Notebook, 1993-


POTTERY AND PORCELAIN - Glossary - A List of Museums and Galleries - Ceramics - [A materials resource site with links]

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Pottery & Porcelain - American (cont.)

First of two factories at Greenpoint [now Brooklyn] was Charles Cartlidge & Co., operating 1848-56. The proprietor was a Staffordshire [Burslem] man, who at once brought over his brother-in-law Josiah Jones to model 'biscuit busts of celebrated Americans'. A 9-inch [22.9 cm] likeness of General Zachary Taylor in 1848 [Barber, pp. 446-7] was followed by Daniel Webster, John Marshall, and others, in what the firm always described as bisque porcelain. From buttons and cameos the firm's output ranged to inkstands and chessmen, cane heads and endless other novelties, which at the Crystal Palace in 1858 won a silver medal 'for the excellence of the porcelain body and the gilding'.

Second of the Greenpoint enterprises was that of William Boch & Brother, founded 1850, which exhibited at the Crystal Palace as makers of door hardware and bone-china table goods. Thomas Carl Smith, who became manager in 1857, acquired the shaky business in 1861, reopened it as the Union Porcelain Works in 1862, and by 1864-5 had changed over to hardpaste porcelain.

Karl Müller came to the factory in 1874, as chief designer and modeller, creating many once-famous subjects eyed nowadays with disfavour, and others of quality and virtue; among the latter was a bisque [p. 414] porcelain pitcher The Poets, which in 1876 was a presentation piece to E. J. Brockett. Finely moulded heads of Milton, Ossian, Shakespeare [sic], Dante, Homer, and Virgil are seen with trophies and allegorical figures above and below. To the red-painted factory mark is added an impressed [later, printed] bird's head, the symbol adopted in 1876.

Other porcelain
Of minor importance is the Southern Porcelain Manufacturing Co., established in 1856 at Kaolin, South Carolina by William H. Farrar, who had been a Bennington stockholder. Numerous potters followed him here, the modeller Josiah Jones as manager in 1857, when the Cartlidge factory closed, and next year [when Bennington also failed], Fenton was there briefly on his way to Peoria, Illinois, where he built an unsuccessful works. Until fire destroyed the factory in 1863-4 only 'a fair porcelain' was produced at Kaolin, such as the coarsely designed Corn pitchers of 1859-61 [Barber, pp. 188-9]. But to this site six miles from Augusta, potters were still attracted as they had been in Duché's time more than a century before.

From an inconspicuous beginning in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1863 there grew two years later the firm of Ott & Brewer, whose workshop, called the 'Etruria Pottery', proved the training ground for several potters of stature. For his own part, John Hart Brewer produced in 1875-6 a series of fine Parian portrait busts of Washington, Franklin, and U.S. Grant, modelled by Isaac Broome [Newark Museum, Clement's Pottery and Porcelain of New Jersey. Nos. 217-19 and Plate 44]. The firm, dissolved in 1893, is especially remembered as a maker of American Belleek in the 1880s.

One of the Ott & Brewer apprentices was Walter Scott Lenox, later their decoration manager, who in 1889 formed the Ceramic Art Company, and in 1896 established the distinguished firm of Lenox, Inc. - since 1918 known as the makers of White House state services, and porcelain for the American embassies.

Moulded Wares
The later porcelains and the wares that follow were of a new order. The factory period had arrived about 1830, product of an industrial revolution that showed a parallel in mechanization of the glass industry, as freeblown glass gave way to pressed. In the ceramics field new types of pottery were no longer thrown on the potter's wheel but shaped in moulds. Forms were now created by designers and mass-produced by professional workmen; the simple potshop was transformed into a factory, where output was large and the price small.

Being made from liquid clay, Parian ware had to be poured into moulds. Bennington had been first to introduce 'this exquisite material, the happy substitute for marble in statuettes' -indeed, in 1852 had advertised it by the latter name, as 'Figures in Parian Marble'. The snowy ware was everywhere a favourite after the 1850s, made from Vermont to the Carolinas, or in Ohio by William Bloor of East Liverpool in 1860. And so much was its formula varied, one often doubts whether to call an example Parian or bisque porcelain.

But fear and outrage had swept the workers, at seeing 'the old usages of the trade broken up' [Wedgwood and Ormsbee, p. 95]. Labour strikes in 1834-43 were followed by a panic of Staffordshire workmen in 1845-6, when they thought their livelihood threatened by the invention of pot-making machines.

The nonpareil of all moulded work was a 19-foot [3 m] monument made 1851-2 at Bennington and displayed 1853 at the Crystal Palace [Barber, Fig. 74]. In three tiers of marbled or 'scroddled' ware, of the colour-flecked Fenton's Enamel, and of brown-streaked Rockingham, it was topped with the Parian figure of a 'woman in the act of presenting the Bible to an infant'. Just below, a portrait bust also in Parian represented Mr Fenton himself, peeking through a classic colonnade.

In America David Henderson of Jersey City, who has been called 'the Wedgwood of America', was pioneer in the manufacture of moulded wares. His fine buff stoneware jug marked Uncle Toby/1829 was advertised as Toby Philpot [sic] in 1830. A very similar but larger one was made in 1838-45 at the Salamander Works [1825-96] in Woodbridge, New Jersey. This is a jug of rich chestnut-brown colour with yellow-glazed interior. A Daniel Greatbach model with grapevine handle was made at Bennington, with normal Rockingham glaze but mismarked Fenton's Enamel/Patented 1849.

American Belleek
Belonging with the porcelains, last of the late wares is American Belleek, a thin, highly translucent, feldspathic body which is cousin to Parian, finished with a pale pearly glaze. Irish Belleek [see Glossary] was seen at the Centennial Exhibition in 1876, and excited the admiration of American potters.

Some time between 1880 and 1882 the Trenton firm of Ott & Brewer brought over the potter William Bromley, who had developed Irish Belleek, and by 1882, produced 'the first piece of belleek porcelain made in America' [a square tray]. A fancy shell-shaped pitcher marked W.S.L./1887 was produced at their works by Walter Lenox, who later brought two Belleek workmen to his own Ceramic Art Co. [1889-96] and further developed the ware at Lenox, Inc., from 1896. Edwin Bennett had achieved the production of Belleek by 1886 at Baltimore, and the Columbian Art Pottery [established 1893] made it by 1895 at Trenton.

Perhaps best of the American Belleek was 'Lotus Ware' a product of Knowles, Taylor & Knowles at East Liverpool, 1891-8. In 1887 Isaac W. Knowles had brought over Joshua Poole, manager of the Irish Factory, and before 1889 made a finely moulded and fragile ware that in the 1890s earned much favour.

Belleek and majolica, or the art tiles and 'studio wares' that flourished alongside Rookwood from the 1880s, cannot yet be classed as antiques. Yet with Tiffany glass and other late work of quality, they have gained wide acceptance among collectors. In 1879 the 3rd edition of W. C. Prime's Pottery and Porcelain of All Times and Nations [which devoted a total of six pages to 'Pottery and Porcelain in the United States'] began with these words: 'Ten years ago there were probably not ten collectors of pottery and porcelain in the United States. Today there are perhaps ten thousand . . . .' What would he think of the range and vigour of collecting today? [p. 415]

[L. G. G. Ramsey, F.S.A., ed. The Complete Color Encyclopedia of Antiques. Preface by Bevis Hillier, Editor of The Connoisseur. Compiled by The Connoisseur, London. New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc. 1962. Revised and Expanded Edition.]



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