Popular Science Monthly/Volume 40/December 1891/The Development of American Industries Since Columbus: Pottery Industry I
|THE RISE OF THE POTTERY INDUSTRY.|
By EDWIN ATLEE BARBER.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF AMERICAN INDUSTRIES SINCE COLUMBUS. X.
FOREIGN writers would have the world believe that the United States can boast of no ceramic history. Even our own chroniclers have, singularly enough, neglected a branch of our industrial progress which is not altogether insignificant nor devoid of interest. On the contrary, it can be shown that the fictile art is almost as ancient in this country as in Great Britain, and has been developed in almost parallel lines.
The first European settlers found the American natives proficient in the manufacture of earthen vessels, and we would not be justified in supposing, even in the absence of documentary evidence, that our ancestors were more ignorant of the useful arts than the Atlantic Coast Indians, who, less cultured than the prehistoric mound builders and the Pueblo races of the West, were in possession of rude, but often ornamental, utensils made of baked clay and sand.
Primitive potteries for the production of earthenware on a small scale were operated in the provinces at an early period, but as only the coarser grades of ware were needed by the simple inhabitants of a new country, no extended accounts of them appear to have been written by the older historians. As early as the year 1649, however, there were a number of small potteries in Virginia which carried on a thriving business in the communities in which they existed; and the first Dutch settlers in New York brought with them a practical knowledge of potting, and are said to have made a ware equal in quality to that produced in the ancient town of Delft. Prof. Isaac Broome, of the Beaver Falls Art Tile Works, informs me that the remains of an old kiln fire-hole, saved from the ravages of time by being thoroughly vitrified, still exist a mile or two below South Amboy, N. J. This is a relic of the earlier pottery ware made on this continent, and was most probably established by the Dutch to make stew-pans and pots.
Dr. Daniel Coxe, of London, proprietor, and afterward governor, of West Jersey, was undoubtedly the first to make white ware on this side of the Atlantic. While he did not come to America himself, he caused a pottery to be erected at Burlington, N. J., previous to the year 1690, through his agent, John Tatham, who, with Daniel Coxe, his son, looked after his large interests here. It is recorded that in 1691 Dr. Coxe sold to the "West New Jersey Society" of London, consisting of forty-eight persons, his entire interests in the province, including a dwelling-house and "pottery-house" with all the tools, for the sum of £9,000 sterling. We are indebted to Mr John D. McCormick, of Trenton, N. J., for calling attention to the following reference to this pottery, supposed to have been written about 1688, in the Rawlinson manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, England: "I have erected a pottery att Burlington for white and chiney ware, a greate quantity to ye value of £1200 have beene already made and vended in ye Country, neighbour Colonies and ye Islands of Barbadoes and Jamaica where they are in great request. I have two houses and kills with all necessary implements, diverse workemen, and other servants. Have expended thereon about £2000." It is possible to gain some idea of the nature of this "white and chiney ware" by examining the statements of Dr. Plot, a contemporary, who published his Natural History of Staffordshire two years before, as quoted by the late Mr. Llewellynn Jewitt, in his Ceramic Art of Great Britain: "The greatest pottery they have in this country is carried on at Burslem, near Newcastle-under-Lyme, where for making their different sorts of pots they have as many different sorts of clay.… and are distinguish't by their colours and uses as followeth:—
"1. Bottle clay, of a bright whitish streaked yellow colour.
"2. Hard fire clay, of a duller whitish colour, and fully intersperst with a dark yellow, which they use for their black wares, being mixt with the
"3. Red Blending clay, which is of a dirty red colour,"4. White clay, so called it seems, though of a blewish colour, and used for making yellow-colour'd ware, because yellow is the lightest colour they make any ware of."
In 1685 Thomas Miles made a white "stone-ware" of pipe-clay procured at Shelton. A few years after this, it is said that a potter named Astbury made "crouch" and "white stone" ware in the same town, on which he used a salt glaze. It is probable that the "chiney" of the Burlington pottery was in reality a cream-colored ware or a white stone-ware somewhat similar to that made about the same time in England. It is not unlikely that the clay was brought from South Amboy, as Dr. Coxe owned considerable land in that vicinity. This clay has since been extensively employed in the manufacture of fine stone-ware.
Among the immigrants of the seventeenth century were potters who had learned their trade in the mother country, and Gabriel Thomas, who came from England, states in his Description of Philadelphia, published in 1697, that "great encouragements are given to tradesmen and others.… Potters have sixteen pence for an earthen pot which may be bought in England for four pence."
It has heretofore been generally believed that the first bricks used in the erection of houses in this country were imported, but it is more than probable that by far the greater proportion were made here. Daniel Pegg and others manufactured bricks in Philadelphia as early as 1685, and within a few years after that date numerous brick-yards were in operation along the shores of the Delaware. Many residences throughout the country, particularly in certain sections of Pennsylvania, were built of brick early in the eighteenth century. The cost of importing these supplies from England and transporting them to the rural districts, far removed from tide-water, would have been prohibitory. That building-bricks were extensively manufactured here previous to 1753 is indicated by a statement of Lewis Evans, of Philadelphia, who wrote to a friend in England in that year: "The greatest vein of Clay for Bricks and Pottery begins near Trenton Falls, and extends a mile or two in Breadth on the Pennsylvania side of the River to Christine; then it crosses the River and goes by Salem. The whole world cannot afford better bricks than our town is built of. Nor is the Lime which is mostly brought from White Marsh inferior to that wherewith the old castles in Brittain were formerly built."
When burned, as formerly, in "clamps," the bricks formed their own kiln, piled on edge, a finger's breadth apart, to allow the heat to circulate between. Those which came in direct contact with the wood-fire in the kiln were blackened and partially vitrified on the exposed ends; while the opposite extremities, which were farthest from the heat, were only partially burned, and consequently too soft for external use. The other bricks in the kiln which were uniformly surrounded by heat came out red. To utilize all the bricks produced, the black ends of the former were laid outward in the wall, thus combining utility with ornamentation. Many of the older houses were constructed in this manner. An old building on the Brandywine, near West Chester, erected in 1724, was built of bricks made on the property from clay found in the vicinity. The structure was considered an imposing one in its day, and the walls are still standing, in an excellent state of preservation. The annexed drawing will convey a good idea of the manner of laying the bricks in a wall where the red and black varieties were used, known as the Flemish
Fig. 1.—Flemish Bond.
bond, in which the binders and stretchers alternated, each layer breaking joints with that above and below.
Roofing tiles were also manufactured in this country more than a hundred years ago. Plain tiles were made of ordinary brick clay, about five eighths of an inch in thickness and six and a half to seven inches wide by thirteen to fourteen in length. They were fastened to the rafters of the roof by means of a clay knob or hook at the upper margin of the under side. The surfaces were broadly and shallowly grooved to carry the water off. Such tiles are still found in the débris of an old smithy which was built in 1799 at Cope's Bridge on the Brandywine. Other examples, made in Lancaster County, Pa., one of which bears the date 1769, have recently come to light.
A stone-ware factory was started in New York, at "Potter's Hill," near the "Fresh-water Pond," back of the City Hall, in or about 1735, by John Remmey, who came from Germany. The business passed through three generations, all of the same name, and was discontinued about 1820. Later on, John Remmey, great-grandson of the above, moved to South Amboy, N. J., and established a pottery there.
Previous to the middle of the last century, and before the manufacture of porcelain had been attempted in America, English Fig. 2.—American Roofing Tiles (eighteenth century). potters were using china clays procured in this country. Mr. Jewitt, in his Ceramic Art of Great Britain, informs us that a patent was taken out in 1744, by Edward Heylyn, of the parish of Bow, in the county of Middlesex, merchant, and Thomas Frye, of the parish of West Ham, in the county of Essex, painter, for the manufacture of china-ware; and in the following year they enrolled their specification, in which they state that the material used in their invention "is an earth, the produce of the Chirokee nation in America, called by the natives unaker."
In 1878 and 1879, Mr. William H. Goss, proprietor of the extensive porcelain works at London Road, Stoke-on-Trent, contributed to the English Pottery and Glass Trades' Review a series of notes on Mr. Jewitt's work. In December of the former year he wrote: "The specification of this patent is of startling interest. Who would have thought, until Mr. Jewitt unfolded this document to modern light, that the first English china that we have any knowledge of was made from American china-clay? Let our American cousins look out for, and treasure up lovingly, specimens of the earliest old Bow-ware after learning that." Then follows the specification in full as given by Mr. Jewitt, and Mr. Goss continues: "This 'unaker,' the produce of the Chirokee nation in America, is decomposed granitic rock, the earth or clay resulting from the washing being the decomposed felspar of that rock. It is curious that it should have been imported from among the Chirokees when we had mountains of it so near as Cornwall; unknown, however, to any 'whom it might concern' until Cookworthy discovered it twenty-four years later than the date of the above patent." William Cookworthy was acquainted with American clays as early as 1745, for in a letter to a friend dated fifth month, thirtieth, of that year, quoted by Mr. Jewitt, he writes: "I had lately with me the person who hath discovered the china-earth. He had several samples of the china-ware of their making with him, which were, I think, equal to the Asiatic. 'Twas found in the back of Virginia, where he was in quest of mines; and having read Du Halde, discovered both the petunse and kaulin. 'Tis the latter earth, he says, is the essential thing towards the success of the manufacture. He is gone for a cargo of it, having bought the whole country of the Indians where it rises. They can import it for £13 per ton, and by that means afford their china as cheap as common stoneware. But they intend only to go about 30 per cent under the company."
We must not conclude from this statement that the ware which Cookworthy had seen had been made in America. It is much more probable that the pieces were some of those produced at the Bow works, within the year that had just passed, from the recently discovered American materials.
Not until 1769 was there any serious attempt made to manufacture fine porcelain on this side of the water. In Watson's Annals of Philadelphia we find the brief statement that "the desire to encourage domestic fabrics gave rise, in 1771, to the erection of a flint-glass manufactory near Lancaster, by which they hoped to save £30,000 to the province. A china factory, too, was also erected on Prime Street, near the present Navy Yard, intended to make china at a saving of £15,000." In a foot-note the author adds: "This long row of wooden houses afterwards became famous as a sailors' brothel and riot-house on a large scale. The former frail ware proved an abortive scheme." Mr. Charles Henry Hart, of Philadelphia, made the interesting discovery, a few years ago, of some old advertisements in the newspapers of that time which threw considerable light on this early American enterprise, and he has kindly placed at my disposal the results of his investigations. The first of these announcements, which appeared in the latter part of the year 1769, is as follows:
Subsequently the proprietors advertised for bones, offering twenty shillings per thousand "for any quantity of horses or beeves shank-bones, whole or broken, fifteen shillings for hogs, and ten shillings for calves and sheep (a proportionable price for knuckle bones) delivered at the china factory in Southwark"; concluding with the announcement that the capital works of the factory were then completed and in full operation. The projectors of this enterprise were Gousse Bonnin, a foreigner, who had most probably learned his trade at Bow, and George Anthony Morris, of Philadelphia. In January, 1771, they applied to the Assembly for pecuniary assistance, in the form of a provincial loan, the petition being given in full by Colonel Frank M. Etting in his History of Independence Hall. In their address it is stated that the petitioners "have expended great sums in bringing from London Workmen of acknowledged Abilities, have established them here, erected spacious Buildings, Mills, Kilns, and various Requisites, and brought the Work, we flatter ourselves, into no contemptible Train of Perfection." Whether they were successful in securing the loan does not appear, but later in the same year they advertised for zaffer or zaffera, without which they could not make blue ware. In April, 1772, they advertised for apprentices to the painting and other branches, and shortly after for flint glass and "fifty wagon loads of white flint stone." The attempt, however, proved a failure in a financial point, and in the latter year the proprietors made a public appeal for charity for the workmen who had been brought to a strange country and were left without means of support. After running about two years the factory was closed, the real estate was sold, and Bonnin returned to England.
Little is known of the ware made here. The fact that zaffer was used shows that blue decorated ware was made. The Bow works at that period turned out little but blue and white china, as was the case with all of the early English factories, which employed lapis lazuli and zaffer to color beneath the glaze.
The terra-cotta works owned by Mr. A. H. Hews, at North Cambridge, Mass., were founded by his great-grandfather, Abraham Hews, at Weston, Mass., some time previous to 1765. At first only the ordinary household utensils of earthenware were made and sold in exchange for general merchandise. After several changes in the firm name, the business descended to the present proprietor in 1865, and five years later was transferred to its present location, where it is said that more flower-pots are produced than at any other factory in the world. Here also are made the usual line of fancy garden terra-cotta and a large variety of art pottery for decorators.
Toward the latter part of the last century potteries for the manufacture of earthen and stone ware had become numerous throughout the States. During the Revolutionary period considerable china was imported from India, Holland, and England for the use of the wealthier citizens, but pewter utensils were also much in vogue. The common people used earthenware, generally red pottery, on which the first attempts at decoration were made with yellow slip. Dishes and flower-pots, with pie-crust edge and rude floral designs or dates, were common (see Fig. 17).
Before the beginning of the present century several stone-ware and earthenware potteries were started in Connecticut. In 1791 John Curtis was making a good quality of pottery in Philadelphia from clay obtained where the brewery now stands at Tenth and Filbert Streets, and his name is found in the directory as late as 1811 in the same business. In the former year Andrew Miller also made earthenware in the same town, and continued the business until 1810, when it passed into the hands of Abraham and Andrew Miller, Jr., who carried on the business jointly for about six years. In 1824 Abraham Miller displayed, at the first annual exhibition of the Franklin Institute, "red and black glazed tea-pots, coffee-pots, and other articles of the same description. Also a sample of platinated or lustre pitchers, with a specimen of porcelain and white ware, all of which exhibited a growing improvement in the manufacture, both in the quality and form of the articles." Quoting from the report of the committee: "It is but a few years since we were under the necessity of importing a considerable proportion of this description of ware for home consumption, but since our potters have attained the art of making it equal, if not superior, to the imported, and as cheap, they have entirely excluded the foreign ware from the American market." Miller continued to manufacture a fine grade of earthenware, such as plates, vases, and ornamental flower-pots, until 1858, but we can not discover that he carried the manufacture of porcelain beyond some successful experiments.
John and William Norton established a pottery in Bennington, Vt., in 1793, for the production of red ware, which was discontinued about 1800, when the manufacture of stone-ware was substituted. This ware has been made continuously ever since, the business being now carried on by Messrs. Thatcher and Norton, the latter a great-grandson of John Norton, one of the founders.
A "china" manufactory existed in Philadelphia ninety-one years ago, but very little is known regarding it. A friend has recently shown me a letter, dated August 14, 1800, written by a merchant of that city to his wife, who was then visiting in New Jersey, in which occurs the following interesting bit of news: "On account of a man being murdered at the China Factory on Monday evening last, a block maker by trade, a number of the same profession, with Rope makers and Carpenters, assembled and on Tuesday evening began to pull down the buildings; they continued at their work till yesterday mid-day,—it was pulled down by Ropes in spite all the Squires and Constables that could be collected—say every house, only leaving the Chimneys standing." The writer, an ancestor of the present owner of the letter, was in business at that time near Fourth and Chestnut Streets, and we are led to infer that the factory was somewhere in that neighborhood. All white ware at that time was known as china, and Fig. 3.—Albany Stone-ware. (Collection of Mr. S. L. Frey.) Made about 1809. the term was evidently applied to queen's-ware—certainly not porcelain. Paul Cushman had a stoneware factory at Albany, N. Y., in the first decade of this century, and some examples of his ware are now in the possession of Mr. S. L. Frey, of Palatine Bridge, N. Y., one of which bears the inscription, impressed on the surface of the jar, and twice repeated around the body, "Paul Cushman Stone Ware Factory 1809 Half a Mile West of Albany Gaol."
In 1813 Thomas Haig, from Scotland, established a pottery in the Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, where he made red and black ware. At the Franklin Institute exhibition in 1825, articles made at this pottery were considered, "in the opinion of the judges, better than goods of the same kind brought from England." The pottery is still operated by Thomas Haig, a son of the founder, who is now in his eightieth year.
Queen's-ware was probably first made in the United States about 1800. Eight years later the Columbian pottery, on South Street, between Twelfth and Thirteenth, in Philadelphia, was turning out white ware which was claimed to be equal in quality and workmanship to the best made in Staffordshire. Two years later Captain John Mullowney, brick-maker, was operating the Washington pottery on Market Street, west of Seventeenth; and in the files of the Aurora or General Advertiser, published in Philadelphia in 1810, this factory advertised red, yellow, and black coffee-pots, tea-pots, pitchers, etc, and called special attention to the decorating ])ranch, artists being employed who were prepared to put any device, cipher, or pattern on china or other ware at the shortest notice.
Daniel Freytag was making in Philadelphia, in 1811, a finer quality of china-ware than had yet been produced in the United Fig. 4.—Porcelain Vase. New York, 1816. States. It was made of various colors, and was embellished with gold and silver; and in 1817 David G. Seixas manufactured an imitation of the Liverpool white crockery from native American clays with great success, continuing the business until 1822.
Porcelain was made in New York city early in this century, probably by Dr. Mead. How long this factory was in operation is not known, but it is believed that a fine grade of ware was made there from American materials. A vase over a foot in height, of excellent body and exceedingly white glaze, is preserved in the Franklin Institute. This was "finished in New York in 1816," and is supposed to have been made at that factory. It is entirely devoid of gilding or coloring, and is made in two parts, held together by a screw and nut, after the French manner.
In 1823 Henry Remmey, a brother of John Remmey, the last proprietor of the New York stone-ware factory, which was closed about 1820, came to Philadelphia and embarked in the same business, which is now continued by a great-grandson, Mr. Richard C. Remmey, who now owns the largest stone-ware works in the United States. Here are manufactured fire-bricks of superior quality, and chemical stone and porcelain ware of every description, some of the vessels having a capacity of two hundred to five hundred gallons. In addition to these specialties, the factory produces a large line of household utensils, and the business has grown to such proportions that the ten large kilns are taxed to the utmost.
No considerable progress was made in the manufacture of porcelain in the United States until William Ellis Tucker, of Philadelphia, began his experiments. From 1816 to 1819 his father, Benjamin Tucker, had a china shop on the south side of Market Street, at No. 324, then between Ninth and Tenth Streets, near
Fig. 5.—Tucker & Hemphill's China Factory. Philadelphia, 1832-'38. (From a vase owned by Mrs. Thomas Tucker.)
where the new post-office building now stands. During this period Mr. Tucker built a small decorating kiln in the rear of his store for the use of his son, who employed much of his time in painting the imported white china and firing it in the kiln. These attempts were at first only partially successful. He then commenced experimenting with different clays, which he procured in the vicinity of the city, to discover the process for manufacturing the ware itself. These experiments resulted in the production of a fair quality of opaque queen's-ware. He then directed his attention to kaolin and feldspar, and finally succeeded in discovering the proper proportions of these ingredients, in combination with bone-dust and flint, necessary for the production of an excellent grade of natural or hard porcelain. Having secured a translucent body of great hardness, density, and toughness, capable of withstanding extreme changes of temperature, he first seriously began the manufacture of the ware for the market in the year 1825. The old water-works, at the northwest corner of Schuylkill-Second (Twenty-first) and Chestnut Streets, were obtained from the city, where the necessary glazing and enameling kilns, mills, etc., were erected. His first attempts were fraught with many difficulties. While the body and glaze of the earlier productions were good, the workmanship and decoration were inferior. The decoration consisted generally of landscapes painted roughly in sepia or brown.
In 1828 Thomas Hulme was admitted to the business, but retired in about one year. During this period great improvement was made in decoration, the best productions being painted with floral designs in natural colors. A number of pitchers made during that period are marked "Tucker & Hulme, China Manufacturers, Philadelphia, 1838," the only pieces from this factory known to have been signed.
|Fig. 6.—Tucker Creamer. Sepia decoration.||Fig. 7.—Hemphill Vase. (Collection of Hon. James T. Mitchell.)|
William Ellis Tucker died in August, 1832, but previous to this Judge Joseph Hemphill had put some money in the enterprise, and continued to carry on the business after his partner's death.
Messrs. Tucker & Hemphill purchased the property at the southwest corner of Schuylkill-Sixth (now Seventeenth) and Chestnut Streets, where they erected store-houses and three kilns, and greatly increased the producing capacity of the factory. In 1832 they appealed to Congress for the passage of a tariff law which would afford them protection from foreign competition.
Mr. Thomas Tucker superintended the business after the decease of his brother, which was carried on in the name of Judge Hemphill for about three years, but in 1835 the latter entered into negotiations with a company of Eastern gentlemen, and sold the factory to them shortly after. In 1837 the factory was leased to Thomas Tucker, who continued the manufacture of fine porcelain for about one year, when it was permanently closed. Under the direction of Judge Hemphill, who had become interested in the subject while abroad, great improvements were made in the body of the ware as well as in the glazing and ornamentation. French porcelain was selected as the model after which the Tucker & Hemphill china was patterned, and skilled artists were brought from France to decorate the ware. Pitchers and vases were sometimes decorated with painted portraits of Revolutionary heroes; two of the former, with likenesses of Washington and Wayne, are still preserved. The later productions of this factory were greatly superior to anything produced in the United States before. They were characterized by smoothness of paste, Fig. 8.—Hemphill Vase (with painting of a shipwreck).beauty of coloring, and richness of gilding—indeed, it is said that the amount of gold consumed in the decoration of this ware was so great as to cause a considerable pecuniary loss to Judge Hemphill. It is a matter of regret that the limit of this article is not sufficiently elastic to permit a more extended review of this interesting factory and description of some of its many beautiful productions which have been recently brought to light.
Isaac Spiegel, one of Tucker & Hemphill's workmen, started in business for himself in Kensington, Philadelphia, about 1837. He made Rockingham black and red ware of excellent quality, including mantel ornaments, such as figures of dogs and lions. Some of the machinery was moved to his pottery from the Hemphill factory on its closing, and he secured many of the molds which had been used for making ornamental porcelain pieces. In 1855 Mr. Spiegel retired from active business, and was succeeded by his son Isaac, who carried on the works until 1870. In 1880, John Spiegel, a brother of the latter, resumed the business, and is at the present time engaged in burning magnesia for the drug trade.
About the time that Tucker first placed his new ware on the market a factory for the production of a somewhat similar commodity was erected at Jersey City, presumably by Frenchmen. Later, under the title of the American Pottery Company, cream-colored, white, Parian, and porcelain wares were made here. In 1843 an exhibit of embossed tea-ware, jugs, and spittoons was made by this company at the Franklin Institute, the specimens of Parian with blue ground and raised ornamentation in white being especially praiseworthy. After several changes in proprietorship the business passed into the hands of Messrs. Rouse & Turner in 1870, and the name of the factory was altered to the Jersey City Pottery. Mr. John Owen Rouse came from the Royal Derby Works about forty years ago. Mr. Turner died in 1884, leaving the former sole proprietor. The plant at present consists of four kilns, one of which has an interior diameter of nineteen and a half feet, and numerous large buildings for manufacturing and storage purposes. Here are now made large quantities of white granite ware in table and toilet services and decorative designs, a specialty of the factory being porous cups for telegraphic uses, of which fully five thousand are produced every week.
After the year 1840 the number of potteries in the United States multiplied rapidly. About that time Samuel Sturgis was making, in Lancaster County, Pa., in addition to earthen and stone ware, clay tobacco-pipe bowls, which he molded after the French designs in the form of human heads. These were glazed in yellow, green, and brown, and supplied largely to the tobacconists of eastern Pennsylvania. In 1843 there were one hundred and eighty-two potteries in that State alone, few of them, however, of any importance, whose aggregate productions amounted to $158,000. In 1800 there were only about eighty potteries in the same State, a falling off of more than half. This diminution in number does not by any means indicate a decadence of this industry, because the establishments of half a century ago were mostly scattered through the rural districts and were insignificant affairs, producing only the coarser and cheaper grades of crockery. Such potteries have almost entirely disappeared, while those of to-day manufacture, for the most part, the finer qualities of earthen, white granite, and porcelain wares. At the present time there are over five hundred potteries in the United States, not including architectural terra-cotta and tile works, of which some twenty-five are in Trenton, N. J., and about the same number in East Liverpool, Ohio.An exhibit of Rockingham was made at the Franklin Institute in 1846 by Bennett & Brother, of Pittsburg, which was
Fig. 9.—Rockingham Monument. Made at Bennington, Vt., 1851.
pronounced by the judges superior to the English ware. A "tortoise-shell" pitcher, eight-sided, with human head molded in relief under the mouth, which is still in the cabinet of the Institute was awarded a silver medal.
Messrs. Alanson Potter Lyman and Christopher Weber Fenton embarked in the manufacture of yellow and Rockingham ware m Bennington, Vt., about 1847. Three years later they commenced making white ware. Their workshop was known as the United States Pottery. In 1851, or the year following, Mr Fenton had a large monumental piece of Rockingham made, ten feet in height, in which was placed a life-sized Parian bust of himself surrounded by eight glazed columns, the work being surmounted by figures of a woman and child in Parian. This was modeled by Daniel Greatbach, formerly connected with the Jersey City Pottery. The base of the monument is made of several varieties of clay mixed together, having the appearance of unpolished marble. It stands at present on the porch of Mr. Fenton's former residence in Bennington, having been first placed on exhibition at the New York Crystal Palace in 1853, with other productions of this factory, including a group of "patent flint enameled ware," which was probably analogous to the so-called majolica of the present day. Common china, white granite, and Parian were made here extensively. A limited amount of soft porcelain was produced also, but chiefly in small ornamental figures and statuettes. These, like the Parian pieces, were often copied from old English works. A graceful pitcher of the latter ware, in the collection of the writer, is molded with white figures in relief on a dark-blue "pitted" ground, and is almost an exact, though enlarged, reproduction of a sirup-jug from the Dale Hall Works, England. The jasper-ware of Josiah Wedgwood was also imitated in Parian. The art of the American potter had not yet reached that point where competition and public demand stimulated originality in body, design, or decoration. Fig. 10 shows a group of pieces made at the Bennington factory between 1850 and 1855. In the center may be seen a large Rockingham figure, beneath which are two small mantel ornaments of artificial porcelain. The central pitcher above the dog and the two small pitchers to the right are white granite, decorated in gold. The three remaining pitchers and the small vase are Parian, with ornamentation in relief.
The United States Pottery was closed in 1857, and two years later Mr. Fenton, with Mr. Decius W. Clark, his former superintendent, went to Peoria, Ill., and there established a manufactory of white and granite wares. After a period of three years this experiment proved a financial failure, and the factory passed into other hands. At present it is being successfully operated by the Peoria Pottery Company, which makes a fine grade of similar goods.
Messrs. Haughwout, Dailey & Co. had a decorating establishment in New York city in 1853, and employed a hundred hands in painting French china for the American market. Mr. James Carr, who came to this country in 1844, worked for the American Pottery Company of Jersey City until 1853, when he went to South Amboy, and there established a pottery for the manufacture of
Fig. 10.—Ware made by Lyman & Fenton.
yellow and Rockingham wares. In October, 1855, he started a pottery in New York, under the firm name of Morrison & Carr, where table-services in opaque china, white granite, and majolica were made. He directed his efforts toward the attainment of higher standards, and his experiments resulted in the production of some artistic pieces of porcelain and faience, excellent both in design and execution; but as there was little demand for this class of goods at that time, these attempts were discontinued. In 1888, owing to the close competition of out-of-town manufacturers, the New York pottery was closed and the factory torn down. Mr. Carr has recently built, on the premises in West Thirteenth Street, several large stores, the rentals from which, he claims, yield him better returns than potting.
The Philadelphia City Pottery of Mr. J. E. Jeffords, who came from the New York establishment of Messrs. Morrison & Carr about 1860, includes two distinct factories, one of which turns out a high grade of Rockingham, yellow, and white-lined blue ware, while the adjoining workshop produces an excellent variety of white and decorated earthenware for toilet and table use. In Rockingham some of the old English designs are reproduced, such as the "Toby" ale-jug and the cow creamer. A few years ago a more elaborate ornamentation was attempted in the painting of bird and floral subjects above the glaze, but this was soon discontinued owing to the expense. Printing from copper plates is extensively practiced here at the present time, and competent artists are employed to apply the gold in pleasing devices to the rich dark glazes which characterize the better grades of ware produced. Mr. Jeffords has fully equipped his factories with the most approved modern appliances, and is one of the most progressive and successful of our modern potters.
Mr. Alexander William Robertson started a small pottery in Chelsea, Mass., in the year 1866, for the manufacture of brown ware such as was made in Great Britain, and of lava-ware similar to that of Germany. Two years afterward, Mr. Hugh Cornwall Robertson, a younger brother, was admitted to partnership in the business, the firm name being A. W. & H. C. Robertson when the production of brown ware was discontinued and the manufacture of plain and fancy flower-pots was substituted. In the following year porous cones or filters of a high grade were made for chemical purposes. In 1872 James Robertson, a practical potter of wide and varied experience in Scotland, England New Jersey, and New York, and recently from the East Boston pottery, joined his sons, the firm name being changed to James Robertson & Sons, when work of a more pretentious character was undertaken. A red bisque ware, in imitation of the antique Grecian terra-cottas and Pompeiian bronzes, was first produced in 1875. The factory adopted the name of the Chelsea Keramic Art Works. The red ware was characterized by a remarkably fine texture and smooth finish, the clay being peculiarly adapted to the faithful reproduction of the graceful classic forms, the fine polished grain offering an excellent surface for the most minute carving, showing the engraved lines as perfectly as on wood. In 1876 a pleasing effect was obtained by polishing the red ware with boiled linseed oil. On a few spherical vases thus treated, Mr. F. X. Dengler, the talented young sculptor who afterward died at the age of twenty-five, modeled from life, in high relief, choosing child and bird forms. The firm also received the benefit of advice from a number of capable artists, including, John G. Low, G. W. Fenitz, and others. For lack of public support this branch of the art was abandoned. The next venture was the Chelsea faience, introduced in 1877, which is characterized by a beautiful soft glaze. This ware soon attracted the attention of connoisseurs, and carried the firm to the front rank of American potters. The decoration consists of floral designs, either made separately by hand and sprigged on, or carved in relief from clay laid directly on the surface while moist. Some beautiful effects were produced by hammering the surface of the faience before burning, and afterward carving sprays of flowers in relief in clay applied to the surface. This modeling was executed by Miss Josephine Day, a sister-in-law and pupil of Mr. H. C. Robertson, and by Mr. Robertson himself. Being done by hand from original designs, no duplicates were produced. On some of the hammered vases the designs were cut into the surface and filled in with white clay, forming a mosaic, the bases of the vessels being colored buff, which offered a pleasing contrast through a semi-transparent
Fig. 11.—Inlaid, Hammered and Embossed Pottery.(Chelsea Keramic Art Works.)
glaze. About the same time a variety of faience known as the Bourg-la-Reine of Chelsea was produced, after the discovery of the process of painting on the surface of the vessel with colored clays and covering with a transparent glaze, on the principle of the Limoges faience.
Mr. James Robertson died in 1880, after a long and useful life, at the ripe age of seventy years. The firm continued under the same name, and in 1884 A. W. Robertson retired from the business. In that year the remaining partner, Mr. Hugh C. Robertson, discovered a stone-ware somewhat resembling Parian in appearance, possessing a hard, vitrified body, which he worked into a variety of artistic forms.
From this time Mr. Robertson directed his efforts toward solving the secret of the famous Chinese Sang de bœuf, and after four years of sacrifice and patient investigation his labors were crowned with success. This discovery is the exact treatment necessary to produce the true ox-blood red, which with the Chinese was the result of accident rather than an established art. The body is the true stone, perfectly water-proof, and capable of resisting as high a degree of heat as any known ware. The forms of the vases are simple, with curving outlines, and entirely devoid of ornamentation which would tend to impair the beauty of color, which is that of fresh arterial blood, possessing a golden lustre, which in the light glistens with all the gorgeous hues of a sunset sky. In experimenting to obtain the blood-red of the Sang de bœuf, varieties were produced of a deep sea-green, "peach-blow," apple-green, mustard-yellow, greenish blue, maroon, and rich purple. Specimens of this ware have been secured by a number of prominent collectors throughout the United States, but the demand for works of this character being limited, the remaining examples which were produced still rest on the dusty shelves in the Chelsea workshop. The history of the discovery of this process is a repetition of the old story of genius
Fig. 12.—Plaque representing Spring. (Designed by H. C. Robertson, 1879.)
After twenty-four years of devotion to art, Mr. Robertson finds himself unable to prosecute the work further, and for over two years the fires have not been lighted in his kilns. It is difficult to explain the apparent indifference of Americans to works of artistic merit which emanate from their countrymen.
Thus far we have attempted to review, in the briefest manner, some of the earlier potteries in the United States. The space at command has only permitted the bare statement of facts relating to the condition of the ceramic industry down to the period just preceding the Centennial Exposition of 1876. It has not been possible to refer to many establishments whose record would be necessary to a full history of the development of this art. Let us now see what progress has been made in the methods employed in this country down to the present time.
The potter's wheel used well into the present century was a clumsy and primitive affair. It consisted of a perpendicular beam, generally about two feet in height, surmounted by a circular disk a foot or so in diameter. At the lower extremity of the beam or axis was a horizontal wooden wheel, four feet across, possessing four inclined iron spokes which extended from the beam to the rim of the wheel, which the workman pushed around with his feet. He sat on a framework behind the wheel, while in front were piled the lumps of clay to be manipulated.
Fig. 13.—Old-fashioned "Throwing Wheel."
A great advance was made in potters' machinery a few years later, or in the first quarter of the present century, when the "throwing wheel" was introduced into the more prominent factories. This was composed of a plate or disk which was revolved by means of a belt which passed around two spindles and extended to a large vertical wheel operated by a crank in the hands of a second person. This upright wheel usually measured four, five, or more feet in diameter, depending on the rate of velocity desired; the larger the wheel, the greater the speed to be attained. The revolving plate at which the potter sat was often ten or more feet from the crank-wheel, and the apparatus was therefore cumbersome, besides requiring the services of an extra hand. This contrivance was a great improvement over the old method of turning, as it secured uniformity of motion and enabled the operator to devote his entire attention to his work. This style of wheel, in time, was superseded by the more simple form which is worked by a treadle with the left foot of the operator, and is still used in many of the smaller potteries. The subjoined engraving
Fig. 14.—"Kick Wheel (now used).
represents one of these "kick" wheels, as made at the present time by Messrs. Taplin, Rice & Co., of Akron, Ohio. This firm also manufactures a power-wheel such as is now operated in the larger factories, which is so constructed that the velocity can be regulated by a foot-lever.
The old methods of grinding and mixing clays by hand have given place to improved mechanical processes. In olden times it was customary for one or two men to manipulate the clay, which was placed in a square tank sunk in the floor, with a wooden shovel or paddle. Now this work is performed much more effectively and rapidly by special machinery known as "blungers," "pug" and "grog" mills, etc. Some of the improved grinding mills have a capacity of twenty-five tons or more per day, and the agitating and mixing machines perform the work of many men.
I have in my possession a drawing of the old-fashioned slip kiln used by Messrs. Tucker & Hemphill in 1832. This consisted of a long horizontal brick fire-box, at one end of which were built three partitions or pans, one after the other. In these the slip was poured, and flues passing around the sides furnished the heat necessary to dry the clay to the proper consistency. This drying process was necessarily a slow one. The contents of the pan nearest the fire-box would be ready for removal first, and the others in succession. A recent invention has simplified this process very materially. This device is a clay press consisting of a series of sacks in which the slip is placed. The moisture is forced through the bags by strong pressure, and the clay is ready for use Mr. A. J. Boyce, of East Liverpool, Ohio, has recently perfected an improved hydrostatic press, which is being introduced into many of the more progressive factories throughout the country. The illustration will convey a clear idea of the clay
Fig. 15.—The Boyce Clay Press, with twenty-four Chambers.
press used in reducing the slip to a workable mass. In each chamber is placed a sack made of ten-ounce Woodberry duck, which, if of the proper quality, will last some time. The moisture is pressed through the fabric, and the clay, on removal, is ready for manipulation.
"Jiggers" and "jollies" now greatly facilitate the manufacture of circular and swelled vessels, such as jars, jugs, crocks, cuspidors, and umbrella jars. A "jigger" is a machine which carries a revolving mold, in which the clay is shaped by a former, which is brought down into the mold and held in place by means of a lever We give here an illustration of one of the jiggers made by Mr. Peter Wilkes, of Trenton, N. J. A is the jiggerhead or receptacle in which the mold is placed, which is screwed fast to the revolving spindle. B is a stationary iron column on which the frame or sleeve C slides up or down. D is an iron fork which prevents the frame C from turning. E is the former or profile which shapes the interior of the vessel. The lever or pulldown, above the horizontal bar F, gives a transverse motion, and forces the former toward the side of the mold. 1 and 2 are adjustable collars which are fastened by screws; 1 regulates the Fig. 16.—"Jigger." distance to which the collar or frame C must be lowered to give the proper thickness to the bottom of the vessel, while 2 acts as a stop to prevent the frame from being thrown up too high.
A "jolly" is a somewhat similar contrivance, consisting of a table on which is a revolving mold with a single or double pull-down.
The construction of pottery kilns has changed but little in the past fifty years. The glaze kiln of the Tucker & Hemphill factory was made on the French plan. It possessed six fire-boxes and the same number of flues, eight inches in width, which passed through solid walls and met in the center. Besides the central space there were two circular passages, one extending around the circumference of the kiln and another midway between this and the center. Modern kilns are generally made about fifteen to sixteen and a half feet diameter inside, and measure about the same in height to the crown, with usually ten fire-boxes. In some of the Western kilns slight modifications have been made in the latter for the employment of natural gas, which is used instead of coal.
Until quite recently each establishment made its own saggers or fire-clay boxes in which the ware is burned, but now they are made in large numbers by machinery and supplied to the trade by the Trenton Terra-Cotta Company at a very low price. In the manufacture of earthenware formerly, "cockspurs" were used to separate the pieces when placed in the kiln. These were small four-pointed objects of clay formed somewhat like the old-fashioned caltrop, three of the arms resting on the lower vessel while the upper supported another above. Three spurs being used, it is evident that the upper surface of the lower piece would show nine marks after coming out of the kiln, where the points tore away the glaze, as in old Delft plates. The bottom of the upper vessel would show three. "Cockspurs" and "cones" were superseded by "pins" and by "triangles" and "stilts," having three horizontal arms, equidistant, with double points projecting upward and downward. These were for some time made by hand at the factories where they were to be used, but recently they have been made in assorted sizes by machinery, and sold to potters more cheaply than they could be made by hand.
Labor-saving machines have greatly simplified the work of Fig. 17.—Slip-decorated Pie Dish. Allentown, Pa., 1826. the potter. Steam power has to a great extent taken the place of hand and foot power in running wheels, lathes, "jiggers," and "jollies." Steam grinding-mills, "blungers," sifters, and clay-presses now grind, sift, mix, dry, and prepare the clay for the workman. There are many other problems to be solved, however, in order to still further cheapen the production of utilitarian articles. The committee appointed by the United States Potters' Association to investigate the subject of potters' machinery, in their report presented at the convention held in 1890, used the following language: "We think we can see in the distance a cloud no bigger than a man's hand, which we trust will speedily increase to such proportions that the industry will feel the outpouring of benefits such as have not entered into the imagination of the potter's mind. We require only to get the American mechanical mind turned in the direction of our need, and we will not fear for the future of our business.
"We would urge upon the manufacturing potters that more thought be given to this subject, and that they come in closer touch with the best machinists of our several centers. Let the practical machinist know our need. Much can be done; much must be done if we expect to hold our own. And what is our own? The American market for American manufacturers."
Note.—Several of the illustrations which appear in this paper are from pen-and-ink drawings made from the original porcelains by Mr. Vernon Howe Bailey, a student at the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art, Philadelphia.
[To be continued.]
- MS. Rawlinson, c. 128, fol. 896.
- Page 97, vol. i, London, 1878.
- This was made of tobacco-pipe clay mixed with flint, and was superior to anything produced before.
- Since writing the above, word comes to us that a company has been incorporated under the name Chelsea Pottery U. S., and date July 17, 1891, of which Mr. Hugh C. Robertson will be the manager.