Objects from the Collection:
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pitcher 26.34 pitcher 37.454.77
pitcher 26.34 pitcher 84.46.2
plate 37.454.128 plate 37.454.97
plate 82.22.1 bowl 84.46.1


This pearlware plate features a blue transfer print design of the Grand Erie Canal inscription honoring Governor DeWitt Clinton of New York for his contributions in the successful completion of the Erie Canal. The border contains medallions of canal boats and canal scenes.

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Plate (MC 321, Acc. No. 37.454.97)
Produced in Staffordshire, England, by an unknown manufacturer, c. 1825.
8.5" (21.6cm) dia.


Medallion with Canal Boat, top of plate.

Medallion with Canal Scene, side of plate.

Grand Erie Canal Inscription Honoring Governor DeWitt Clinton

Detail of Center of Plate

This inscription is also portrayed on Pitcher, 37.454.77.

Source of Inscription: Because pottery using this design was produced by an unknown manufacturer, or a series of manufacturers, and because the design does not include an image of a specific location along the canal, the source of the inscription is not known.

Border: Large medallions of canal boats and canal scenes.

Some Variations in Size and Type:
Pitchers: 5.25, 6.5, and 7 inches; (Reverse, Utica Inscription, 1824) (The American Coat of Arms is printed under the spout of the pitchers, with two generic scenes of the canal above and below the design.)
Plates: 3.75, 5.75, 8.5, and 10.25 inches (Dark and medium blue).

Description: In the center ceramic piece is the Grand Erie Canal inscription honoring Governor DeWitt Clinton for his invaluable assistance in the construction of the Erie Canal.1 The inscription on this plate (MC 321, Acc. No. 37.454.97) reads "THE GRAND ERIE CANAL. A SPLENDID MONUMENT TO THE ENTERPRISE & RESOURCES OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK. INDEBTED FOR IT'S EARLY COMMENCEMENT & RAPID COMPLETION TO THE ACTIVE ENERGIES PREEMINENT TALENTS & ENLIGHTENED POLICY OF DEWITT CLINTON, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE." Larsen2 indicates that there are two variations of this inscription seen on transfer print wares. One as shown above and a second that ends "... DEWITT CLINTON, LATE GOVERNOR OF THE STATE." following Clinton's death in 1828.

Historical Background: DeWitt Clinton was born on 2 March 1769 in Little Britain, New York in what was then a part of Ulster County but is now included within the boundaries of Orange County. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia College in 1786. He was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1789 and was initiated into his political life soon thereafter. From 1790 -1795, Clinton worked as secretary to his uncle, then Governor George Clinton, of New York. He was a member of the New York State Assembly in 1797, and was elected to the State Senate as a Democratic-Republican from 1798 - 1802. He was appointed to the U. S. Senate in 1802 to fill a vacancy but decided to resign that office in 1803, to become Mayor of New York City. He would hold the office of Mayor from 1803 - 1807, from 1809 - 1810, and from 1811 - 1815. His years spent serving as Mayor of New York are often considered to be the era of his greatest political achievements. In 1808, he served as a State Senator and in 1810, he served as Lieutenant Governor of New York. He became the leader of the Republican Party in New York about 1803.

Clinton was a political power in New York State in the early years of the nineteenth century, usually in support of Thomas Jefferson and his policies. In 1810, DeWitt Clinton became State Canal Commissioner and in 1811, unsuccessfully attempted to obtain federal aid for construction of the Erie Canal. He was a Federalist candidate for presidency in 1812, supported by the Democratic-Republican opponents of the War of 1812 and by the dying Federalist Party. Clinton was defeated by James Madison in the election.

Clinton believed strongly that construction of the Erie Canal was crucial to the advancement of his state and he began to work vigorously to generate popular support for the undertaking as a state enterprise. Fighting for recognition for New York City to be perceived as advanced and cosmopolitan as Boston and Philadelphia, Clinton threw all his political weight behind the canal project, beginning a Canal Fund and enlisting the support of former rival Martin Van Buren in the state senate. He used the rhetoric of nationalism and republicanism in a popularly supported memorandum to the legislature demanding that a canal be built. Momentum for the project increased during the early 1810s; surveys continued, engineers were trained in England and Holland, and the federal government was expected to finance the canal, at least in part. In 1816, construction plans for the canal were stalled when the Bonus Bill, the key to national funding, was vetoed by President James Madison. Clinton, although he did not have adequate state funding at the time, decided to go ahead with his plans; as he was running for state governor at the time, he could not forestall the canal any further. Fortunately, the veto of the Bonus Bill strengthened the state's sense of resolution and independence. The plan was finally adopted by the state legislature in 1816 and a new canal commission, of which Clinton was a member, was appointed.

Although he had lost favor with his own party in New York City, he was elected Governor of New York in 1817. In 1817, Clinton convinced the State legislature to authorize $7 million for construction of a canal 363 miles long, 40 feet wide and four feet deep. As Governor, DeWitt Clinton presided over the formal ground breaking ceremonies at Rome, New York on July 4, 1817. Clinton was reelected as governor in 1820. He declined to be a candidate in 1822 but was again elected Governor in 1824 and was in office in 1825 when the Erie Canal, which he had done so much to further, was completed. He presided at the equally impressive ceremonies which opened the canal to commerce on 26 October 1825 as he sailed the packet boat Seneca Chief along the Canal from Buffalo to Albany. Elected Governor again, he died in office in Albany, New York 11 February 1828. His work on the creation of the Erie Canal was Clinton's greatest personal and best remembered achievement.

The Erie Canal proved to be the key that unlocked an enormous series of social and economic changes in the young nation. The Canal spurred the first great westward movement of American settlers, gave access to the rich land and resources west of the Appalachians and made New York the preeminent commercial city in the United States. For the dissemination of people, ideas, goods and American nationalism, as well as a model for most subsequent canals, the Erie Canal stands alone in the first half of the nineteenth century.

1 Larsen, Ellouise Baker -- American Historical Views on Staffordshire China, Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City, NY, 1950, p. 236.

2 ibid., p.238.

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