Antique American Pottery
Antique American Pottery is pottery that was made in America around 100+ years ago. Pottery refers to the shaping of clay into vessels which is then fired up to a certain temperature in order to harden the clay. There were expert potters in the Americas long before the coming of the Europeans based on the samples that are found in museums. When Captain John Smith came, the potters were still around and they probably worked with the settlers to produce pottery for their homes. In 1641, James Pride was said to have been a potter living in Salem, Massachusetts. Based on records, there had also been pottery makers in Jamestown, Virginia that made wares for everyday use. Their pottery must have been very utilitarian but gave no strong reason for their owners to want to keep them.
In the 18th Century, newspaper accounts tell us that for the most part, the pottery and porcelain in that period came in from England and Asia. Although there were some local pottery makers that produced pots, pans, cups, mugs, jugs, and other domestic items. The Remney and Crolius families had their business address at Potter's Hill in New York while Daniel Coxe produced “White Chiney Ware” at Burlington, New Jersey.
Some improvements in pottery-making skills took place but only a few pieces survived of the American pottery produced before 1800. Some notable pieces can be found in the Brooklyn Museum. There is red earthenware from Pennsylvania marked with the date 1775 and a white sauceboat with Chinese landscapes for decoration made in Philadelphia. The latter was probably a copy from pottery imported from Liverpool. There are baking dishes made from red clay that could pass as the original from England. In Pennsylvania, German graffito decors on dishes resemble the originals so closely.
The New York Historical Society owns a butter churn made by Clarkson Crolius Senior at around 1800s and some salt-glazed stoneware. Stoneware is clay baked at temperatures of about 1200 degrees Celsius. Tivoli Ware, the brand that was to compete with Wedgwood on making cream wares was also established at this time.
It would be hard to find and identify originals of American pottery produced before the 19th Century. One reason is that since they were mostly utilitarian in use, they were almost never marked. If there was need for more sophisticated pottery, the demand could easily be met by importation. However, as conditions in America became more favorable for the settlers, manufacturers began mass production to supply the domestic market.
Porcelain, white clay baked at high temperatures was produced in 1740 by Philadelphia-born Andrew Duche. One of his creations was a small Oriental-style bowl with blue decorative underglaze. The said piece, discovered in 1946 belongs in a private collection. It was also in Philadelphia where partners George Anthony Morris and Gouse Bonnin started their factory thirty years later although it is unsure whether it produced much real porcelain. The first commercial venture that successfully produced porcelain is credited to another Philadelphian, William Ellis Tucker. He began his experiments in 1826 and produced porcelain of considerable quality. His vases and tea sets garnered him awards and recognitions at exhibitions in various places including New York. The factory ceased operations in 1838.
Tips to collecting Antique American Pottery
1) If you are new to this genre, consider joining a collector’s association or club. You would definitely reap a lot of benefits when you join a collector’s organization or group. Members can help you increase your knowledge about antique American pottery as well as help you locate items that you are collecting.
2) Educate yourself. Although most antique sellers in the market are honest and truthful, there are some who are not. It pays to educate yourself with as much information as you can about this genre so that you will be guided on what qualities and features to look for when buying antique American pottery.