Posts Tagged ‘Early American Porcelain’

A Nice Little Piece of Propaganda

November 7, 2010

The problem, as Josiah Wedgwood described it to his business partner Thomas Bentley in 1765, was this:

“This trade to our colonies we are apprehensive of losing in a few years, as they have set foot on some pottworks there already, and have at this time an agent amongst us hiring a number of our hands for establishing new a pottworks in South Carolina; having got one of our insolvent Master Potters there to conduct them.  They have every material there, equal if not superior to our own, for carrying on that manufacture; and as the necessaries of life, and consequently the price of labor amongst us are daily advancing, it is highly probable that more will follow them…”

Emigration was a thorn in the side of Wedgwood and the other English pottery moguls.  It was hard enough to keep local competitors at bay.  John Bartlem was lured away in 1765.  On October 4, 1770, Bartlem advertised in the South Carolina Gazette that he was about to open a “China manufactory and Pottery” near Charleston.  He urged other Staffordshire potters to join him.  Evidently some did.  The trickle to America eventually became a flood – due in large part to Wedgwood’s labor practices.  Something had to be done.  People had to know what they were really getting into.

So the response, as Wedgwood put it in his 1783 pamphlet entitled “To the Workmen in the Pottery on the subject of entering the service of Foreign Manufacturers,” was this:

“…This adventure being encouraged by the government of that province, the men, being puffed up with expectations of becoming gentlemen soon, wrote to their friends here what a fine way they were in and this encouraged others to follow them.  But change of climate and manner of living accompanied perhaps with a certain disorder of mind…carried them off so fast, that recruits could not be raised from England sufficient to supply the place of the dead men.”

In short, they “…fell sick as they came and all died quickly.”

The Rise of the Staffordshire Potteries. John Thomas.  Augustus Kelly Publishers/New York.  1971.

The Pottery and Porcelain of the United States. Edwin Atlee Barber.  G.P. Putnam’s Sons/New York.  1909.

The Art of the Potter. Diana and J. Garrison Stradling.  Main Street-Universe Books/New York.  1977.