Early Fictile Art In America
IN all our wanderings and searchings we have never found any specimens of old American china, for one author says that, like the snakes in Iceland, there are none. The history of the early manufacture of porcelain in this country is so meagre that it is quickly written, and records of early pottery-works are not plentiful, and specimens are comparatively unobtainable; and frequently far from beautiful or instructive. Still I believe that America deserves a fuller ceramic history, and has had a larger manufacture of pottery and porcelain than is generally known.
One class of pottery relics should not be neglected by collectors—those of the North American Indians. When our Pilgrim Fathers landed on the bleak shores of New England they found the red man using rough bowls and pans of coarse earthen ware as cooking utensils. Gookin wrote of them thus : " The pots they seethe their food in are made of clay and earth almost in the form of an egg with the top broken off." Bradford wrote that the colonists also found great pottery vessels buried in the earth, containing stores of maize. Perfect specimens of the work of New England savages are rare, and are usually in a simple bowl shape. In the fragments found in the Connecticut Valley mica is mingled with the clay, as in the old Celtic wares of Ireland. Wherever the white man landed, to whatever spot he penetrated, he found Indians, and he also found the Indians using coarse pottery vessels, " akeeks," of their own manufacture. The early accounts of the country—Spanish, Portuguese, French, and English—all tell of the use and manufacture of pottery among the Indians.. In the "Brevis Narratio" of Le Moyne de Morgues, written in the sixteenth century, we are given illustrations purporting to be of some forms of pottery used by the Florida Indians at that time. Father Hennepin, writing about 168o, asserts that before the arrival of Europeans in North America, "both the Northern and Southern Salvages made use of, and do to this day use, Earthen Pots, especially such as have no Commerce with the Europeans from whom they may procure Kettels and other Moveables.". It is the fashion among antiquaries to place no confidence in Father Hennepin, but I think we may believe this state ment of his, since we have so much additional evidence, both through past writers and present discoveries.
In Hariot's "Virginia," of the date 1590, we learn that the Virginian Indians " cooked their meate in earthen pottes. Thier women know how to make earthen vessels with special Cunninge, and that so large and fine that our potters with thoye wheles can make no better.; and they Remoue them from place to place as easeleye as we can doe our brassen kettles."
The Cherokee Indians, having fine clays of various colors to work with, made a good class of pottery, far better than any made by northern Indians, some of the vessels being of large size. Lieutenant Timberlake, who visited them in 1765, says he saw one at a " physic-dance " that would hold twenty gallons. Adair, writing in 1775, says that they made " earthen pots of very different sizes, so as to contain from two to ten gallons, large pitchers to carry water, bowls, platters, dishes, basons, and a prodigious number of other vessels of such antiquated forms as would be tedious to describe and impossible to name. Their method of glazing them is, they place them over a large pit of smoky pitch pine which makes them smooth, black, and firm. Their lands abound with proper clay and even with porcelain, as has been proved by experiment." A description of the vessels of "antiquated forms" would, of course, have made his account of far more use and interest to us nowadays. William Bartram, that intelligent observer, writing in 1773, confirms the accounts of other travellers among the Indians in South Carolina and Georgia, and tells of the discovery of a very interesting earthen pot found in an Indian mound on Colonel's Island, in Liberty County, Ga. He says " it was wrought all over the outside representing basket-work, and was undoubtedly esteemed a very ingenious performance by the people at the age of its construction." This burial urn (for such the pot proved to be) was indeed a very good piece of work for an Indian potter, and is still pre-served. It is about fifteen inches in height and ten in its greatest diameter, of graceful outline, and is covered with an impressed design of fine basket-work. It was made with an admixture of gravel and powdered shell, which rendered it strong enough to resist the disintegrating influences of the soil by which it was surrounded. It was enclosed in two outer vessels of ruder workmanship, which crumbled into fragments upon exposure to the air. Within the inner vessel were the bones of a young child. Too young to own any earthly possessions to be buried with him, this little Indian baby was interred in the tumulus of shell and clay, in his earthen coffin alone.
In the burial mounds of grown persons vast amounts of broken vessels and ashes of other burnt property are discovered. All peoples have at some period of their history had the custom of burying articles of use or value with their dead, or of burning these possessions at the time of the burial of the dead owner. To this custom, which existed among the North American Indians, we owe the preservation of nearly all the specimens of their poorly baked, fragile cooking utensils and burial urns that we now possess. Many filled with food and drink were whole when placed in the mound, but were quickly destroyed and crushed by the sinking earth, or disintegrated by the moisture. Many also re-main, and sherds of Indian pottery are constantly being brought to light by our civilized ploughshares. It has been erroneously thought by some students that Indian pottery was only sun-dried ; had it been so, no specimens would have withstood for so many years the action of the soil and elements, but would have returned ere this to their old clayey consistency.
In examining this Indian pottery it is easy to see the natural way in which the earliest forms were developed. The gourd, the shell, the basket, the square box of bark—all these primitive shapes of vessels were copied in the pottery. The ornamentation, too, was compassed in a simple fashion ; the vessel was sometimes modelled within a rush basket or frame of reeds—thus the impressed design remained upon it. Rude dyes were applied. One indented design is said to have been formed by the finger-nail of the Indian potter ; other designs have been impressed by twisted thongs. All these methods and forms of ornamentation were also used by the Celtic potters. Little pieces of mica or shell were inserted in the wet clay pot, and were fired in as a further ornament.
The earthen vessel was either baked in a rude kiln or inverted over coals of burning wood. We have several very good descriptions of the methods of manufacturing and firing of Indian potters at a later date. Dumont writes in 1848, of the Louisiana Indians: " After having amassed the proper kind of clay and carefully cleaned it, the Indian women take shells which they pound and reduce to a fine powder; they mix this powder with the clay, and having poured some water on the mass, they knead it with their hands and feet and make it into a paste of which they form rolls six or seven feet long, and of a thickness suitable to their purpose. If they intend to fashion a plate or a vase, they take hold of one of these rolls by the end, and fixing here with the thumb of the left hand the centre of the vessel they are about to make, they turn the roll with astonishing quickness around this centre, describing a spiral Iine ; now and then they dip their fingers into water and smooth with the right hand the inner and outer surface of the vase they intend to fashion, which would become ruffled or undulated without that manipulation. In this manner they make all sorts of earthen vessels, plates, dishes, bowls, pots, and jars, some of which hold from forty to fifty pints."
This is a prettier and more domestic picture of the Indian wife than many we have of the draggled, over-worked squaw digging in the fields, or carrying the tent-poles on her back like a pack-horse. The whirling coil of clay, the growing earthen jar, the deftly-shaping hand, are certainly picturesque and homely. The Indian women were potters in all the tribes, it being deemed unmanly work for a lordly brave.
The Indians of the Mohawk Valley, the Iroquois, made much and varied pottery.. In the fine collection of Indian relics owned by A. G. Richmond, Esq., of Canajoharie, N. Y., are some very interesting pieces of pottery which have been taken from Indian mounds—among them two jars of so delicate and friable a character that one wonders how they have ever escaped disintegration and destruction; also a rare fragment wrought with a representation of the human figure.
Another form of Indian pottery must not be forgotten, for the significance of the pipe in the early history of our country cannot be overrated. The calumet was a moral, religious, and political influence ; on its manufacture and ornamentation the Indian expended all his skill and his best labor; and to its suited and significant use he gave his deepest thought. The use of the pipe was a devotion-al service—the Great Spirit smoked His pipe, and his followers did likewise in His honor; it was a political signal —no war was declared, no treaty of peace was signed without the accompaniment and symbolical use of the pipe. Lieutenant Timberlake says that the Cherokees made pipes " of the same earth they made their pots with, but beautifully diversified," and he pathetically records that he was forced to smoke so many pipes of peace with them that he was made very unpleasantly sick thereby. This special tribe of Indians had such fine blue clay, and knew so well how to mix and prepare it, that they made better pipes than their neighbors, and thus pipes became a medium of exchange—Indian money. The strong clay pipes of the English settlers were, as soon as imported, eagerly sought for and quickly purchased by the Indians.
Fine and varied specimens of the pottery vessels and pipes of the various Indian nations may be found in the cabinets of the Smithsonian Institution, in the rooms of the various State historical societies, in the buildings of our colleges and natural history associations, and may be studied to advantage by the student of ceramics. A full or worthy history of the fictile art of the North American Indians has yet to be written.
I doubt if the colonists ever used the Indian pottery, for at an early date they began to manufacture bricks and earthen ware, and having wheels to help them in shaping their pots, could far outdo the Indians. They made laws to protect such manufacture. The General Court of Massachusetts ordered, as early as 1646, that " tyle earth to make sale ware shall be digged before the first of 9 mo and turned over in the last or first before it be wrought." John Pride, of Salem, was registered as a potter in 1641. He may have helped to establish a pottery in Danvers, then a suburb of Salem, for the manufacture of earthen ware in that town was coeval with the existence of the settlement ; and the Danvers potworks were, I believe, the first to be established in America by any of the colonies. Higginson, writing from Salem in 1629, said, " It is thought here is good clay to make bricks & tyles and earthen pot as may be. At this instant we are setting a bricke kill to worke to make brickes and tyles for the building of our houses."
William Osborne was the first Danvers potter, and his descendants carried on the business in that immediate vicinity for about. two centuries. Mr. Joseph Reed then took charge as the successor of the house of Osborne. At the end of the eighteenth century the production of "Danvers ware" was extensive. Morse's Gazettcer of 1797 says, " Large quantities of brick and coarse earthen ware are manufactured here." A resident of the town wrote thus in 1848, " Table ware of Danvers China brought a high price during the late war." To call the common red pottery "china" is certainly flattering, but may be pardoned on account of the local pride of the writer.
At the "time of the late war "—the war of 1812—there were no less than twenty-six of these pottery works where now there is only one. The situation of the residence and pot-works of William Osborne is still known, and the manufacture of earthen ware has gone on in the same place without interruption ever since. Simple forms only have been made-often lead-glazedbean-pots, jugs, pitchers, milk-pans, jars, etc. We must except, of course, the table ware of war times. This Osborne kiln is situated in what is called Peabody, but in the town of North Danvers there was discovered a few years ago the foundation of an old forgotten kiln, which had been owned by a potter named Porter. There is no finer quality of clay than is still found in large quantities within a quarter of a mile of this old Porter kiln. This clay is, however, carried to Boston and elsewhere instead of being manufactured where it is dug. Potters make good citizens. Staffordshire men say, " working in earth makes men easy-minded," and a community of potters is always orderly, law-abiding, thrifty, and industrious. A larger and constantly increasing manufacture of Danvers ware should have been encouraged.
An enthusiastic local minstrel sings thus of Danvers pottery and patriots :
" Here plastic clay the potter turned
The Quakers kept up with the Puritans in the attempt to establish home manufactures and home industries. Father Pastorius wrote in 1684, " Of brick kilns and tile ovens, we have the necessary number." Gabriel Thomas found in Pennsylvania, in 1696, both brick-kilns and pot-works. He writes thus to encourage emigration from England, and to show the high wages in the new land. " Brick-makers have twenty shillings per thousand for their bricks at the kilns, and potters have sixteenpence for an earthen-ware pot that may be bought in England for fourpence."
In New Jersey, at Burlington, Governor Coxe, of "West Jersey," established in 1690 a pottery of considerable size and pretension. The Virginians kept pace with the Quakers and Puritans. As early as 1649 there were several pot-works in Virginia.
Potteries were also established on Long Island in the eighteenth century. On March 31, 1735, "The widow of Thomas Parmynter offers for sale her farm at White stone, opposite Frogs Point. It has twenty acres of clay ground fit for making tobacco pipes. For sale also two negroes, with utensils and other conveniences for carrying on that business." On July 3, 1738, the same farm, with its " beds of pipe-making clay," was again sold. On May 13, 1751, this advertisement appeared : " Any persons desirous may be supplied with vases, urns, flower-pots to adorn gardens and tops of houses, or any other ornament made of clay, by Edward Annely at White stone, he having set up the potter's business by means of a German family that he bought (? ), who are supposed by their work to be the most ingenious that arrived in America. He has clay capable of making eight different kinds of ware." This was evidently quite a pretentious start in the pottery manufacture, and with the assistance of the ingenious family of German potters, and the ad-vantages of convenient beds of clay, Edward Annely should have succeeded ; but no record remains to indicate either his success or failure.
Upon the old farm of John Lefferts, in Flatbush, Long Island, there exists a large pond called by the apparently incongruous name of Steenbakkery. This pond was formed by the removal of clay for use in a steenbakkery or pottery upon the place, and from the size of the excavation vast numbers of bricks and coarse stone ware must have been made. The ruins of the racks for the bricks remained standing within the memory of persons now living. This pond having, of course, no outlet through its clay bottom, has in our present age of sanitary drainage been ordered to be filled in. In New York City, near " Fresh Water Pond," back of the City Hall, a German potter named Remmey established works, but his descendants were crowded out by the growing city, and removed to South Amboy.
In 1748 the State of Massachusetts offered bounties to encourage the manufacture of earthen ware, and many new pot-works were established. " Mangness" for the use of potters was offered for sale in the newspapers, and the would-be purchaser was to inquire of the printer, who in colonial days seemed literally to have a finger in every pie. One of the oldest of these colonial potteries was started previous to the year 1765, by a man whose descendants of the same name still conduct the pottery works known as the factory of A. H. Hews & Co., in North Cambridge, Mass. The record of this family firm is so remarkable for America that it should be told at some length. Not only has the company continued in the same business in an uninterrupted line of the same firm name, but it possesses a record of a century and a third of unspotted integrity in business dealings. It has passed through times of foreign and civil,, wars, through business crises and depressions, in an even career of honor and fair-dealing, and now has earned a deserved and independent position, having the largest manufactory of flower-pots in the world—making many millions yearly—as well as a large and varied line of art pottery. When Abraham Hews was pottering around in his little pottery in Weston, in 1765, making milk-pans and bean-pots, and jugs and teapots, and exchanging them for general merchandise, in which New England rum and molasses took no inferior part, he little foresaw the vast business enterprise that would be carried out by his great-grandson in 1891. The clay used by him in Weston was brought from Watertown, and later from Cambridge, and the firm did not move their works to Cambridge until 1870. Abraham Hews, second, lived to be eighty-eight years old (being post-master for fifty-one years), and his son lived to be eighty-one years old, dying in 1891—the good old Puri-tan stock showing in long life as well as in honest life. Thus does a chain of only three lives reach to ante-Revolutionary times, and an ante-Revolutionary pottery.
In the Norwich Gazette of September 15, 1796, we find this advertisement of a pottery : " C. Potts & Son inform the Public that they have lately established a Manufactory of Earthen ware at the shop formerly improved by Mr. Charles Lathrop, where all kinds of said Ware is made and sold either in large or small quantities, and warranted good." . This pottery was on Bean Hill. It is referred to in Miss Caulkin's " History of Norwich," Dr. Peters's "History of Connecticut," and in Morse's Gazetteer.
At the commencement of the Revolutionary war a man named Upton came from Nantucket to East Greenwich, R. L, and there manufactured earthen ware. The pottery when made was baked in a kiln which stood at the corner of King and Marlboro Streets. He made pans, bowls, plates, cups, and saucers of common red clay, a little finer than that now used in the manufacture of flower-pots. As little porcelain was imported from Europe during the War, people used willingly, and even eagerly, the coarse plates, and drank their " Liberty Tea" from the coarse cups and saucers. The clay came from Goold's Mount, now owned by Mr. Henry Waterman, of Quidneset. After the war was ended Potter Upton went back to his safety-assured home on Nantucket, and the Greenwich pottery was closed.
In 1793 there was a flourishing pottery in Quasset, Windham County, Conn., and the pottery carts of Thomas Bugbee, the proprietor, were well known throughout the county. He made inkstands, bean-pots, jugs, jars, and many other common shapes, and the demand for milk-pans alone always kept his kiln running all summer. There was at this time another similar pottery in Stoning ton, owned by Adam States, who made gray jugs and pots and jars with salt-glaze. Another firm at Norwalk manufactured red ware with a lead glaze. There is a specimen in the Trumbull-Prime collection. Mr. Prime says they manufactured mugs, teapots, jars, and milk-pans at this Norwalk pottery. In 1794 a Mr. Fenton, of New Haven, set up in Lynn Street, Boston, a pottery where " all manner of stone vessels were made after the manner of imported Liverpool ware and sold at a lower rate." The clay for this manufacture was brought from Perth Amboy, N. J.
An article in the American Museum in 1791, on the existing state of American manufactures, said, " Coarse tiles and bricks of an excellent quality, potters' wares, all in quantities beyond the home consumption, a few ordinary vessels of stone mixed with clay, some mustard and snuff bottles, a few flasks or flagons, a small quantity of sheet glass, and of vessels for family use, generally of inferior kinds, are now made." Dr. Dwight, in 1822, gave among his list of Connecticut factories and manufactures, " potteries twelve," " value of earthen and stone ware $30,940;" and for Massachusetts, "earthen ware, $18,700." Though nothing but coarse earthen ware was made in America in these, colonial days, the new land played no unimportant part in the first. steps toward porcelain manufacture in England in the middle of the eighteenth century. It was the custom, when English vessels had discharged their freights in southern American ports, for them to take samples of the alluvial deposits of North and South Carolina, of Georgia and Florida, to carry back to England for English potters and chemists to experiment upon. The Bow china-works began to manufacture porcelain about the year 1744. In that year a sample of china-clay being brought from America, a patent was taken out by Thomas Frye, of West Ham, Essex, and Edward Heylyn, of Bow, for the production of porcelain, of which one of the ingredients was " an earth, the product of the Cherokee nation in America, called by the natives ' unaker.' " When this patent was renewed in 1794, no mention was made of " unaker."
In Plymouth a shrewd old Quaker, William Cook-worthy, also had his eye upon the American china-clay. He wrote to Mr. Hingston on May 30, 1745, saying that kaolin and petuntse had been discovered in America, and that he had seen specimens said to have been manufactured from the American materials. One letter of his on the subject runs thus : " I had lately with me the person who hath discovered the china-earth. He had with him several samples of the china ware of their making which I think were equal to the Asiatic. 'Twas found on the back of Virginia, where he was in quest of mines, and having read Du Halde, he discovered both the petuntse and the kaolin. 'Twas this latter earth which he says is essential to the success of the manfacture. He is going for a cargo of it, having bought from the Indians the whole country where it rises. They can import it for 13 pounds per ton, and by that means afford their china as cheap' as common stone ware. The man is a Quaker by profession, but seems to be as thorough a Deist as I ever met with." In 1768 Cookworthy established the Plymouth china works, but no further mention is made of the deistical Quaker and his promised cargo of china-earth.
In 1655 a box of " porcelain-earth from the internal parts of the Cherokee nation, four hundred miles from hence (Charleston) on mountains scarcely. accessible," was consigned to another English potter, Richard Champion, who founded the Bristol china works. This box of clay was sent by Champion's brother-in-law, Mr. Caleb Lloyd, of Charleston, to be forwarded to the Worcester china works to be used there in experiments. At the same time another box was sent to Champion for a relative of his, the Earl of Hyndford, who de-sired Champion to open it and make experiments with it, or to give it to Mr. Goldney, " who is a very curious gentleman." The curious Mr. Goldney declined using the clay, and Champion experimented unsuccessfully " on the principle of Chinese porcelain," and then decided to use clay from Cornwall, which was " not so fine as the Cherokee; however, there'can be no chance of introducing the latter as a manufacture when it can be so easily procured from Cornwall."
In 1766 the English Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce gave a gold medal to Mr. Samuel Bowen, with the inscription that it was given to him " for his useful observations in china and industrious application of them in Georgia." It was doubtless the industrious Mr. Bowen's china that was referred to in Felix Farley's Bristol Journal, in the issue of November 24, 1764. " This week some pieces of porcelain manufactured in Georgia was imported ; the materials appear to be good, but the workmanship is far from being admired." Though this china venture was of enough importance to be-medal its projector, all traces of its Iocation, progress, and fate have been lost.
Other and more pretentious pot-works were brought into life by the Massachusetts bounties. In the Boston Evening Post of October 30, 1769, we read, Wanted immediately at the new Factory in New Boston, four Boys for Apprentices to learn the Art of making Tortoise-shell Cream and Green Colour Plates, Dishes, Coffee and Tea Pots, Cups and Saucers and other Articles in the Potter's Business, equal to any imported from England. Any Persons inclined to Bind out such Lads to the aforesaid Business is desired to apply immediately at the said Factory or at Leigh's Intelligence Office."
It is very evident, from many advertisements at about this date, that a strenuous and well-directed effort was made to establish and maintaih pot-works in Boston. 'Thus on May 12, 1769, there appeared in the Boston Evening Post this notice : " Wanted Samples of different clays and fine White Sand. Any Person or Persons that will send about 5 lbs. of Clay and a Pint of fine white Sand to Leigh's Intelligence Office, in Merchants'
Row, Boston, if it is the sort wanted the Proprietors will have advantage of Proposals made to them to supply a quantity." Good wages, too, for the times, were offered to workmen, practised potters. " Twenty Dollars per Month with Victuals Drink Washing and Lodging given to any persons Skilled in Making Glazing and Burning common Earthen ware who can be well recommended. Enquire of the Printer."
All this applying and experimenting and establishing, and the fact that a Quaker named Bartlam, an unsuccessful English master-potter, had started a pottery in Camden, S. C., in the very heart of the clay supply -all this seriously alarmed that far-seeing and shrewd business man, Josiah Wedgwood. He had once before lost his foreman, Mr. Podmore, who left him with the intention of establishing pot-works in America. Mr. Chaffers, a Liverpool manufacturer, had caught the intending emigrant during his pre-embarking stay in Liverpool, and finding that Podmore showed so much intelligence and practical knowledge of the business, had made him sufficiently liberal offers to induce him to remain in England. English potters had also emigrated in large numbers.
Wedgwood wrote thus at that time to his patron, Sir W. Meredith : Permit me, Sir, to mention a circumstance of a more public nature, which greatly alarms us in this neighborhood. The bulk of our particular manufactures are, you know, exported to foreign markets, for our home consumption is very trifling in comparison to what is sent abroad ; and the principal of these markets are the Continent and Islands of North America. To the continent we send an amazing quantity of white stone ware and some of the finer kinds, but for the islands we cannot make anything too rich and costly. This trade to our colonies we are apprehensive of losing in a few years, as they set on foot some pot-works there already, and are at this time amongst us hiring a number of our hands for establishing new pot-works in South Carolina, having got one of our insolvent master-potters there to conduct them. They have every material there, equal if not superior to our own, for carrying on that manufacture ; and as the necessaries of life and consequently the prices of labour amongst us are daily advancing, it is highly probable that more will follow them and join their brother artists and manufacturers of all classes who are from all quarters taking a rapid flight in-deed the same way."
Wedgwood did not intend to be left out or left behind in the "flight" into the benefits and resources of the New World ; Pensacola clay was brought to him in 1766; and in 1767, from Ayoree (or Hyoree as he spelt it), other clays were fetched, and the canny potter at once at-tempted to secure a patent right to the exclusive use of them. A man named Griffiths, who had owned in South Carolina a one-third share in three thousand acres of land, where he had " attempted the manufacture of maple-sugar after the manner of the Indians," now became Wedgwood's agent in America, under heavy bonds. Griffiths, the owner of the ill-situated maple grove and sugar factory, went to the Cherokee country and sent home clay to Wedgwood to experiment upon. The growing and free use of the Cornish clays, however, rendered the importation of American clays as superfluous as it was expensive and inconvenient; and the interference of the Revolutionary war destroyed all fear of American competition in the manufacture of pottery. The vicinity near Camden, S. C. (where the Bartlam pottery had been established), was particularly devastated, many fierce battles being fought around it.
In 1784, Richard Champion, who was always an enthusiastic lover of America, and who had unsuccessfully experimented in England with the Cherokee clays, left Bristol and came to live on a plantation named Rocky-branch, near Camden. Wedgwood must have felt many apprehensions and fears when Champion took this step, for he knew well the energy and determination of the emigrant to America, who had in previous years completely routed him in a long-contested and bitter lawsuit over the use of certain English clays in the manufacture of china. Wedgwood knew, too, Championes ability and capacity as a potter, and without doubt dreaded lest the man who had done such good work at Bristol should do more and better still when in the land of the Cherokee clay, at Camden. His fears (if they existed) were destined never to be realized, for Champion became a planter, filled several public offices in the State, died in 1793, on the seventh anniversary of the day he left England, and was buried near Camden.
In the year 1770 china-works were in operation in Philadelphia. They were established by Gousse Bonnin and George Anthony Morris. On December 2o, 1769, an. advertisement was printed in a Philadelphia newspaper, which read thus : " New China Works. Notwithstanding 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 that they have proved to a certainty that the clays of America are as productive of good Porcelain as any heretofore manufactured at the famous factory in Bow, near London." Later Messrs. Bonnin and Morris advertised for "broken flint-glass and whole flint-stone," and also for " shank-bones " to be delivered at the china factory in Southwark. In April, 1772, they advertised for "several apprentices to the painting branch," and encouragement was offered to "china painters either in blue or enamel," which latter notice shows that their china products were decorated. They also offered a reward for the production of zafre, a compound of cobalt.
This china venture failed, the real estate of the company was sold, and the proprietors returned to England asking public attention and charity for their poor work-men. Thus forlornly ended the first porcelain factory in America ; and thus tamely subsided the rivalry between English and American china materials. When we consider the vast natural resources in America for the chinamaker to draw from-the inexhaustible supply of raw materials—the unlimited beds of rich kaolin, the vast stores of pipe, potteres, ball, and fire clay—the endless mines of quartz and feldspar, the tinted earths of Alabama, the colored kaolin of Illinois, the mines of lithomarge in Tennessee—to say nothing of the boundless wealth of supplies in the far West—it seems to us that America was very slow—indeed is still very slow in taking advantage of the hints given by Cookworthy, by Champion, and by Wedgwood in the eighteenth century.
This quickly-ended china-factory of Bonnin and Morris is the one referred to in the Edinburgh Weekly Magazine of January, 1771, which says : " By a letter from Philadelphia we are informed that a large china manufactory is established there, and that better china cups. and saucers are' made there than at Bow or Stratford." Benjamin Franklin, writing to his wife from London in January, 1772, after thanking her for the cranberries and apples and various American home reminders that she had sent to him, adds, " I thank you for the sauce-boats, and am pleased to see so good a progress made in the china manufactory. I wish it success most heartily." But writing to an English potter in November, 1773, he says, " I understand the china-works in Philadelphia is declined by the first owners ; whether any others will take it up and continue it, I know not."
Mr. Prime, in his book, gives the information that there were "some undoubted specimens of the work deposited in the Franklin Institute on exhibition." I do not know where those specimens' now are. A pair of vases at the H. L. D.. Lewis sale in Philadelphia, in December, 189o, were catalogued as having been made at this first porcelain manufactory. There is no existing record of the fact that they were produced there, and no stamp or mark to prove it, and I do not know why they were thus assigned. They were purchased by the Mount Vernon Association for eighteen dollars each, and can now be seen in Washington's old home. They stand ten inches in height, are flat in shape, about six inches in diameter, have gilded griffin handles and polished gilt faces, and are decorated with highly colored views of naval battles. They have an interest to all col-lectors as being specimens of the first china factory in America, as well as from the fact that they were early ornaments of Mount Vernon.
Philadelphia seems to have taken and kept the lead in the manufacture of porcelain in America, or else we are more fortunate in having the records of Philadelphia pot works preserved for us. The Pennsylvania Society for the Encouragement of Manufactures offered in 1787, a " plate of gold to the value of twenty dollars," as a prize for the "best specimen of Pennsylvania-made earthen ware approaching the nearest in quality to the delft white stone or queen's ware," and an equal prize for the best salt-glazed ware ; and in 1792 a prize of $50 for similar ware. In 1808 Alexander Trotter exhibited at Peale's Museum, in Philadelphia, some of the articles manufactured at his Columbian Pottery, which was situated on South Street, between Twelfth and Thirteenth Streets, in that city, while the warehouse was at No. 66 North Second Street. This business continued until 1813. The proprietor advertised " tea and coffee pots, pitchers, jugs, wine-coolers, basins, ewers, and baking dishes ; " and it was also stated that an " elegant jug and goblets from the queen's ware manufactory" were used at the Republican dinner on July 4, 1808, at Philadelphia., This ware was similar to the Staffordshire stone wares. In the same year a firm named Binney & Ronaldson made in South Street, in Philadelphia, red and yellow tea-pots, coffee-pots, and sugar-boxes. At the be-ginning of the century D. Freytag advertised that, at 192 South 5th Street, Philadelphia, he would decorate piece china with gold and silver; hence he must have had a kiln for firing. In the year 1800 a pottery, called the "Washington Pottery," was established by John Mullawney on the north side of Market Street, near Schuylkill South, in the same city. The productions were called " Washington ware," and consisted of pitchers, coffee-pots, teapots, cream-pots, sugar-boxes, wash-basins, bowls, etc. It was carried on by the same proprietor until 1816, and was in operation for many years after. In 1813 the Northern Liberty Pottery was founded by Thomas Haig on the corner of Front and Market Streets, and the manufacture of earthen ware is still continued by one of his descendants. David G. Seixas had a similar manufactory at about the same time, from 1817 to 1822, at Market Street near Schuylkill 6th. In 1817 George Bruorton announced through the Philadelphia press, that he would enamel and gild arms, crests, ciphers, borders, or any device on china, or queen's ware as good as any imported. Also "china mended by burning in and warranted as sound for use as ever." In 1826 Joseph Keen also decorated china in Market Street, near Eleventh Street. So we can plainly see how much the question of china decoration and china-works was thought of in that town.
In the year 1828, William Ellis Tucker had a china store at 86 Arcade, in Philadelphia. He thus advertised : " American china of a quality equal in strength and beauty to any that can be imported, and upon the most reasonable terms. Initials or fancy work to suit the taste of individuals will be executed agreeably to order in the neatest style."
In the year 1868 Miss Peters presented to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania a porcelain pitcher which had been made at the establishment of Messrs. Tucker & Hemphill. At the request of the Society, Mr. Thomas Tucker prepared the following paper on the manufacture of porcelain in the United States.
PHILADELPHIA, May 13, 186$.
To THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PENNSYLVANIA :
GENTLEMEN : Herewith please find a small account of the manufacture of porcelain in the United States.
William Ellis Tucker, my brother, was the first to make porcelain in the United States. My father, Benjamin Tucker, had a china store in Market Street, in the city of Philadelphia, in the year 1816. He built a kiln for William in the back-yard of the store, where he painted in the white china and burned it on in the kiln, which gave him a taste for that kind of work. After that he commenced experimenting with the different kinds of clays, to see if he could not make the ware. He succeeded in making a very good kind of ware called queen's ware. He then commenced experimenting with felspar and kaolin to make porcelain, and, after much labor he succeeded in making a few small articles of very good porcelain. He then obtained the old water-works at the northwest corner of Schuylkill, Front, and Chestnut, where he erected a large glazing kiln, enamelling kiln, mills, etc. He burned kiln after kiln with very poor success. The glazing would crack and the body would blister ; and, besides, we discovered that we had a man who placed the ware in the kiln who was employed by some interested parties in England to impede our success.
Most of the handles were found in the seggars after the kiln was burned.. We could not account for it until a deaf and dumb man in our employment detected him running his knife around each handle as he placed them in the kiln.
At another time every piece of china had to be broken before it could be taken out of the seggar. We always washed the round Os, the article in which the china was placed in the kiln, with silex ; but this man had washed them with felspar, which of course melted, and fastened with every article to the bottom. But William discharged him, and we soon got over that difficulty.
In the year 1827 my brother received a silver medal from the Franklin Institute of Pennsylvania, and in 1831 received one from the Institute in New York.. In 1828 I commenced to learn the different branches of the business. On August 22, 1832, my brother William died. Some time before he connected himself with the late Judge Hemphill. They purchased the property at the southwest corner of Schuylkill, Sixth, and Chestnut Streets, where they built a large store-house or factory, which they filled with porcelain. After the death of my brother, Judge Hemphill and myself continued the making of porcelain for some years, until he sold out his interest to a company of Eastern gentlemen ; but being unfortunate in their other operations, they were not able to give the porcelain attention. In the year 1837 I under-took to carry it alone, and did so for about one year, making a large quantity of very fine porcelain, many pieces of which I still have. The gilding and painting is now as perfect as when first done.
I herewith present you with a pitcher which I made thirty-one years ago. You will notice the glazing and transparency of this specimen is equal to the best imported china ; but the gilding, having been in use so many years, is somewhat injured. I would like to give you a larger article, but I have but few pieces left.
Very respectfully yours, etc.,
I cannot understand why Thomas Tucker should have fancied that his brother was the first to make porcelain in the United States. Could he not have known of the ante-Revolutionary china-works of Bonnin & Morris ?
There are in the Trumbull-Prime Collection several specimens of Tucker's " natural porcelain." The paste and glaze are excellent, but the forms are commonplace, and the decorations indicate want of experience and taste, gold being profusely used.
At an early date, certainly in the eighteenth century, pot-works were established in Allentown, Pa., and in Pittsburg, where decorated pottery was made which resembled German manufactures, and which was often ornamented with mottoes and legends in slip decoration.
From 1793 to 1800 John and William Norton made red ware in Bennington, Vt.; since then stone-ware has been made in the same works. In 1847 Messrs. Lyman & Fenton started a pottery in Bennington, in which they made both pottery and soft-paste porcelain. These works continued for about twelve years. Specimens of their tortoise-shell wares are in the Trumbull-Prime Collection. One in the shape of a lion is here shown.
They also made figures of men and animals in Parian wares, the first, doubtless, produced in America. The impressed circular mark on some of the enamelled pottery was " Lyman Fenton & Co. Fenton's Enamel, patented 1849, Bennington, Vt."
In the year 1837 by far the most important enter-prise in the manufacture of pottery and 'porcelain that had ever been organized in America was started under the supervision of Mr. James Clews, who had been a potter in Cobridge, England, from the years 1819 to 1829, and who was the largest manufacturer of dark-blue Stafford-shire wares at that date. An account of many pieces of his production in his English pottery, and of the stamps and marks used by him, is given in Chapter XVII.
He emigrated to America, and went to what was then the Far West—to Indiana ; and with capitalists from Louisville, Ky.—Reuben Bates, Samuel Cassiday, William Bell, James Anderson, Jr., Edward Bainbridge, Perly Chamberlin, William Gerwin, John B. Bland, Willis Ranney, and James Lewis—incorporated a company, under the name of The Indiana Pottery Company, with a capital of $100,000 and power to increase to $200,000. A special act of January 7, 1837 (see Indiana Local Laws, Twenty-first Session, p. 7), states that these parties had " heretofore associated themselves together for the purpose of manufacturing earthen-ware and china in the State of Indiana, under the name and style of The Lewis Pottery Company."
The Indiana Pottery Company built its works in Troy, Perry County, thus having means of easy transportation by the Ohio River to New Orleans and other important points.
Mr. Clews had amassed much wealth in his Cobridge works, but he quickly lost it in this new enterprise in the new land, which proved far from successful.. The chief difficulty lay in the hiring of proper workmen. The English potters proved wholly unreliable in this country, and the expense of importing fresh relays of workmen was too great to be endured. Nearly three hundred potters were brought over from England. The founders also found it impossible to make white ware with the clay in the vicinity of Troy, and of the vast beds of fine kaolin which exist in Indiana they were doubtless ignorant. The dark-blue ware which they manufactured proved far from satisfactory, and though so brilliantly started by practical and wealthy men, this pottery was quickly closed, after making a considerable quantity of yellow and Rockingham ware. In 1851 a firm named Sanders & Wilson leased the buildings, which were burned in 1854, but were rebuilt. There are now two potteries in Troy.
In the early part of this century, probably in 1827, a china factory was established in Jersey City, N. J., which made hard-paste porcelain. Specimens of pure white with gilded vines are in the Trumbull-Prime Collection. In 1829 the works became known as the American Pottery Company, and pieces of their manufacture at that date bear that mark. This pottery is still in existence, though known by another name. They made from the year 183o the embossed brown pottery pitcher with " hound handle," which was also such a favorite with English potters from the time it was manufactured at Fulham. The design for these American hound-handled pitchers was made by Daniel Greatbach, a prominent English modeller, who came to this country many years ago. A specimen which I possess is of mottled tortoise-shell, green, brown, and yellow, and bears the design of a hunt around the body and grape-leaves on the top, but more frequently the pitchers are simply colored brown. Some have a mask of Bacchus on and under the nose, and one I own has the nose formed by an American "spread eagle." They were a favorite tat-water jug in the early too years of their manufacture, their size, strength, and shape making them particularly suitable for such a purpose.
They were sometimes fitted with metal covers fastened to holes drilled through the pottery. I have seen them twenty inches in height, and at least three feet in circumference. In some parts of the country they are known as "tavern pitchers,"perhaps from power of association. Such is the one herewith shown, now owned by Robert T. Van Deusen, esq., of Albany. Some were doubtless from English potteries, but many are American. Glazed brown " tobys " with the circular impressed mark "D. & J. Henderson, Jersey City," were also made, but the exact age of such pieces is unknown.
Of the later porcelain factories which have been established in America I will not speak—the factories of Trenton, Baltimore, East Liverpool, Long Island City which now number over five hundred. Their story will doubtless be written ere long by some historian of the ceramic art in America, but hardly comes within the bounds of this work. Specimens of their manufacture, especially of the truly artistic productions of the Baltimore China Works, should, however, be secured by every china-collector, though they do not appeal so strongly to the china-hunter, to whom the pleasures of the chase often exceed the delight in the spoils, and to whom old china, like old wine, is better than new.
( Originally Published Early 1900's )