The Era of Good Feelings

Raise your hand if you can name all the presidents.  And if memorizing them made you sleep through every history class from then on? 

The uses to which we put history determines it’s shelf life.  This adage is blatantly visible in English transfer print export pottery to America (ie; show me the money).  Take the first five presidents: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe (of course).  Their shelf life varied.

Everybody loved George Washington (president from 1789-1797).  Shelves full of English export ware commemorated his administration.  Perhaps that’s to be expected of any revolution’s central “founding father.”

There is practically no English export ware commemorating John Adams (1797-1801).  Maybe Adams was just too dour for the English.  But he’d have to be pretty dour to trump the English  love of commerce.

Things got somewhat back to normal with Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809).  Even if many of his likenesses were really just “clip art” portraits with his name pasted under them.  No matter, as long as the name sold.

James Madison (1809-1817) held his own, though he declared a fairly pointless war against England in 1812.  But by then English pottery firms knew the extent of the American market and were prepared to go the distance in catering to popular demand.

Which brings us to James Monroe (1817-1825).  He too had his day.  But presidential portrait pottery had begun it’s decline.  Not so much because of the Monroe Doctrine, but because English firms were catching on to what American potters already knew.  Politics as decoration can be a hard sell.  Practically no American pottery company bothered with political imagery until the election of 1840.  Landscapes, flowers, and famous places were partisan neutral.

The irony is that Monroe’s Democratic-Republican party had wiped out the opposition Federalists.  George Washington’s original ideal of a ‘party-less’ government was within reach. 

The country was still wracked by economic crises, but the opposition party had imploded from it’s own colossal intransigence and a major war was over.  People called the time “The Era Of Good Feelings.”  Yes, people once actually spoke like that about American national politics.   

To those who warn that we risk repeating the past, I say “I wish.”

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

China-Trade Porcelain.  John Goldsmith Phillips.  Harvard University Press/Cambridge, MA.  1956.

 

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2 Responses to “The Era of Good Feelings”

  1. sue skinner Says:

    me too

  2. Dinner with George Washington | This Day in Pottery History Says:

    […] George Washington meant dealing with a constant stream of visitors.  Some were invited, many were not.  […]

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