Merry Abbitt Outlaw
New Discoveries - Introduction

I did not intend to go into any detail at all, at first, but it is the failing of the true ceramiker, or the true devotee in any department of brick-a-brackery, that once he gets his tongue or his pen started on his darling theme, he cannot well stop until he drops from exhaustion. He has no more sense of the flight of time than has any other lover when talking of his sweetheart. The very “marks” on the bottom of a piece of rare crockery are able to throw me into a gibbering ecstasy; and I could forsake a drowning relative to help dispute about whether the stopple of a departed Buon Retiro scent-bottle was genuine or spurious.

Mark Twain, Tramp Abroad, 1880

Charles of Bourbon (1716–1788), son of Philip V of Spain, was crowned king of Naples and Sicily in 1734. A passion for porcelain and his 1738 marriage to Maria Amalia—granddaughter of Augustus II, who in Meissen in 1710 founded the first European hard-paste porcelain factory—led to his creation of a royal porcelain factory at Capodimonte in 1743. Upon becoming king of Spain in 1759, Charles III demolished his successful factory at Capodimonte and moved craftsmen, molds, and materials to the royal porcelain factory he established at Buen Retiro, a palace outside Madrid. In production by 1760, Buen Retiro porcelain was reserved for royal use until the year after Charles III’s death, and it was available to the public until the factory closed in 1808. 

In Tramp Abroad Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) asserts that as a ceramics enthusiast, a debate about a piece of Buen Retiro—a stopper without the bottle, at that—caused him to abandon good judgment in the face of disaster. A painted or incised Bourbon fleur-de-lis maker’s mark would not necessarily have made the identification of eighteenth-century Buen Retiro easier for him, since the mark was used previously at Charles III’s earlier factory at Capodimonte. 

Hence the dilemma: maker’s marks often confound and fool us. Collectors, researchers, and enthusiasts must look carefully at these marks, as well as at such other identifying characteristics as shape, color, form, and decorative technique. It is crucial that important information concerning ceramics makers, wares, and places of manufacture is disseminated quickly, and the New Discoveries articles in this issue of Ceramics in America do just that. 

Barbara Magid takes a new look at pottery recovered in 1984 during excavations of the Tildon Easton pottery kiln. Made between 1841 and 1843, the relationship of this pottery to (and diVerences from) stoneware produced in Alexandria, Virginia, is identified, and the mark “TILDON EASTON” is illustrated. An earlier Alexandria potter, James Miller, is also brought to light by the careful research of Brandt Zipp and Mark Zipp. Chris Espenshade speaks to the connection among stoneware potters in Washington County, Virginia, during the second half of the nineteenth century and the ease of worker movement between shops. His research helps to account for the presence of foreign stamps on vessel sherds from the manufactory of another known maker. 

In comparing two American stoneware vessels dating from the third quarter of the nineteenth century, William Liebeknecht notes their many similarities. One is stamped with the initials of Richard Clinton Remmey above “PHILA,” thereby providing strong evidence for the manufacture of the other. Manufactured farther to the north, in Massachusetts, and possibly as early as the late eighteenth century, a rare jar found in Kentucky by John Kille demonstrates that, although best known for his redware, William Pecker also made decorative stamped stoneware. 

Authors from both sides of the Atlantic discuss highly prized English ceramics. Jonathan Goodwin reports on recent excavations on the site of the Minton pottery factory at Stoke-on-Trent that oVer new insights to the construction of “bottle”-shaped updraft pottery kilns from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century. In a captivating account, Al Luckenbach links a small English stoneware jug from the second quarter of the nineteenth century, stamped “T. ROUSE / EAGLE TAVERN / CITY ROAD / MOUNTAINS,” to the nursery rhyme “Pop Goes the Weasel.” Robert Werowinski describes a circa 1710 StaVordshire slipware cradle in his collection that displays an unusual hood and the delightful inscription “THIS I MAD FOR YOV AND MOOM.” A brief note by Robert Hunter discusses recent English ceramic acquisitions by the Chipstone Foundation as they relate to research issues published in Ceramics in America.

Wares produced on the other side of the Pacific are also reported in this issue. Mary Beaudry reveals her identification of Japanese Water Drop ware of the Meiji period (1868–1912). Although found in small quantities on American archaeological sites, Water Drop ware holds complex meanings for those who used and discarded them during the nineteenth-century japonisme craze. Combining modern technology and historical documentation, Lisa Ellis presents the detailed results of her analysis of “ghosts” and gilding on an important Kangxi-period (1662–1722) porcelain teapot, manufactured between 1662 and 1690 and now in the J. Paul Getty Museum. Also from China, and excavated in French-colonial Old Mobile, Alabama, sherds of fine Chinese Imari porcelain vessels made during the later Kangxi period probably arrived via the Manila galleon trade through Spanish settlements, according to Linda R. Shulsky. Regrettably, the underglaze blue mark on the exterior base of one sherd cannot be identified. 

The final article in this lineup of New Discoveries is authored by Sara Hahn, who examines ceramics recovered from the late-eighteenth-century John Dortch archaeological site in Spanish-colonial Louisiana. In contrast to the French ceramics found on the majority of contemporary sites in the area, most of Dortch’s are of English manufacture. Among these objects, a creamware jug conveying “Success to the United States of America” evocatively anticipates the eventual control of the territory by the United States.

Before I fall into “gibbering ecstasy,” please read on, for the articles that follow surely will keep you captivated until you “drop from exhaustion”!

Ceramics in America 2004