started to make it, but of them all, the Leeds factory in northern England became the greatest producer of creamware except for Wedgwood between 1780 and 1820.
Most experts agree that Leeds creamware is lighter in weight than that made by any other factory. The glazes also were quite different from Wedgwood's. A pale cream tint was used after 1780, which was harder and more brilliant than the glazes on Wedgwood's creamware. A great deal of the Leeds output was painted in patterns based on flowers, foliage, and birds, often with garlands worked into the designs. Outstanding and individual, however, were the many pieces with pierced borders. Some of these piercings were intricate designs of interlaced circles, ovals, and the like. Twisted handles on coffeepots and teapots were another characteristic.
Thomas Whieldon, who established his pottery in 1740, is especially remembered for his tortoiseshell creamware, which had a mottled brown glaze. It is extremely valuable today. Whieldon also made every kind of pottery that was being produced in the Staffordshire District during the eighteenth century. His china was lightweight and well-proportioned and his glazes were brilliant and varied. Incidentally, Aaron Wood and Josiah Spode, each of whom went on to become a famous potter in his own right, were apprentices to Whieldon, and Josiah Wedgwood was his partner for a time.
ROCKINGHAM was the name acquired by a quite different lead-glazed earthenware that began to be made in 1757. Its distinctive feature was the Rockingham glaze, mottled in shades of brown and buff. It was used first at a pottery in Swinton, Yorkshire, which was owned for a time by the Marquess of Rockingham. This glaze proved to be more distinctive than the earthenware to which it was applied. Before long, many other potteries in England were using a typical Rockingham glaze on a wide variety of practical and useful earthenware products, including teapots, tiles, and pudding molds.
In this country, a similar glaze became typical of pottery produced in Bennington, Vermont, after 1840. This also shaded from brown to buff. Some of the Bennington products had green or blue streaks added to the brown. The wares are sometimes called Bennington-Rockingham. Other potters in St. Johnsbury and Middlebury, Vermont, Baltimore, Maryland, and the Ohio Valley also used a sort of brown Rockingham glaze.
Cow creamers, hound-handled pitchers, and apostle pitchers are famous Bennington articles. Other styles of pitchers and jugs and a varied array of kitchen utensils also were produced. Nothing was too unimportant-or important-including even washboards and cuspidors.
STONEWARE was the traditional pottery of Germany, though it was made in England from at least 1675. It is fired at a much higher temperature than earthenware, is very hard and nonporous. The color ranges from gray to white and also includes some brown.
Some of the best-known pieces of the German stoneware are the beer steins or jugs and tankards formerly used in both homes and taverns. Most people think of them as being gray stoneware with blue decoration. Other colors, chiefly green, red, yellow, and white, also were used for decoration. Pitchers and vases are commonly found, and the vases often are of fine quality.
SALT GLAZE is one of the unusual stonewares. It had both a distinctive texture and color that were the result of table salt being thrown over the ware before the last firing (glaze in powder form was applied before the first firing). Because the salt vaporized, the surface of the finished piece besame pitted or bumpy, rather like the skin of an orange. English potters duplicated the technique of salt-glazed stoneware before 1700, and a small amount was made in the United States after 1850.
Most of the salt-glaze ware a person might find now undoubtedly would have been made during the nineteenth century and probably had been imported from England. Staffordshire was the district where much of it was produced. A considerable amount of graywhite ware formed in molds was sold in the United States during the 1800's.
The molds produced a surface pattern -perhaps of rope in a geometrical arrangement, basketweave, naturalistic designs such as ferns and flowers, or callas with flower, leaves, and stems. This salt glaze seems not to have been made in sets, but such pieces as pitchers, syrup jugs, bowls, and serving dishes were produced in a variety of designs.
A good deal of the stoneware made in the United States since 1800 is likely to be found in houses in town as well as in the country. It probably will be thick with cobwebs and so dirty that it's impossible to tell what color it is, but it's well worth cleaning up and washing. It will turn out to be one of the utilitarian containers or storage vessels. Crocks of all sizes and shapes, jugs, quart containers for milk, and catsup bottles the size of pop bottles are the most likely pieces. These stoneware containers were invaluable for storing milk, molasses, cider, vinegar, and other liquids, as well as pickled foods, preserves, and butter.
Simply decorated stoneware of this sort was used for other kitchen articles too. Salt crocks to hang on the wall, for example, are charming and far more decorative than the storage utensils. Some kitchen stoneware displayed colored glazes, often in shades of blue, and molded designs in low relief such as butterflies. If you're lucky, you may come upon a batter jug, a modest-sized pitcher used to pour batter onto the griddle. Ring bottles, which were formed as rings two to three inches wide, are more unusual. Ink bottles, large and small, may seem almost unidentifiable until you stop to consider what purpose a rectangular piece without a stopper might have served.
The production of this practical stoneware started in New Jersey, and as proper clays were found or cheap transportation arranged, spread to southern Connecticut, other New England States, New York, and later Ohio. A good deal was made in potteries in the Ohio Valley. Until about 1800, most of this stoneware was given a salt glaze.
Albany slip, a type with tan or brown glaze inside, was made in the early 1800's. Stoneware with brown glaze inside and out, made later in the century, seems less attractive. After 1850, colored glazes gave stoneware an entirely different appearance and a completely different texture from that of salt glaze.
Most prized of this nineteenth-century stoneware are the gray or buff pieces with simple decoration. Between 1825 and 1880, the decoration was done mostly with slip, cobalt-blue in color. Some decorations were stenciled after 1850, and for this birds, chickens, flowers and foliage, and rural motifs were popular. For example, a bird perched on a leafy branch might be stenciled on each side of a jar or crock. On pieces that would be lifted and carried, handles were molded into shape on either side. Removable stoneware covers were made for pails and churns, but jugs and small bottles were stopped with corks.
STONE CHINA, another type of stoneware, was first introduced by the Spode pottery in England for tableware. It was cheaper and more durable than the new European and English porcelains.
IRONSTONE CHINA followed in 1813, when the Mason brothers in England applied for a patent on their process. This type of stoneware was extremely popular throughout the nineteenth century. It is hard, glossy, and white with a blue tint. It is sometimes called white granite, although the name ironstone originally was intended to indicate its hardness and durability. Many other English potters were soon making ironstone and it has been produced in America since about 1870. Currently, reproductions of popular nineteenth-century patterns are being made.
The usual mental picture conjured up by the word ironstone is of rather heavy-looking, opaque, and glossy white china with no colored glaze or decoration-the sort that was so popular from 1850 to about 1890. The tureens and other covered dishes were angular. Every possible piece from the tureen to the ladle that was kept in it was made of this ironstone, which might better be called graniteware or white granite. However, not all of this ironstone was plain. Some had molded decoration, such as a sheaf of wheat.
Actually, the first ironstone made by the Masons was beautifully decorated in colored enamels and often touched with gilding. This was done on the finest-quality ware. On the less expensive, transfer-printed designs were done in color. Designs in the manner of the Chinese were used to a great extent, especially those with flowers, birds, and butterflies. Some scenes that included figures also were used.