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

Pottery Wares


The development and gradual perfection of a thin-hard-firing pale yellow or cream colored earthenware, which after initial firing could be dipped into a clear glaze has been considered by many to be the most important ceramic development of the eighteenth century. The cream colored body was the result of a combination of a variety of ground flints and clay which produced a cream colored body when fired at lower temperatures. The new cream colored ware or creamware (first developed in the 1750s) was utilized in almost every manner that the state of eighteenth century ceramic technology made possible. 1

In 1759, refinements of the cream colored ware were achieved by Josiah Wedgwood and Thomas Whieldon which resulted in the production of an even firing, rich green glaze (c. 1759-1775) to cover the ceramic body. This green glazed creamware however was not very popular and efforts to further refine the plain cream colored ware, later called "Queen's Ware," and now known as creamware, progressed. Creamware is believed to have been perfected by Josiah Wedgwood as early as 1762.

In general, it is assumed that the earlier pieces of the refined plain creamware are deeper yellow in color (c. 1762-1780) than are the later, lighter yellow examples (c. 1775-1820) with the difference becoming most pronounced in the mid 1780s. Unfortunately, this generalization id not infallible, especially since Wedgwood is known to have admitted having difficultly in maintaining the same color from batch to batch.2 The creamware glaze will appear either yellow or green in the crevices of footrings and around handles when it has been allowed to build up and should be a yellow or green over the entire piece. The date range for the manufacture and use of creamwares is approximately 1759-1820+).

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Pearlware was developed by Josiah Wedgwood in 1779 as the result of his attempts to improve the whiteness of creamwares. Pearlware or "Pearl White" as Wedgwood termed it, is characterized by a whitened creamware body and a bluish tinted glaze, the result of the addition of cobalt to neutralize the natural yellow tint of the glaze. One of the major advantages of pearlware was its close resemblance to porcelain, especially when decorated in blue.

Pearlwares seem to make their earliest appearance in the forms of blue and green edged decorated plates or platters, cups, saucers, bowls, and mugs decorated in blue chinoiseries or in floral motifs. Pearlwares are undoubtedly the most common ceramic item found on the sites of the early nineteenth century and can be distinguished from creamwares by the presence of a buildup of the bluish glaze in the crevices of the footrings and around handles, as well as the aforementioned bluish (or grayish) tinted glaze.

The approximate date range for the production of pearlware is 1779-1840. Some production was continued for such items as chamber pots, but it was limited due to the increasing popularity of the harder whiter colored wares.

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By 1820, pearlware was on its way out, being superseded by various forms of hard white wares and semi-porcelains that are extremely difficult to date with accuracy. These wares seem to represent a transition type of ceramics in body hardness and whiteness of glaze between the pearlwares and ironstone wares. Whitewares appear denser than pearlwares and the glaze is much whiter in appearance, although a bluish-gray cast may be noticeable in the glaze of some pieces, but it will be less noticeable than that of pearlwares.

In general, whitewares are found decorated in the same manner as pearlwares had been. Perhaps one of the more noticeable differences would be the introduction of much brighter colors to hand decorated and transfer printed wares, such as purple, red, bright green, yellow, and others. The approximate date range of manufacture for whitewares is c. 1820-1900+.

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Ironstone China - Semi Porcelain - Stone China

A type of stoneware introduced in England early in the nineteenth century by the Staffordshire potters who looked for a substitute for porcelain that could be mass-produced for the cheaper market. The result of their experiments was a dense, hard, durable stoneware that came to be known by several names e.g.: semi porcelain, opaque porcelain, English porcelain, stone china, new stone, - all of which were used to describe essentially the same product.

The first successful manufacture of ironstone was achieved in 1800 by William Turner of the Lane End potteries at Longton, Stoke-on-Trent. In 1805 Turner sold his patent to Josiah Spode who called his bluish gray wares stone china and new stone.

A patent was granted to Charles James Mason, Lane Delph, in 1813 for the manufacture of "English porcelain," a white ware that he marketed as Mason's Ironstone China. Job and George Ridgway also produced a similar product under the name stone china.

Most early ironstone was made in the Staffordshire district of England because of the abundance of clay and the proximity of a seaport to ship the finished wares to America and Europe. During the seventeenth century, several Staffordshire potteries produced a ceramic ware that they called "stone china." This dinner ware was hand painted to resemble the more expensive porcelain that was imported from China. In 1753, a less expensive method of applying decoration was introduced, whereby designs were first engraved on copper plates and then transferred to dishes before glazing and firing.

The resulting "transfer ware" was imported to Europe and North America. The most popular designs were historic English and American scenes and oriental designs; blue was the favorite color. Although transfer ware was much less expensive than imported dinner ware, the dishes lacked the delicacy of the Chinese porcelain. Transfer designs covered the entire surface of each item to mask the flaws in the thick, heavy "stone china" beneath.

In 1813, Charles James Mason, of Lane Delph in Staffordshire, introduced "Patent Ironstone China." Mason used a mixture of Cornwall clay, ironstone slag, flint and blue oxide of cobalt to produce a hard, opaque, bluish white pottery that had a smooth, glossy finish after glazing and firing. The earliest ironstone items were decorated, many with hand painted oriental designs or blue transfer patterns. Soon other potteries were experimenting with this new process, and by the time that Mason's patent expired in 1827, many other potters had perfected their individual formulas to get similar results.

Because items made of ironstone were thick and heavy, the shape of the dishes became important. In the 1840s, James Edwards, John Ridgway and the Mayer Brothers introduced all white, beautifully glazed dinner ware with angular shapes that deviated from the gentle curves that had been traditionally used. In 1844, John Ridgway & Co. patented a design called "Classic Gothic," a hexagonal shape with crown finials and scrolled arches. Other potteries offered variations on the "gothic" design during the 1840s.

Utilitarian items made of undecorated white ironstone have been used, admired and collected since their introduction in the 1840s. Most ironstone was manufactured in England and exported to North America where it was prized for its attractive shapes as well as its durability. Because it was made in large quantities for a long period of time, this sturdy ceramic ware is readily available to modern collectors who enjoy it for the same reasons that led to its immense popularity in an earlier time.

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Transfer Printing

Although it is subject to some dispute, the technique of mass producing transfer printing is claimed to have been perfected by Sadler and Green in about 1756. They are probably best known for their black prints on creamware, although transfer printing was also done in red, purple and later in blue. Transfer printing in underglaze blue on earthenwares did not become popular until the end of the eighteenth century and never became very popular on creamware.

By the late eighteenth century some wares were transfer printed to suite the American taste, including such subjects as the eagle and native scenes. The date range for transfer printing on creamware is generally considered to be c. 1765-1815.

Many believe it was Josiah Spode who introduced underglaze blue transfer printing in Staffordshire in 1781. Spode had probably noticed, as had Wedgwood, that the population would eventually desire a change in the appearance of their ceramics. The engraved transfer printed patterns of blue, similar to oriental styles were an obvious change from the undecorated or slightly decorated creamware of the preceding years. Numerous potteries throughout Staffordshire, as well as other areas, were not slow to begin the production of blue transfer printing on earthenware, which continued through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. Although the early blue transfer printed pearlwares were affordable only to the professional classes, when mass production was initiated. it became less and less expensive, until it was possible for anyone to obtain it at reasonable price.

The earliest methods of underglaze blue transfer printing on pearlware produced rather crude results. The designs were from an engraved copper plate which was filled with the blue coloring and placed upon a piece of heavy paper. The paper was then pressed down upon the surface of the earthenware, and then instantly removed, leaving coarse and blurred impressions on many vessels. The paper had to be removed so quickly that larger pieces had to be printed in sections.3 The transfer printing method was constantly being improved, first by wetting the paper and then adding oil to the blue coloring mixture, providing a cleaner, sharper image on the ceramic vessel.

Blue was not the only color used in transfer printing on pearlware tablewares during the late eighteenth and throughout the nineteenth century, brown, green, and black are also known to have been used.

1 Noel Hume, Ivor -- A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America, Alfred A. Knopf. New York, NY 1978, p. 123.

2 ibid. pp. 126-8.

3 Halsey, R. T. Haines -- Pictures of Early New York, On Dark Blue Staffordshire Pottery, Together With Pictures of Boston and New England, Philadelphia, the South and West, Dover Publications. New York, NY 1974, p. 123.
[Reprint of 1899 Edition With a new introduction by Marvin D. Schwartz]

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