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LECTURES ON STONEWARE POTTERY

Some Notes on Web Sites: Most of the web pages and websites are commercial in nature. Here are some good pages for the material on early stoneware pottery. What is Stoneware? See Seeleys English Stoneware (click here) and the Learning Network on Stoneware (click here). See stoneware shapes and types at Henderson Artifacts (click here). A Wikipedia article on American stoneware is available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Stoneware. For early German stoneware, see Uwe Finke's article, reprinted at http://www.beerstein.net/articles/s9203.htm. Westerwald early stoneware pottery of Germany and Belgium is discussed on the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities website at http://www.apva.org/resource/wester.html. Other well known web sites like Tom Gray's Central Clay Website (http://www.cclay.com/index.html) have more professional and technical information. An essay on early American stoneware pottery can be found on the Old and Sold Auction Marketplace website at http://www.oldandsold.com/articles01/article451.shtml. Early stoneware potteries of Mississippi and Arkansas are discussed in Mary Starr website on Delta Archaeology at http://www.deltaarchaeology.us/stoneware.htm.

Update on British Historical Salt-Glaze Stoneware: I have found two additional web sites for research on British Stoneware: For the evolution of English household tableware, see Donny Hamilton's website at http://nautarch.tamu.edu/class/313/ceramics/period-3.htm.

 

I. THE ORIGINS OF SALT-GLAZED STONEWARE:

A. Antiquity of Earthenware and Stoneware Pottery: Earthenware and stoneware pottery from the ancient Near East and China have survived. Lead-glazed earthenware and alkaline-glazed stoneware vessels were made in antiquity.

B. The Origin of Salt-Glazed Stoneware in Germany: On the other hand, salt-glazed stoneware originated in Europe during the 1400s. The salt-glazing process was probably accidentally discovered when wood impregnated with salt was fired in the kiln. Driftwood or pieces of processed wood from barrels or crates, salted to preserve meat and fish, would have given off salt vapors. The sodium from the salt combines with the activated silica of the ware to form a thin glaze which uniformly coated the clay vessels. The salt-glazed stoneware was developed in the Rhine Valley of present-day Germany. There were rich stoneware clay deposits in the hills of the region. The busy commercial status of the Rhine River and the fine trading facilities of its port city of Cologne helped to produce a great market for stoneware pottery in Germany and in the Netherlands, England, Scandinavia and France. Early wares had a gray body partly or completely covered with a yellow salt-glaze that could become reddish-brown. Soon, there was stamped decoration that resembled the techniques of pewterers, bellfounders and skilletmakers. Designs were obtained from seals, coins, medals and plaques. Shapes often imitated metal containers and leather flasks. Mugs and pitchers were very common. The wares were sold to the peasantry and generally to people of very modest incomes. The function of stoneware was utilitarian, and the ware appeared earthy, robust and casual. Pottery was wheel-thrown and then decorated in low relief over much of the surface. The decoration made the stoneware vessels appear more elegant and expensive due to their association with the more fashionable and expensive art of metalware of the time period.

Stoneware shares with porcelain a hard body, resistant to acids. There were rich clay deposits along the Rhine from Hoehr and Grenzhausen and to the south near Siegburg and Frechen, and farther south at Raeren, just south of Aachen. The sides of the early gray stoneware bodies had the horizontal groves and often the pinched-in wavy foot that go back to the hard 12th century wares of the region. The tall and slender brownish-yellow Jacobakanne jug, with ring handle, that we see above, began to be produced in the early 1400s. The other small jugs in the photo were common vessel forms produced in great number in the Rhine Valley during the 16th century. In the ancient Bellarmine Bartmannskrug shape of the tankard vessel of the above right hand illustration, the bundled decorative bands around the foot and the mouth recalled the iron hoops with which coopers bind the staves of their wooden casks. Below are two additional examples of Bartmannskruege as well as the tall white stoneware tankard known as the Schnelle, from Siegburg, Germany.

We find that German salt-glazed stoneware jugs and bottles was being imported into England in great number in the 1600s. Although English vessels of like shape and decoration were probably being produced in England at the time, John Dwight was the first to take out a patent on an English line of stoneware pottery as early as 1671. Dwight's fine stoneware vessels tended to be gray or off-white. Dwight also mixed white and black clays to create marble patterns on the brown stoneware body. This handled bottle here was among the finer examples of bottles, about 8 inches high, being made by the Fulham plant.

C. Early English Stoneware of the Seventeenth Century: Salt-glazed stoneware was introduced in England by John Dwight in 1680 at his Fulham pottery, located not far from London. He produced mugs, tankards and teapots in a sturdy and vigorous style, and made use of the raised decoration of sprigging (applying pieces of clay to the vessel surface to create texture or raised decoration) and that of stamping the surface with pre-cut or fabricated objects. These techniques were used earlier in the Rhine River valley. When Dwight's patent expired in 1699, many English potters began making salt-glazed stoneware.

John Philip and David Elers, German silversmiths who worked for Dwight, settled at Bradwell Wood in Staffordshire. They began producing unglazed red stoneware teapots in imitation of Chinese red stoneware when tea drinking became fashionable in English drawing rooms of wealthy customers. This ware was produced between 1740 and 1780.

Stoneware developed rapidly in the Staffordshire region of England, where earthenware pottery had thrived. There were many different colored clays to experiement with. White salt-glazed stoneware became fashionable in the early 18th century in a buff-gray color, often with brown iron wash bands around the rim. A few horizontal incised lines or stamped reliefs were applied. A surface wash of white Devonshire clay or ground flint also lightened the drab gray vessels.These vessels also became lighter in weight. It was cheap and made in great quantity between 1740 and 1760. Smoother vessels were also lead glazed, which filled in the pitted surface caused by the salt. Lead glazing stoneware was introduced in 1750 as an effort to compete with creamware. Stoneware vessels of unprecedented thinness and sharpness of detail were being produced at that time in imitation of porcelain that was becoming popular in the 18th century. Cobalt was painted onto salt-glazed stoneware reliefs or used to accentuate incised decorations (the cobalt was sponged or padded on). Creamware took the same white clay from Devonshire used in white salt-glazed stoneware , with the addition of calcined flint. The ware was low fired to form an earthenware and glazed with lead, instead of being high fired to form a stoneware and glazed with salt. The two wares overlapped for much of the century. Below are examples of early English brown salt-glazed stoneware from Fulham Pottery (c. 1690) and white salt-glazed stoneware of Enoch Booth of Tunstall (c. 1742). The former handled jug has the characteristic marbling of black and white clay as well as applied moulded reliefs of John Dwight. The latter mug, with reeded loop handle, has the typical "scratch blue" technique of incised decoration filled in with cobalt blue. The pattern is grotesque birds, acorns and leaves. The first jug has white busts of William and Mary, and also a running figure and birds. The second similar jug has running figure and birds. Both jugs recall the bellarmine shape that was imported from Cologne.

 

 

Josiah Wedgewood's fine jasper ware was made of a fine white stoneware that was colored through the body by metallic oxides. The ware then received a surface wash in pale blue, dark blue, sage green, lilac, yellow and black. The white reliefs stood out in contrast. The black stoneware was known as basaltes wares.Red, white and black enamels could be applied to the wares. Below are examples of black basaltware and the pale and darker blue jasparware.

Fifty years later, during the 1750s, earthenware pottery returned but with the additional support of steampower. A durable and glazed earthenware could be manufactured more cheaply than stoneware. Forms were standardized with the great use of pottery molds. The Jasper and Basalt Ware of Josiah Wedgewood were actually unglazed, hardened stoneware. Salt-glazed stoneware continued to be made in England for utilitarian wares like jugs and crocks. Small shops usually made it for local markets.

D. Early American Stoneware in the Middle Atlantic Region: The earliest American stoneware potteries were located on Manhattan Island, where they could use clay from Huntington, Long Island, or from the Amboy area of New Jersey. The pioneer producers were members of the Crolius and Remmey families. John W. Crolius, originally from Coblentz in present-day Germany, established a shop in the vicinity of what is now City Hall, sometime in the middle 1720s. His first kiln was located at the foot of Pottbaker's Hill. North and west of the area were rolling hills and ponds rich in fine white, yellow, red and black clays. Most of the early potteries were located in the area from Reade to Duane Streets and west to Centre Street. Johannes Remmi (changed to Remmey) had set up a pottery by 1735, and he too had descendants who carried on the business into the 19th century. Both potteries were close to one another and both shipped stoneware products to Maine and as far away as the Carolinas. They made bulbous vessels with incised and stamped decoration. On jugs, the large, thick applied strap handles went from neck to shoulder.

Stoneware production centered in New Jersey during the later 18th and early 19th centuries. There were vast deposits of stoneware clay near South Amboy on Raritan Bay. Potteries at Cheesequake on the eastern coast and near Trenton in the west of New Jersey were well established in the state by the 1780s. Stoneware factories in Connecticut became important in the 1780s, which represented the most important early development of stoneware in New England. There was a rich source of stoneware clay in Huntington, New York, across the Long Island Sound. Other deposits lay at Bayonne, N.J., not far away. Adam States, a Dutchman, built a kiln in 1751 at Indian Harbor near Greenwich, Connecticut. After State's death, his apprentice (also the landlord's son) Abraham Mead, took over the stoneware works and prospered. Much of Mead's pottery work has survived and gives insight into the nature of 18th- century American stoneware. It represents the largest existing body of identifiable 18th century stoneware. In the history of stoneware pottery, we generally find small establishments employing a few workers and often operated seasonally (summer was mostly reserved for farming). Stoneware businesses were very often short-lived. Since the wares were heavy, stoneware shops operated near rivers or canals.

Except for mugs, late eighteenth-century vessels were generally ovoid, with the widest area below the neck or opening. Below the wide shoulders, the vessel tapered inward to a small bottom. Gray, unglazed stoneware with its coarse gritty or sandy feel was used daily in the clay form of bowls, jars, jugs, mugs and chamber pots. Early vessels from this Northeast region had a slip from light to medium brown. The Albany Slip, as a mixture of dark brown finely ground clay from Albany, N.Y. and water, covered the inside and outside walls of the vessel, or sometimes covered only the inside. This 8.5" high stoneware crock from the middle Atlantic region of around 1850, just below and to the left, is covered by a brown Albany slip. For surface decoration, incised straight or wavy lines were frequently created around the vessel by a sharp instrument while the vesel was turning on the wheel. Although more expensive to make, stamps were also used for ornamentation by pressing the stamp into damp clay.

Other common vessel types included water coolers, rundlets (to carry liquor or water), flasks (very often for whiskey) and long-necked bottles. In this region of the Northeast, crocks and large jars for pickles, butter and sauerkraut preserved food during winter. Cream pots, used to separate milk from cream and to store cream, early on were high waisted with short necks and wide mouths, for storage. These vessels were frequently well decorated. "Crock" and "pot" were used interchangeably although milk and cream crocks were usually very wide-mouthed with applied lug handles. Sometimes the shoulders tapered to a narrower but thick walled mouth. There were other wide-mouthed vessels including the large and tall churns, with a dasher handle running through the lid for churning cream, and the smaller and numerous preserve jars, resembling the same vessel type in earier redware. Somewhat smaller-mouthed storage vessels which were short and squat, with matching lids included bean pots and sugar bowls. Among the narrower-mouthed storage vessels were the bottles, jugs and flasks used to store wine, beer, ginger, molasses, whiskey among other liquids. Stoneware for bottles was gradually preferred to the more fragile earthenware bottles. Seversal vessels with pouring spout and handle included pitchers, teapots (squatter than coffeepots), coffeepots, batter jugs, sauce boats and creamers. Ceramic drinking vessels like cups, mugs, tumblers and goblets were based on more fashionable silver or pewter hollow wares. Although pitchers, batter jugs and mugs were often made in stoneware, the tablewares tended to be earthenware and porcelain.

Below are some common vessel types found in both the middle Atlantic states and North Carolina during the middle of the 19th century. The stoneware bean pot shown below and to the left was being made from New England west to Missouri and southward through much of the South and Southwest. It is squat, rounded with pinched neck and thick collar. The ear-shaped handle is attached at the neck and high on the waist. The handle and lid are separately shaped and applied. The lid rests on an interior ledge. The stoneware cream pot, below and to the right was made in Hudson, New York, but appears throughout the eastern seaboard down through the Carolinas and west to Indiana. It closely resembles figure 2-4 in Turners and Burners, which was made in Pottersville, MA in 1860, and imported into Halifax County, North Carolina. This vessel, illustrated here, has a high shoulder and wide mouth, where the shoulder slopes in slightly to a flat, shaped rim. There are two semi-cicular lug handles on the shoulder. Cream pots made between 1790 and 1830 have space between the handles and the vessel sides. Before 1790 the handles are positioned vertically on the shoulders of vessels. The interior of this vessel was glazed with Albany slip, which was more common in the North. They were made in sizes from one to five gallons. They were often used to separate milk from cream and to store cream. Many of the vessels had an incised line at the level of the handles.

 

 

Stoneware churns were tall massive vessels with sides that taper above the waist to the neck and a flaring collar and that taper below to a plain base. The lid has a bulbous center knob and hole. This vessel interior and lid are covered with Albany slip. the Combination churn-jars were made later on. Well developed cobalt-blue decoration was commonly found on churns, with their ample surfaces. This one was made in Nathan Clark's ppottery in Rochester, NY. The stoneware crock, on the right, with its gently sloping sides and heavy lug handles, horizontally placed, that extend downward on the vessel body, were common from North Carolina to Florida. Also characteristic is the gentle sloping in to a high waist and short neck, and a wide flaring rim. This vessel was made by Dorris Craven of Seagrove, NC probably between 1850 and 1880. After 1850, Northern potters preferred to make straight-sided crocks which were more heavily decorated than their southern counterparts.

 

Butter jars or pots were also common in salt-glazed stoneware. They came with tops and were used for curing pickles as well as for butter stored in a cool place for household use. The vessels were commonly made in one to two gallon capacities with flat sides and a shaped or absent rim. Wide lug handles were attached below the rim. Stoneware watercoolers or kegs were made to order and had ornamentation that one could find on a barrel. There might be cobalt blue on the embossed banding, as seen here, which imitated barrel straps. The large protruding bunghole could be located at the base. Some vessels have a drain hole in the top. The smaller rundlets or "swiglers" carried one to three pints, and had a bunghole in the middle. They carried water or liquor.

 

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