Archive for July, 2010

Now You See Him…

July 31, 2010

Imagine what political discourse would be like today without bumper stickers.  Transfer print pottery was the “bumper sticker” of the early 19th century. The invention of transfer print pottery was squarely at the fore of a newly evolving mass culture in Europe and America.  While perhaps not the most important outlet for disseminating news and ideas, transfer print pottery played a  uniquely intimate role in insinuating such topics into peoples daily lives.

For example, thanks to the Liverpool factories that churned out transfer print pottery by the shipload, we know a little bit about Phillip Crandall, an early New England politician.

Same Face Philip Crandall

One of his more famous colleagues whose likeness was also forever enshrined on the sides of a Liverpool pitcher was John Hancock.

Same Face John Hancock

Another was James Monroe, the 5th president of the US whose “Monroe Doctrine” boldly declared that the Western Hemisphere was now our little playground.

Same Face James Monroe

Yes, the whole story can still be read on the sides of these humble items…

Readings:

Anglo-American Ceramics, Part 1 Transfer Printed Creamware and Pearlware for the American Market, 1760-1860. Arman, David and Linda.  Oakland Press/Portsmouth, RI.(1998)

American Patriotic and Political China. Marian Klamkin.  Scribner’s and Sons/New York.  1973.

If These Pots Could Talk. Ivor Noël Hume.  University Press of New England/Hanover, NH.  2001.

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Telephone

July 17, 2010

The mounted officer charged the enemy.  Or rallied the troops.  Or  maybe just smoked a pipe while out on a joy ride.  Whatever his intentions, they were important (or interesting) enough to meritDragoon 1 eternal commemoration.  His ride was depicted several times on earthenware plates made in southeastern Pennsylvania between the mid 1770’s and 1849.

So who was this rider?  A Philadelphia Light Horse Dragoon?  He often wielded saber in one hand, pistol in another.  A dragoon on the attack.  His attire suggests this, and the earliest plates date from the Revolutionary War. But  the rider probably morphed into George Washington soon after the General’s death in 1799.  Commemorative prints of Washington were widely popular then.  The rider sometimes blew a bugle, with pistol or saber accompanying, as if George were urging his forces forward.  Here was a known pattern ready to fulfill  demand for memorabilia.

Dragoon 2 WashingtonBut what about the pipe that sometimes appeared?

Possible references to intention and identity were inscribed around the rim of the plates – when one was present, the earliest plates have none.  From 1805: “I have ridden over hill and dale and have found disloyalty everywhere.”  This saying was associated with Washington’s doubts when the going was rough.

But things quickly degenerated: “I have ridden over hill and dale and everywhere have found pretty girls.”  The ride soured: “I have ridden many hours and days and yet no girl will have me.”  The rider became desperate: “A pipe of tobacco does a man as much good as though he spends his money with the girls.”  Then fed up: “A pipe of tobacco does a man as much good as though he spends his dollar in a butcher shop.”  Hope fades: “I have traveled up and down the street and yet my purse Dragoon 4 pipewas empty.”  By ride’s end, around 1849, he was delirious: “I am a  horseman like a bear, I would that I in heaven were.”

The ride reads like a decades long game of telephone.  If many potters took part, why not?  Attribution isn’t always clear, but most of these plates made after 1805 seem to be by Johannes Neesz.  If it was just old Johannes taking us for a ride, well, I’ll leave the final word to him (found on another of his plates):

In olden times it was so, that an old man’s words were taken as true.

Readings:
Lead Glazed Pottery.  Edward Atlee Barber.  Museum of Philadelphia/Philadelphia.  1907.

Tulip Ware of the Pennsylvania-German Potters.  Edwin Atlee Barber.  Dover Publications/New York.  1926.

Vacation Time

July 5, 2010

Back in the day, there was no such thing as vacations, at least for potters and the like. Most were also farmers, or at least tended farms and farm animals, which meant they rarely, if ever, traveled much. So, the spring was spent dealing with planting. Fall was harvest time. Summer could also mean splitting logs for fence railing, collecting rags, doing road repair, or whatever else was their lot. Winter could be logging. This was a good time to travel, as the roads were frozen, and not rivers of mud…

Fortunately, we live in modern times where all the conveniences of modern life conspire to force us to work all the time, even in the winter. But, from time to time, family duties come first. And so it is this week for me.

This week I am on vacation. I will be adding new and fascinating posts to this journal in the weeks ahead. But for now, I offer you an image of a jug I recently made. The saying was originally found on an English transfer print pitcher from the late teens of the 19th century.

Go out and have fun!