• Figure 1
    Figure 1

    F. Micklewright, Hanley Market Place, 1840. Enamel painting on bone china. (Courtesy, The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent; photo, David Barker.)

  • Figure 2
    Figure 2

    Church Street, Stoke-upon-Trent, ca. 1840. Colored engraving. 6 1/4" x 4 3/4". (Private collection.)

  • Figure 3
    Figure 3

    T. Williams, Sr., The Bank, ca. 1840. Colored engraving. 5" x 6". (Private collection.) Packing the finished ware for sale.

  • Figure 4
    Figure 4

    Masthead of The Potters’ Ex­am­iner and Workman’s Advocate, published 1837–1847.

  • Figure 5
    Figure 5

    Notice to the “Shareholders of the Potters’ Emigration Society” in The Potters’ Examiner and Workman’s Advocate, May 18, 1844. In May 1844 the United Branches of Operative Potters union formed The Potters’ Joint Stock Emigration Society and Savings Fund.

  • Figure 6
    Figure 6

    “Important to Emigrants” in The Potters’ Examiner and Workman’s Advocate, November 2, 1844. The editor filled the paper with articles and editorials recommending emigration, with poetry and dramatic sketches eulogizing America as a promised land, and, more practically, with enticing advertisements.

  • Figure 7
    Figure 7

    “Notice to Emigrants” in The Potters’ Examiner and Workman’s Advocate. This advertisement, with minor changes, appeared every week from April 6, 1844, to October 26, 1844.

  • Figure 8
    Figure 8

    Map showing the locations where various immigrants mentioned in the article worked.

  • Figure 9
    Figure 9

    Postcard, ca. 1915. The Pioneer Pottery of East Liverpool, Ohio. (Private collection.) This single-kiln pottery was built by James Bennett on the Ohio River in 1840. Bennett’s three brothers, Edwin (inset), Daniel, and William, emigrated from England the following year. Bennett and Bros. produced yellow ware and Rockingham ware in East Liverpool until 1844, when the firm moved to the Pitts­burgh area. There thrower George Garner, a Staffordshire immigrant, worked for the Bennetts in 1844.

Miranda Goodby
"Our Home in the West": Staffordshire Potters and Their Emigration to the America in the 1840s

In 1845 a series of polemical verses titled “The Pioneers Song" appeared in a union newspaper, The Potters’ Examiner and Workman’s Advocate, published in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. They called for British potters to forsake the tyranny of their homeland and emigrate to America:

Hark Hark to that strain! Let us hear it again!
From a bark that is bearing away from the quay:
It’s a pioneer band, that departs from the land, 
To establish a home for the brave and the free.

“Farewell!” sing the crew, as they sail from our view,
“The land of the pauper is not for the free:
“We sail for the west, where the weary shall rest:
“And the ‘Bastile’ of England, no more shall we see.

“The tyrants of state, in their pride and their hate
“Have driven their thousands to premature graves;
“The lives of the poor, they think of no more
“Nay less than the Planters would think of their slaves.

“Farewell, and away o’er the bright bounding spray”
Sing the bold pioneers, as they dash o’er the wave’
“There’s health in the gale, as it fills every sail,
“And bears us away to the home of the brave.

“The dear friends, we leave, for them, we may grieve,
“And may offer a tribute to memory dear;
“For the sorrow and care, they are all doomed to bear
“Will ever call forth to our eye-lids a tear.

“But away with the pain—we shall see them again!
“We are only preparing a way for the rest:
“Then blow! Breezes blow! As onward we go-
“The Potters shall yet have a home in the West!”[1]  

Whether inspired by the poem or not, hundreds of British potters emigrated to the United States in the early nineteenth century. This is not an exhaustive study but rather an examination, through their own words, of those potters who left during the first sustained period of emigration in the 1840s, looking at the state of the Staffordshire pottery industry at the time, the hardships endured by the workers there, and the reasons that prompted them to leave their homes for a new country. It is also an attempt to show what their opinions of America were and how they sought to establish themselves and their families. It makes use predominantly of one full and detailed—if biased—source, the Staffordshire weekly newspaper, The Potters’ Examiner and Workman’s Advocate.[2]

In the early years of the American colonies, pottery making was not high on the list of desirable immigrant skills or crafts. It was a specialized trade requiring skilled workers and access to raw materials of clay, fuel, and lead for glazing. Necessary ceramics could be supplied from Britain, including European wares shipped through British ports. In addition, the British government prohibited the establishment of certain manufacturing trades or industries in the colonies in order to protect English interests.

Nonetheless, as America became more settled and the population pushed westward, there was an increasing demand for pottery, along with the discovery of new deposits of raw materials, some suitable for making coarse kitchen and dairy wares, others—white-firing clays—for making the more highly regarded stonewares, creamwares, and even porcelains. It be­came harder to enforce the restrictive regulations against competition. Demand for certain products encouraged the development of trade skills and the establishment of workshops on a large and small scale. By the end of the eighteenth century, numerous potters from Britain and the European continent worked along the eastern seaboard. Their products reflected both the raw materials available in various regions and consumer demand.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, pottery production in Britain was expanding massively. By 1762 about one hundred and fifty factories existed in north Staffordshire alone with employment at around seven thousand;[3] by 1800 employees numbered fifteen to twenty thousand.[4]
There was job security for all who had the necessary skills. Indeed, skilled labor was so scarce that a system of annual hiring was instituted, enabling employers to contract potters for a period of twelve months, from Martinmas to Martinmas. Em­ployers could be sure they had skilled workers for the year ahead.

This was not a climate in which pottery workers were likely to consider emigration. Opportunities for master potters were limited in the North American colonies where the market was still small and pottery workers would have to be imported. In addition, there was no infrastructure to provide the necessary fuel, clay, or other essential materials for fine wares. Manufacturers in north Staffordshire benefited from the local availability of skilled labor, as well as from a close-knit society that provided financial support and social and political connections. As America expanded, however, it became potentially more attractive to British potters.

Since the middle of the eighteenth century, it was known that fine clays were available in America. The first patent for Bow porcelain mentioned the use of “unaker,” or white clay from Carolina also known as “Cherokee clay.”[5] William Cookworthy, who took out a patent for hard-paste porcelain in 1768, was also interested in clay from Carolina,[6] and Josiah Wedgwood paid Thomas Griffiths to search Carolina for suitable clays for his creamware factory.[7] 

None of these mid-eighteenth-century ventures took root commercially. The difficulties of negotiating for access rights, transport problems, and costs meant supplies were intermittent, and potters turned to English clays instead. However, one Staffordshire master potter was sufficiently in­trigued by the possibilities of “Cherokee clay” to move to South Carolina, establish a factory, and encourage workers to join him. This was John Bartlam, who, according to a 1783 pamphlet written by Josiah Wedgwood:

Went to South Carolina, and by offers made from thence . . . prevailed upon some of our workmen to leave their country and come to him . . . the men, puffed up with the 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 to be mentioned hereafter, (which have always made great havock among the people who have left this country to settle in remote parts) carried them off so fast, that recruits could not be raised from England sufficient to supply the places of the dead men . . . they fell sick as they came, and all died quickly.[8]  

This pamphlet, partnered with other lurid tales of American life, was designed to emphasize the risks involved in going to work abroad. According to Wedgwood, emigration would lead to almost certain poverty and despair, probably culminating in an early death: “Like plants removed into a soil unnatural to them, they dwindled away and died.”[9]

Proclaiming that Britain was “a land truly flowing with milk and honey” Wedgwood addressed himself to those contemplating emigration:

Let me prevail upon you to pause here awhile—to compare the country and situation you have left, with those in which you now find yourselves. In . . . Staffordshire, you [are] happily placed amidst populous and thriving towns and manufacturers; amongst people of the same religion, speaking the same language, and brought up in the same habits of life as yourselves—among neighbours, who knew you from your infancy . . . . You [would be] outcasts in a strange land . . . [people] must look upon you as unworthy members of the community you had before belonged to as having deserted its cause, endeavoured to ruin its manufacturers as having disregarded the interest of your neighbours and friends whom you left behind . . . . And . . . there is a disease of the mind, peculiar to people in a strange land; a kind of heart-sickness and despair, with an unspeakable longing after their native country, not to be described, and of which no one can have a just idea but those who have been under its influence. Most travellers have felt it, in greater or lesser degree; many have died of it; and those who have recovered declare it to be worse than death itself.[10] 

Wedgwood concluded by pointing out Parliamentary acts decreeing that “a manufacturer or artificer,” such as a potter, would be committing a criminal act, liable to a fine of £500 or twelve months imprisonment, if he left “His Majesty’s dominions” in order to “use, exercise or teach any of the said trades” to foreigners and did not return to Britain after being given notice to do so. Such persons would be excluded from taking any legacy devised to them, prevented from administering to anyone’s estates, and would forfeit all lands, goods, and chattels. In addition, they would be regarded as “an alien and out of His Majesty’s protection.” Wedgwood ended his address by offering a bounty of fifty guineas for every person “apprehended by you who shall be convicted of endeavouring to entice or to hire any of our potters into foreign service.”[11] The two acts of Parliament mentioned in Wedgwood’s pamphlet were sufficiently draconian on their own, without Wedgwood’s additional fifty guineas and ominous warnings, to explain why relatively few potters were immigrating to America at the end of the eighteenth century. 

The eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were a period of intense political upheaval. Continental wars spread from Europe to the Americas, while the insurrection of the colonists, which brought Wedgwood’s nephew Thomas Byerley unexpectedly home from America, further dissuaded Englishmen from immigrating to the United States for some time.[12] Once the relationship between the new nation and Britain was stabilized, the sympathy of America for the regicides of France and the Napoleonic Wars discouraged many potential immigrants from abandoning England for un­known conditions, a situation which was reinforced with the War of 1812.

It was not just fear that kept the Staffordshire potters at home. In the early nineteenth century, the British pottery industry continued to grow and, despite some setbacks, it was a prosperous time for potters, both masters and workmen.[13] In 1824 the Combination Acts were repealed.[14] For the first time, potters were able to organize into unions and negotiate collectively for improved hiring practices, working conditions, and wages.

Although operating from a strong negotiating position, the diversity of skills among the potters made it difficult for workers to band together; each trade had its own concerns. However, there were a number of grievances in common: annual hiring abuses, payments “good from oven,” and the allowance and truck systems.

Annual hiring was a long-established system whereby, in the autumn, employees were hired for the coming year. Although employees were bound to the employer for twelve months, the latter was not obliged to find work for his laborers for more than one day per week. Despite this, potters could not give notice and work elsewhere without written authorization from their contracted employer. At slack times, the employer could lay off his workforce for as long as he wanted, knowing that they would be available as soon as conditions improved.

At the annual hiring, the rates of pay for piecework were also fixed for the year.[15] This meant that only those rates in place at Martinmas were agreed upon; any prices for making wares or patterns introduced during the remainder of the year could be imposed by the manufacturer without negotiation. This was frequently a way to effect a wholesale reduction in prices paid for work and, therefore, in wages.

Another major grievance was paying “good from oven.” In this instance, workers were only paid for what was deemed good, saleable ware—not at the point when the ware left their hands as is the present system but after it had been fired in the biscuit oven. For example, a thrower or plate maker might do his work well, yet if the firing failed and his work was ruined, he was not paid. Since the manufacturer established what was “good from oven,” the system was open to abuse. Employees alleged that employers, having refused to pay them for work done, were then selling their wares as seconds or even thirds.[16]

A third indignity was the allowance system. Another way of cutting wages, the workman “allowed” his employer one, two, or three pence in the shilling. The term itself was misleading, for it was the employer who settled the rate, and the deduction was compulsory. 

Some manufacturers had an additional way of cheating their employees: the truck system. Rather than paying their employees in cash, they paid them in goods. However, poor quality or useless goods—lengths of cloth or cheap jewelry—could not take the place of cash to pay the rent or buy food and fuel. Of all the ways to lower wages, this practice raised the most indignation among the workers.

It was not surprising that once unions had been legalized a series of strikes erupted specifically to rectify these problems. In the main, they were successful, but in 1836 the National Union of Operative Potters overreached itself, and after a twenty-week stoppage of work, union members were forced by starvation to return. As a result, they were in debt, demoralized, and unwilling for a number of years to “turn-out” against the employers. The strike was followed by a serious downturn in trade in the 1840s. Unemployment was on the rise, as were former hiring and wage abuses, including the now illegal truck system. A new union—the United Branches of Operative Potters—was formed in 1843. As an alternative to direct, aggressive action against employers, the new union proposed emigration to remove surplus labor from the market and give the remaining workers a better bargaining position.

In May 1844 the union’s Central Committee formed The Potters’ Joint Stock Emigration Society and Savings Fund.[17] They decided to raise a levy of one pound per man for the purchase of 12,000 acres of land in one of America’s western states.[18] This acreage would be divided into allotments of twenty acres, with five acres of each to be fenced, planted, and provided with a house before the immigrants’ arrival. Union members, and their families, would receive an allotment of land by lottery and have all their emigration expenses paid to settle them in a new life, not as potters, but as farmers. 

This was the era of the “Hungry Forties” in Britain. Trade and the economy were bad. In the same year that the Emigration Society was founded, machinery was introduced by the pottery employers. The plight of the hand-loom weavers of the neighboring county of Lancashire was making national headlines. Replaced by mechanically operated looms, these workers, who only a few years earlier had been the highest paid workers in the massive textile industry, were now starving by the hundreds. In 1844 The Potter’s Examiner and Workman’s Advocate reported that the manufacturer C. J. Mason of Fenton had openly installed a “jigger,” or plate-making machine, capable of turning out sixty to one hundred dozen saucers a day. The machine did not require a skilled plate maker but could be operated by a woman. The article went on to say that factories in northeast England already had cup-making machines. Operated by two women, they were as productive as “six middling workmen”; so that one woman could produce sixty dozen cups for two shillings, whereas a man’s wages for making the same number without machinery would range from fifteen to seventeen shillings.[19]The fear aroused by the introduction of this new technology was another argument in favor of the union’s emigration scheme.

The skilled men who, as throwers and flat ware and hollow ware pressers, made up a great part of the potters’ union rallied to support the Central Committee in opposing the introduction of machinery, while The Examiner wholeheartedly promoted the cause of emigration.[20] The editor, William Evans, filled the paper with articles and editorials recommending emi­gration, with poetry and dramatic sketches eulogizing “Our Home in the West,” and, more practically, with advertisements aimed at emigrants.[21]

The tone of the newspaper was utterly different than that of Wedgwood’s pamphlet written sixty years earlier. Wedgwood had stressed the dangers of overseas travel, the unfamiliar qualities of a foreign country, the uncertain prospects in a new land, and the alienation and homesickness that the emigrant would experience. Under Evans’ editorship, there was an almost religious fervor in depicting America as a promised land, an earthly paradise, and emigration itself as a means of salvation for the working potter. 

Although the Potters’ Emigration Society intended to send people overseas to become farmers, it could see that many might choose to emigrate, with or without the support of the society, to become potters. “And why not?” asked The Examiner:

It has been stated, that to remove the surplus labourers of the potting districts of this empire to agricultural homes on the free prairies of America will be to ruin the potting trade of this country, by sending individuals away who would ultimately take our trade from us by commencing potting themselves . . . [this] has no foundation in truth from the following several reasons:

1st. The thirty-per-cent duty placed on all imported potting goods, entering the American market, amounts almost to a prohibition, and, consequently, denies to us an extensive market, which we might otherwise possess. 

2nd. These establishing of the manufacture of porcelain and earthenware in the United States of America would be to create a demand for British potters, without the slightest injury to the potting business of this em­pire. The thirty-per-cent duty excludes our goods to a certain extent from the American market; consequently there is a large population in the United States who are in want of our goods, and whom a few hundreds of potters from this country would be able to supply, with benefit to themselves, and without injury to us.

3rd. In an operative point of view, it matters little to us, as working men, to what quarter of the globe our trade may go, so that that quarter be healthy in climate, free in its institutions, and pays a good price for labour; for wherever pots are to be made, there must be potters to make them. Potters are not the production of a day; and if the potting business of this country is to be removed, those who remove it must take potters to establish it.

4th. The United States does not require any further information for the establishing of potting:—it is already established: the principles are there, and there are hundreds of potters working those principles.[22]

The Examiner was perfectly correct. In the 1840s emigration was in the air and, without waiting for the Potters’ Emigration Society to begin its operations, many potters were emigrating independently. Few were possessed of sufficient funds to consider setting up as master potters; most would seek employment in the growing American industry. 

Enoch Bradshaw was a union member who, with five colleagues—William Mountford, Thomas Cartwright, George Garner, John Howson, and a Mr. Stacey—set out for America in June 1844.[23] Bradshaw gave some idea of the spirit that moved the small group in a letter published by TheExaminer shortly before departing:

My mind is cheered with the prospect of realizing by honest industry, that position in society, and those comforts of life, denied to me in the land of my birth. Nevertheless, although my mind is cheered, I feel a heaviness at heart in leaving the companions of my youth; leaving them to the same ruthless power, and the same necessitous circumstances, that are forcing me across the broad Atlantic. For them I feel that the hand of tyranny will still be raised, that the strugglings for bread will still be hard, and that the same monotonous rounds of toil and ill requited labour will be their fate until home, rural homes, are secured for the redundant hands of the potting business. For myself I feel there is a home for me in the land of my adoption. Already I feel that I am free from the trammels and tyrannies of English factory existence;—that I may exercise the dignity of a man without offending the creatures of commerce. A purer atmosphere and a freer existence are before me: and whether I settle in the city, or on the prairie, my prayers will be for you; that we may meet again under more happy circumstances, is the deep-felt wish of my heart.[24]  

Bradshaw had been an ovenman living and working in Hanley. A member of the Ovenmen’s branch of the Union of Operative Potters, he was presented by his fellow members with five pounds on his departure for America, a significant gift considering the sum was equal to more than a skilled man’s monthly wage.[25] His departure had been precipitated by dismissal from his job because of union affiliation and, presumably, for being an active correspondent to The Examiner.[26] From the first, one of the aims of the emigration society was to help prevent starvation and provide asylum for those union members blacklisted by their employers:

We intend to send the most industrious and honest men there are in the Potteries, as we intend this colony to be an asylum for those who have the BLACK mark put upon them, or, in other words, for those who are turned adrift for their integrity to the Union.[27]  

Bradshaw’s letter was one of a number, written by intending or actual emigrants, printed by The Examiner to support the society. The letters were drawn from a wide variety of sources—from Staffordshire men who had emigrated independently to become farmers or potters, as well as from members of other emigration societies. Although the letters had been carefully selected by The Examiner’s editor to support the union’s argument in favor of emigration, they are illuminating for other reasons. They depicted the urgency of the emigrants, not only to give an account of their new way of life but also to encourage their friends and relatives to join them.

The letters fall into two main groups: those from emigrants who had become farmers and those who had found journeyman’s work as potters at established workshops, or who had set up in business for themselves. The latter are some of the most interesting since they reveal the difficulties and triumphs attendant on establishing their industry in a new country. 

In the United States, many Staffordshire potters settled near the Mississippi River. The towns of Alton, Chester, and Nauvoo, Illinois, were popular in the early 1840s as were St. Louis, Missouri, and the surrounding district.[28] Some settled farther east at East Liverpool and Zanesville, Ohio. The existence of pottery making and the presence of other Staffordshire people in the Alton and St. Louis areas of the Mississippi attracted other immigrants.

Two letters from brothers Walter and Thomas Croxton, who were working as potters at Alton in the early 1840s, offer interesting information about their business:[29]

From its drawing toward Martinmas, we thought proper to take stock. When we found that the value of our goods, at the factory, amounted to about eight hundred dollars.[30] We are worth about four hundred dollars in clear property! Tell William he may sell my violin and appropriate the money towards defraying his expences in coming to us, for we want him to be here as soon as he can make it convenient to come.

Mr Robinson and Mr Goodwin[31] and families, Mr Berrisford[32]and Mr James came all in good health, and the day after their arrival, we had a goose for supper—and joyful time we had with the exception of Mrs Robinson, who, not having previously heard of her son William being lost, was very unhappy. They will have to live with us until they can procure houses for themselves: houses are very scarce at present. We have engaged Mr Tams to work for us.

The first time we drew our kiln, I wish you had been here to have seen the sight. There was such a one that I never expected to see. There were three potsellers, with their waggons, waiting for the ware, as it came out of the kiln. All the ware was drawn, packed, and sold before dinner. The weather is milder now than it was at this time last year, for we were obliged then to cease work, from the frost being so severe; but now we are as busy as we can be. Give our love to my father, mother, brothers and sisters; and tell them all, they must come to us as soon as they can for we want them to be with us. Tell my father that he must not think of farming for the first twelve months after he come here, as he will do better by potting, for we often want his assistance. If he were with us, we should do much better than we are doing, although we are in good circumstances as could be expected, from our being but young men, and in a strange land.[33]  

The next edition of The Examiner printed a second letter from the brothers. 

I had better proceed at once to let you know how we are progressing in potting. First, then, we have built our new kiln, and a very pretty one it is, too; and, as the Americans say, “I guess it will shine when it is fired, full of glost ware;” which circumstance will not be long before it takes place; and then I should like for the whole of you to be here, that you may see the reward of persevering industry. Our old slip kiln, not being large enough for our present purposes, we have built another this week, which is 21 feet long by 5 feet wide. We have engaged a saggar-maker, a dish-maker, a hollow-ware presser, a man to throw coarse ware, and now we are going to send to St. Lewis for a slip maker. I will now tell my brother B. a few of our prices, so that, if he thinks he can earn at those prices sufficient to purchase a little bread and a few potatoes, we should like him to come, as we will undertake to find him plenty of beef and pork to them; although, perhaps, when he comes here, we shall find him something else to do. For ewers we pay 4s. per dozen,[34] for chambers 4s.6d.; for cover-dishes, 3s.3d.; for 4’s jugs, plain, 3s.3d. per dozen,[35] and 12’s French, 2s.11d.; for round nappies 12s.5d. per dozen,[36] 11’s, 4 1/2d.; 10’s, 4d.; 9’s, 3 1/2d.; 8’s, 7’s, 6’s, 2 1/2d. per dozen; and for plates, twifflers, and muffins, 4s.2d. per score.[37] Such are our prices! You must excuse my not writing sooner, as I have been waiting for the finishing of our kiln.[38]  

Although the Alton potters’ surname is not given in the two letters, they were mentioned by a number of Staffordshire men writing home including Benjamin Berrisford. Thomas Gotham settled at St. Louis in 1842 and wrote home about the pottery being made nearby:

About six miles from the city there is China clay, flint stones and coals. At Commerce, 400 miles from St. Louis, in the state of Illinois, there is plenty of clay. In Alton there is also plenty of clay, it belongs to a native American named Harrison[39]

Thomas and Walter Croxton are pot-making in Alton; they have been having as much clay as they wanted of Harrison; but Harrison has lately got a man from the Potteries, whose name is Robinson,[40] to make pots for him, and since he came, Harrison won’t let them have any more clay. I have seen Thomas and Walter Croxton; they have told me that they should have done well had they contrived to get more clay from Harrison. I have seen the ware that they have made, it is a very good yellow ware. A man could do very well if he could get a good glaze; the china clay is got from Commerce; and there are plenty of coals at fourpence a bushel. There is plenty of clay in Indiana, where James Clews was potting. Thomas Croxton is going to Indiana to see if he can take the Pottery that James Clews was at.[41]  

Another member of the Croxton family, Elijah, was potting across the river at St. Louis:

You will be wanting to know how we are getting along: well I can tell you; we are doing very well. I am receiving every week—no play weeks—£1 9s.2d.; and provisions being so cheap here, you will conclude that we are not wanting for much.[42] We are quite busy at work, burning as fast as we can make. There are twelve men and four boys at work; we are doing a good business, considering all things.

Thomas Biddulph . . . is making uncovered Chamber Pots at 3d. each. I heard him say last week that a waggon and horses should not draw him back. He is very comfortably fixed; he can get twenty-five shillings a week without hurting himself. He can get more than that if he likes; there is no stint.[43]  

Although many families emigrated together, very often the husband would go ahead to establish himself and send money home to his family for their journey. In 1845 John and Elisha Poole emigrated from Cobridge, Stoke-on-Trent, to Missouri. Both quickly gained employment at a country pottery and wrote home with accounts of how they found America and their plans:

We found out [Elijah] Croxton’s family, [at St. Louis] from John Ridgway’s Manufactory.[44] We dined with them several times. They could have found us work, had they had a thrower . . . . We met at Croxton’s with an American, who wanted a Turner. He lived about eighty miles from St. Louis. I engaged to go with him to see what could be done. When I got there I found a poorly constructed lathe and throwing wheel, and every thing in a rough state for Potting. He was a coarse ware manufacturer. Well, we engaged to begin to make pots, he finding fixtures and every thing to our use. He is also finding Board and Lodging till we have ware ready for the market; we are then to take half of the profits. We have built a slip kiln, and a small oven; and have put the lathe and wheel in repair. We have fired a biscuit oven, and very well it looks. The oven will hold one hundred dollars’ worth, or twenty pounds in your money. At the least calculation we shall make a Oven a week; but it is very likely that we shall make three a fortnight. We get plenty of good clay for the fetching from a short distance; and plenty of good decomposed flint that wants no grinding. We have nothing to pay for, except glaze, and that costs us very little, as we grind it ourselves. Ours is the only white ware Pottery in the state of Missouri. We get three shillings for a fours jug; two shillings for six cups and six saucers, and for other things accordingly. This is the place for Potting; if a Potter has a chance of making his fortune it is now. We have plenty of government land, containing potting materials at five shillings an acre.

I happened to go in a store in the small Town in which we live. To my surprise, I saw at the bottom of a printed mug “T. J. and J. Mayer.”[45] I began to look about me and I saw Albert Cups of my own turning from Mayer’s!

Give our love to our Wives and tell them to kiss the children for us. Tell them the reason why we did not write to them first was, we resolved to either send for them this fall, or to send something to support them on till we could send for them . . . . Tell our Wives to keep up their hearts. In a few weeks money will tumble in upon us, and we shall be able to send each of them a letter worth receiving.[46]  

Months later Elisha Poole added, “I say if a Potter cannot make his fortune here, he does not deserve the name of a Potter.” 

It is also possible, through the letters published in The Examiner, to follow the careers of Enoch Bradshaw and his five companions once they arrived in America. Bradshaw’s departure may have been precipitated by his employers finding disfavor with his union activities, but two of his companions, George Garner and John Howson, had contemplated their departure for some time. Howson was the third of his family to emigrate, joining his brothers, Bernard, who was already working in East Liverpool, Ohio, and Thomas, then working in Louisville, Kentucky. Bernard Howson had written to John from East Liverpool in September 1843:[47]

Dear Brothers and Sisters

After a long silence I, at last, commence writing to you . . . . I received a letter by Mrs Goodwin, and was glad to hear of your being all well . . . . I understand that times are very bad with you. You said nothing in your last letter about coming to America. If you think of doing so you need not be afraid. You may , if you can, sell my interest in that house at Newcastle, and receive what rent there is due to me, and devote the whole to your own use . . . .[48] Times are rather dull except in Potting. There are in this place, three small Factories; I am throwing at one. John Goodwin, a handler from Ashby Wolds,[49] is throwing at another, and a Turner from the same place, named Edward Bennett, is throwing at the third. I am getting 87 cents per score for throwing and 7 cents for turning; so now you can judge in regard to price and whether a thrower be wanted here or not. There is no thrower in this (western) country, except G. Nixon, and he is at Troy.[50] I think Potting has just taken a start. There is as good ware made in this place as ever I saw, with the exception of being short of Colours. If you come, bring with you such things that you know are useful for Colouring. I wrote to my brother [Thomas Howson] about a week ago, requesting him to come up here as a presser and a handler are wanted badly. I have not received any answer at present. He is at Louisville, making stoneware. If you can purchase and bring with you some black printing colours and a plate ready for using, I think they would be of great use. If you should not come, I wish you would send me those articles by some friend that is coming near to this place, which is about 45 miles below Petersburg. 

Since writing the above, Mr Goodwin and Mr Potts, have each received a letter; according to which I am at a loss to know what you do to make a living . . . . After reading both letters, and seeing the price of provision and witnessing the fact that Potters, good workmen, are obliged to work on a road leading from Burslem to Leek for one shilling per day, and hundreds I understand cannot get work at that price, some of them finding their own tools, I say, at once, leave such a country: for what I ask, can be the prospect of yourself and children under circumstances like these . . . . If you can sell the property, hesitate not one moment to make use of it to escape from such distress, for you may be convinced that you cannot make worse your condition if you share any in the misery that is abroad in your land . . . . Mr Potts and family wished me to remember them to their Father and Mother . . . . They have removed to Pittsburgh and are doing well at Potting.[51]  

John Howson, in Stoke-on-Trent, also received a letter from a Rockingham ware potter at Utica, New York, a Mr. Walker, who was operating a small-scale workshop:

I have done full as well as I expected by myself; but could have done much better by having an assistant. You will see what a perplexing job I have had, having had everything to do myself. I’ve been bricklayer and carpenter and smith; I’ve put up my shop and built my kiln; have been modeller and mould-maker, sagar-maker, brown-dipper, plain slip-maker and presser and have gone up and down the country for miles, seeking &c. &c. Now, by this time, I think you will say, I must have been pretty busy these last twelve months.

I have also further to add, I’ve succeeded in making an excellent and beautiful common earthenware, the best in the United States, and as fine a glaze as ever you saw, even on that of the great Wedgwood Rockingham! I am quite satisfied, there is a comfortable business to be done here, preferable to any thing you can do in England with a small capital, against so powerful a competition as there is in the British market. I do not wish to entice you away; but should you think well to come to this country, I should always be glad to see you; and if you did not think well to stop here, this would not be out of the road for your going to Kentucky, to your brothers; for by this route, you would have rivers and canals all the way, and the expenses would be about one halfpenny per mile! My place is but small but very convenient; and could soon be made large enough for a thrower. My ware sells well, and at good prices, and, I think, I can do much better this way than working journeyman’s work. I am making Tea-Pots, Sugars, Milks, Pitchers, Flower-Pots, Bowls, Cups, Saucers, and some Toys. I could sell Chamber-ware and thrown Tea-Pots would come cheaper than pressed ones. 

Here is an extensive and wealthy country of more than one thousand miles in length, all inland and without any opposition in fine kind of ware! Surely the little ware made at one works, would only be like a crab in a coal-pit! Here is some red-ware works, but the ware is bad beyond descriptions, and can never do me any harm. I fire with wood the same as the Americans, and have got to be a pretty good Fireman, buiscuit and glaze! This is a beautiful little City, about fifteen thousand inhabitants, and provisions very cheap. It lies on the Erie canal, about 250 miles from New York; water all the way. The Americans have put a good duty on English pottery—30 per cent. This and carriage and breakage make a good profit to a works here and the good can be made as cheap here as in the Potteries. The best Ball Clay is about 25 s[hillings] per ton; and the clay I am useing, I get, for carriage;—1s 6d per ton . . . . I’ve found clays that make as good ware as any in the Potteries! But will require a little capital to bring them into the market.
The winter is setting in, frost and snow. I’ve gotten a good stove and a close little room, and plenty of wood for fire; and hope not to be stopp’d by the weather. I’ve gotten clay, down in the celler, to last me though the winter; I hope to be pretty busy.

Please to let me here from you soon and remember me to all old friends. I think John Bailey would be a useful hand to me. Ask him if he should like to come to America.[52]  

Walker also wrote to George Garner who was contemplating emigration, again showing how well his business was doing and how he was thriving:

Dear Sir
Your favour of the 26th February I’ve just received. I beg to say, I am in treaty with a potter, a neighbour of yours, as a partner and fellow-workman [John Howson], but should he not come, I shall be happy to treat with you. I am in expectation of his final reply every day: until then I cannot speak positively or conclusively. However, I will say this much, I should have no objection to a second partner, should he be agreeable. I have no doubt of plenty of business for three of us. My place is small; only one potting room, and a small kiln, holds seven bungs of saggars; saggar-house, and wood shed, and a little house I live in; it’s plenty large enough for me, but must be enlarged when more come. I shall want a larger potting room, and larger kiln. The ware I am making at present is common red earthen, with a fine Rockingham glaze on; it sells well; it is the best ware in the United States of the kind. I can make any other kind of ware here; but would require more capital. You did not name any capital you could employ in the business. I judge you have some spare money, by you naming land or farming for that will require a little money . . . . Before you can receive this my partner will have left the Potteries, otherwise I would have expected you to have called on him.[53] The mould you name would be very useful, in case you should come. I think potting would suit you better than farming; working on the land is very hard work for a person that has not been used to it. I should like to see a good large establishment here! There is plenty of scope for business here. You name making bowls without the lathe: this would be desirable and they are things that would sell here . . . . You name coming out in the fall. I beg to say you cannot do anything on a farm, new lands particularly, in winter: you will have to live out of your pocket altogether till next summer. You can think of this . . . . My partner that is coming is a working man, but he has gotten a little money to put in the business; and as soon as he arrives I will name your business to him. In the mean time you had better write me again, when you have thought the contents of this letter over, and let me know what money you think you can put in the business, and you may rely on an immediate reply, conclusively.[54]  

Knowing of Walker’s arrangement with John Howson, Garner decided against going to Utica. Instead he, Enoch Bradshaw, and Thomas Cart­wright traveled to East Liverpool, Ohio. He wrote to a correspondent giving an account of how they had fared:

We were well received at East Liverpool by a many that came from the Potteries, together with others from Ashby-wholds.[55]In three days after we got in, Bradshaw, Cartwright and myself began to work. Cartwright was turning after me;[56] and Bradshaw began in the kiln at John Goodwin’s. John Goodwin wanted me to take a share with him, in the business, but I declined. I told him I did not intend to go into business until spring. By that time I shall know a little more of the country. It would be unwise of me to commence in business as soon as I got in. There are those that have, and have lost their money to teach them sense. 

But I feel more favourable to the potting business, and have determined to enter into the business in spring. And, in order to gain information respecting the sale of the ware, I have been through Pittsburgh, and the surrounding markets, and I find there are markets open to receive every cup of ware that is made. The Derbyshire ware cannot come into these markets, under one dollar per dozen, that is unhandled ware—handled, a deal higher. Now there can be as good a body as your citron body got up here, and sold at thirty per cent less than the Derbyshire. This you may easily infer, because there is a duty of 30 percent on your English pottery. This, with breakage, makes it higher. I have seen in one of the respectable houses in Pittsburgh, white cream-coloured dishes sold at six dollars per dozen. Now there can be good yellow-ware dishes got up here and sold at 70 cents per dozen—2s.4d. your money. 

East Liverpool is full of clay and coal and contains about 7,000 inhabitants; lying on the Ohio River, 45 miles from Pittsburgh. It lies well for shipping to Cincinnati; also to New Orleans, and a many other markets. I have engaged with the Bennetts, that were potting there, to do their throwing until spring. Cartwright has engaged with them also, to turn for them. They, together with us, have left East Liverpool, and have come to Birmingham. The Bennetts have built a factory, to the amount of 4,000 dollars which is now in operation at Birmingham. I shall have a good situation. I will not recommend any potters to come out, unless they have situations to come to; but as the trade spreads potters will be wanted. But there are none wanted at present. If any potters come here they will only be in each other’s way and give to the masters an opportunity of reducing wages.[57]  

Trade did spread, and by 1846 Garner was back in East Liverpool working for himself.[58] Cartwright had returned to East Liverpool by March 1845, where he worked for Benjamin Harker.[59]

John Howson went, with his companions Mountford and Stacey, to join his correspondent Mr. Walker of Utica, New York. Despite Walker’s promises to him of finding a successful Rockingham ware pottery on his arrival, Howson was disappointed. Eighteen months after arriving in America, he wrote to his friends in Stoke-on-Trent:

You have often thought it strange that I have not written to you sooner; but circumstances, over which we have no control, made things very different to what we expected, when we left friends and home, so, I hope, you will excuse me, for not having written to you before. We had a pretty good passage over the Atlantic, of about 45 days and arrived safely and in good health at New York . . . we proceeded up the Erie Canal, 90 miles, to Utica; where we stopped about nine months and where I lost about ninety dollars, beside my work, and then left . . . from whence . . . to Zanesville, where I still remain.[60]

Things here are a little better with me. Zanesville is a pleasant town; situated on the Muskingham river; and steamboats come and go which makes it more pleasant . . . . We do not get much money; but we have every comfort that our hearts can desire; that is, in meat. We keep as good a table as any parson does; and you know they don’t keep bad ones; and a good warm house, and plenty of coals to put on the fire; and plenty to cook by that fire, wishing you had only such a table to set before your family . . . . We can trade our ware for every article we want, except flour. But money is becoming more plentiful; and I think it will be greater in a little time, as the inhabitants are about to establish a State-Bank; and then we shall be better off.

I made up my mind to give America a fair trial before I started; or else, I have had enough to have made me come back since I came to this county. But now, I am more at home, with a prospect of gaining what I have lost and my two children have the opportunity of getting a good education—far better than if they had staid in England.

Tell Old ————- he might have plenty of Whiskey if he were here. But I do not drink any now as the people here are very sober; and they think very little of men that get drunk. So I have given it up altogether; and feel a deal better for having done so, both in body and mind.[61]  

Although he scarcely mentions potting in his letter, John Howson was in partnership with his brother Bernard, who had joined him from East Liverpool to make yellow and Rockingham wares. The partnership, How­son and Brother, was not a success and was dissolved in December 1846. The firm continued as Howson & Hallam until about 1850,[62] and then as Howson and Son until John Howson’s death in 1863. His temperance did not last; a letter written in 1851 by Sarah Tunnicliffe, wife of another English pottery owner in Zanesville, said Howson “is drunk nearly all the time and it seems to be general opinion is going to ruin very fast.”[63]

Both of John Howson’s partners—his brother Bernard and John Hallam—went to work at the Tunnicliffe’s Pottery in Zanesville before the latter left for Kewanee, Illinois, in 1853.[64] According to Robert Adams, a descendant of the Howson family, Bernard Howson moved to Mineral, Ohio, where he started another pottery.

Mountford and Stacey went to Utica with Howson, but Mountford soon moved on, eventually settling in Whitewater, Wisconsin, where he wrote to his parents:

I left Ohio in October 1845, for Wisconsin. I commenced work here last April 27th at pressing. I am pressing, glazing, and firing now, and I suppose I shall have to go to throwing for throwers are very scarce. I tried some of the glazes that you sent me and they work very good. I am getting one dollar a day and my board . . . I understand Mr Cartwright was come back to England and gives America a very bad account;[65] but you must not be discouraged with that; he has not travelled so far as I have in the country; he knows nothing about the country, because he did not give it a fair trial. It was just the same with me before I left Utica, but since that I have never been homesick . . . . Almost everybody that comes here does not like the country for the first twelve months because they are green and don’t understand the customs of the country. I know you would be the happiest man alive if you were here and had a piece of land and a small pot-shop upon it.[66]  

Mountford’s letter crossed in the post with one from his father, which he answered within a week:

I am sorry that my mother is so obstinate about coming to America. But I suppose the salt water is what makes her afraid. I would have liked you to have come out, very much, next Spring, as I was about to buy a house and 83 acres of land; and a brick yard; and a pottery. I could have bought the whole for two thousand dollars by paying half in ware and half in cash. The property is very cheap and all ready for business. But as you are not coming out at present I shall decline buying it.

As regards C—- coming back you need not place any dependence on what he says, because he came right over and went right back, without giving the country a fair trial.[67] It was just the same with me, when I first came over I was as home sick as a dog. But when I left the State of New York the disease left me entirely; and I have never been troubled with home-sickness yet.[68]

Father I know that if you should be here six months you would not return for all England is worth . . . you would not have your tyrannical masters tyrannising you to death. The masters here are not higher in station than the men who work for them. If ever I should come back, I should be mad enough to whip all the master potters that come within my reach . . . . I love the land of my birth but I utterly detest its contemptible laws and the foolish and selfish men, such as master potters, and other masters who govern the country. I mean such men as live on the fruits of poor men’s labour and not satisfied with that, but they will tyrannise a poor man all but to death; pull him down in the price of his labour; cheat him out of his hard earnings; and the next will be they will kick him off their premises.[69]

I hope George will come out . . . . My master has agreed to furnish him with work, if he come, at his own business. But he will have to learn to turn his own wheel.[70] I am glazing and burning, but now I have engaged to go to throwing for the coming season. I have got one more oven to fire and then I commence. Our oven holds about 400 dollars worth. I settled up with my master on the 1st of January last; and got a due bill of 139 dollars and I have earned 36 dollars since, besides my board, I can throw 100 gallons a day now; and turn my own wheel. Our ware runs from 1/2 to 4 gallons and I can throw the largest ware we make.[71]  

Despite the promising letters and articles published in The Examiner, the union’s own scheme to send potters to Wisconsin and to found an agricultural settlement was not a success. Fewer than one hundred families emigrated under the scheme, which was under funded and badly advised. The scheme was fatally wounded when it was discovered that the land purchased did not belong to the Potters’ Emigration Society. It was, in fact, Indian land that had not been surveyed for settlement.[72]After six years, the society was effectively dead, and its demise brought down the United Branches of Operative Potters, which, under William Evans’ guidance, had devoted much of its funds to the scheme. 

Nonetheless, potters, especially those skilled workers who had managed to accumulate a small amount of capital, continued to emigrate. The majority did not aspire to produce china or even white earthenwares. Whatever their background, almost without exception, they made what the local materials dictated.

The adaptability of the immigrant master potters, most of whom had been raised in the Staffordshire tradition, to local conditions in a foreign country must be admired. The majority of emigrating potters, however, were not master potters. These journeyman potters sought employment at established production centers, such as East Liverpool, Ohio, where by 1850 English-born potters composed over seventy percent of the workforce.[73]

Some of the unfavorable conditions left behind in England were also found in America. In 1845 Thomas Cartwright, and many others, were paid partly in cash and partly in goods due to the lack of ready money, and during the 1840s and 1850s there were several disputes and turn outs or strikes over paying in truck.[74] Annual hiring and payment “good from oven” were not applied, however, in the United States, although they remained part of the Staffordshire hiring practice until the twentieth century[75]

It was economic necessity that drove most potters and their families to emigrate. The 1840s saw the first major wave, but potters continued to travel to America throughout the century. The rate of emigration fluctuated, reflecting both the state of the English economy and the time of year. One hopeful mother wrote: 

I should think potting is good in America—there is going a great many potters there—there went seventy in one lot from Longport Station about five weeks ago—they went to East Liverpool. There went two young men from the factory where my son works a few months ago—they went to Trenton, New Jersey. It is hiring time here with the potters—they have all had notice of a reduction.[76]  

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, American factories were actively seeking workers from Stoke-on-Trent, especially as those factories introduced white wares. In 1879 during a strike at East Liverpool, manufacturers sent for workers from Staffordshire, and more than thirty emigrated to be joined later by their families.[77]

By this date immigrant potters were finding that in the United States working conditions were comparable to those they were leaving, as well as having higher pay and a better standard of living. There was an established industry to take them in with the same division of labor and familiar types of ware: common earthenware, white granite, and china. In addition, travel was much easier and faster; railways and steamships had replaced canal boats and sailing ships.

What is clear from the letters published in The Examiner between 1843 and 1847 was the reliance of pioneers on a network of family and neighborly ties to establish themselves in their new country, at least initially. The letters also reflected the immigrants’ mood. Whether they went to work in existing factories, or had hopes of setting up their own workshop, they were without exception happy that they had left the British class system behind. The main theme of the letters was the high standard of living that the immigrants found in America. Cash payments might be in short supply, and manufactured goods expensive in remote areas, but food was cheap and plentiful. These positive aspects of American life were constantly stressed by The Examiner, giving an almost evangelical tone to the argument for emigration. Even though the distance and costs involved meant that many immigrants would never see their English homes again, most urged their relations not to fear the ocean but to have the courage to join them. Perhaps, most significantly, the published letters reveal the authentic, but rarely heard, voices of a number of ordinary working men and women who were bold enough to seek their “Home in the West.”

For assistance with this article the author thanks Robert Adams, Margaret Beard, Chris Latimer, and all the staff of the Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service at Hanley Library, and Don Carpentier of the Eastfield Foundation, East Nassau, New York. 

  • Figure 1
    Figure 1

    F. Micklewright, Hanley Market Place, 1840. Enamel painting on bone china. (Courtesy, The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent; photo, David Barker.)

  • Figure 2
    Figure 2

    Church Street, Stoke-upon-Trent, ca. 1840. Colored engraving. 6 1/4" x 4 3/4". (Private collection.)

  • Figure 3
    Figure 3

    T. Williams, Sr., The Bank, ca. 1840. Colored engraving. 5" x 6". (Private collection.) Packing the finished ware for sale.

  • Figure 4
    Figure 4

    Masthead of The Potters’ Ex­am­iner and Workman’s Advocate, published 1837–1847.

  • Figure 5
    Figure 5

    Notice to the “Shareholders of the Potters’ Emigration Society” in The Potters’ Examiner and Workman’s Advocate, May 18, 1844. In May 1844 the United Branches of Operative Potters union formed The Potters’ Joint Stock Emigration Society and Savings Fund.

  • Figure 6
    Figure 6

    “Important to Emigrants” in The Potters’ Examiner and Workman’s Advocate, November 2, 1844. The editor filled the paper with articles and editorials recommending emigration, with poetry and dramatic sketches eulogizing America as a promised land, and, more practically, with enticing advertisements.

  • Figure 7
    Figure 7

    “Notice to Emigrants” in The Potters’ Examiner and Workman’s Advocate. This advertisement, with minor changes, appeared every week from April 6, 1844, to October 26, 1844.

  • Figure 8
    Figure 8

    Map showing the locations where various immigrants mentioned in the article worked.

  • Figure 9
    Figure 9

    Postcard, ca. 1915. The Pioneer Pottery of East Liverpool, Ohio. (Private collection.) This single-kiln pottery was built by James Bennett on the Ohio River in 1840. Bennett’s three brothers, Edwin (inset), Daniel, and William, emigrated from England the following year. Bennett and Bros. produced yellow ware and Rockingham ware in East Liverpool until 1844, when the firm moved to the Pitts­burgh area. There thrower George Garner, a Staffordshire immigrant, worked for the Bennetts in 1844.

Ceramics in America 2003

Show all Figures only
  • [1]

    J. M., “The Pioneers Song,” dated Tunstall April 9, 1845, printed in The Potters’ Examiner and Workman’s Advocate 3, no. 21 (April 19, 1845): 168. “The Bastille” was a common name for the workhouse in Victorian England; the institution to which those unable to support themselves through old age, sickness, or unemployment were sent by their parish authorities to receive “indoor relief” from their poverty.

  • [2]

    The weekly newspaper was founded in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, by the United Branches of Operative Potters and published from 1837 to 1847. It ceased publication briefly and then reappeared as The Potters’ Examiner and Emigrants’ Advocate (hereafter PE&WA). 

  • [3]

    “Petition to Parliament from the Staffordshire Potters, 1762,” quoted in Arnold R. Mountford, The Illustrated Guide to Staffordshire Salt-Glazed Stoneware (London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1971), p. 11.

  • [4]

    Frank Burchill and R. Ross, A History of the Potters’ Union (Stoke-on-Trent, Eng.: Ceramic & Allied Trades Union, 1977), p. 27. 

  • [5]

    Elizabeth Adams and D. Redstone, Bow Porcelain (London: Faber & Faber, 1981), pp. 80–81.

  • [6]

    William Cookworthy to Richard Hingston, May 30, 1745, in Hugh Owen, Two Centuries of Ceramic Art in Bristol (Gloucester, Eng.: privately printed for the author by J. Bellows, 1873), p. 7.

  • [7]

    Josiah Wedgwood to Thomas Bentley, May 20, 1767, to June 15, 1767, Letters of Josiah Wedgwood, edited by Lady K. E. Farrer, 3 vols. (Manchester, Eng.: Morten, Ltd., 1903), 1:138–56. See also Bradford L. Rauschenburg, “‘A Clay as white as Lime of Which There is a Design formed by Some Gentlemen to Make China’: The American and English Search for Cherokee Clay in South Carolina 1745–1775,” Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts 17, no. 2 (November 1991): 67–79.

  • [8]

    Josiah Wedgwood, An Address to the Workmen in the Pottery, on the Subject of Entering into the Service of Foreign Manufacturers, 1783, reprinted in full in Bradford L. Rauschenburg, “John Bartlam Who Established ‘new Pottworks in South Carolina’ and Became the First Successful Creamware Potter in America,” Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts 17, no. 2 (November 1991): appendix 1, 50–57.

  • [9]


  • [10]


  • [11]


  • [12]

    Josiah Wedgwood to Thomas Bentley, June 23, 1775, Farrer, ed., Letters of Josiah Wedgwood, vol. 2, pp. 227–28.

  • [13]

    The pottery industry had continued to expand in the early nineteenth century with exports to America alone rising from £59,665 in 1805 to £326,3393 by 1815. The postwar slump had seen exports fall by more than three-quarters to £76,552 in 1820, but within five years rose to £182,642. Neil Ewins, “Supplying the Present Wants of Our Yankee Cousins: Staffordshire Ceramics and the American Market 1771–1880,” Journal of Ceramic History 1 (Stoke-on-Trent, Eng.: City Museum and Art Gallery, 1997), 15: 7.

  • [14]

    Designed to prevent workers combining together and forming unions.

  • [15]

    Piecework was, and still is, the usual method of pay in the Staffordshire potteries. Workers do not receive a set weekly wage but are paid by how much ware they produce by the end of the week.

  • [16]

    Burchill and Ross, A History of the Potters’ Union, pp. 9–11.

  • [17]

    The Potters’ Joint Stock Emigration Society and Savings Fund was one of only a number of similar schemes, including the Temperance Emigration Society founded at Sheffield in 1842. It was unusual in being trade specific.

  • [18]

    Wisconsin was decided on and the settlement of Pottersville established in 1845.

  • [19]

    “Candour,” “A Few Thoughts on Machinery, Addressed to the United Branches of Operative Potters,” PE&WA 2, no. 24 (November 9, 1844): 186–87.

  • [20]

    There were approximately two thousand union members in the district. Burchill and Ross, A History of the Potters’ Union, p. 84.

  • [21]

    “Our Home in the West” was a term regularly used in the pages of The Examiner. Notably it is the heading of a play by “Quizicus” subtitled “A Dialogue between Old Tom Potts and his Brother Joe” in PE&WA 2, no. 9 (July 27, 1844): 67–69; and the title of a poem in ibid., nos. 23 and 24 (November 2 and 9, 1844).

  • [22]

    Editorial article by “Mentor” (William Evans’ pseudonym) in PE&WA 2, no. 8 (July 20, 1844): 57–59.

  • [23]

    Stacey’s Christian name is not given in The Examiner article, nor in the subsequent letters from his companions. Their departure was marked by a dinner given by the United Branches of Operative Potters to “Messrs. Howson, Garner and Bradshaw,” and notice that “Messrs. Cartwright, Stacey and Mountford” had also announced their emigration. PE&WA 2, no. 3 (June 15, 1844): 20. 

  • [24]

    Letter from Enoch Bradshaw of Hanley, dated June 9, 1844, in PE&WA 2, no. 3 (June 15, 1844): 19–20. On arriving in America, Bradshaw, Garner, and Cartwright made their way to East Liverpool, Ohio, where they quickly got employment. Bradshaw thrived there. In 1854 he was commissioned to conduct a mid-decade census of the city. In 1889 he started the East Liverpool Democrat, which was published until 1876, and he was still writing to the town council in 1884. William C. Gates, Jr., City of Hills and Kilns: Life and Work in East Liverpool, Ohio (East Liverpool, Ohio: East Liverpool Historical Society, 1984).

  • [25]

    Approximately $25, a significant gift when a skilled man’s wage averaged $5 to $8 per week.

  • [26]

    A letter from the Central Board of Ovenmen in PE&WA 2, no. 5 (June 29, 1844): 39 stated: “Your Central Committee have responded to your generally expressed wish, in rendering to our worthy friend and brother Enoch Bradshaw, some little pecuniary assistance, to enable him to exchange this land of persecution and mental thraldom, for one of liberty, where he may speak or write an honestly conceived opinion without fear of being proscribed or marked by his fellow men as a dangerous member of society. Your Committee feel assured that you will feel individually as they do an inward indescribable satisfaction . . . in having assisted a brother in the time of need—in contributing your mite towards frustrating the machinations of those who wished to throw him upon our funds; in fact to assist a fellow creature to earn a livelihood by honest industry in a foreign land which was denied to him in his fatherland . . . .
    Your Committee would further state if others of their brethren are discharged for no visible conclusive cause, any further than being connected with our Union, as they believe was the case with brother Bradshaw, they shall again call upon you to unite your energies to assist us in sending [them] after him, in full assurance that such call will not be made in vain.”

  • [27]

    “Chat,” “Dialogue Between Two Operative Potters on the Subject of Emigration,” PE&WA1, no. 24 (May 11, 1844): 189–90.

  • [28]

    “I have seen plenty of people here from Longport and Burslem [districts of Stoke-on-Trent], but the place I saw most at was at Nauvoo.” Letter from Leonard Brown of Paddock’s Prairie, near Alton, Illinois, dated March 11, 1844, in PE&WA 1, no. 24 (May 11, 1844): 191–92.

  • [29]

    Letter from Walter and Sarah Croxton of Alton, Illinois, dated November 1, 1841, in PE&WA 1, no. 21 (April 21, 1844): 167.

  • [30]

    In Stoke-on-Trent the annual hiring of potters and fixing of wages for the coming twelve months was fixed at Martinmas. It is interesting to see that, as Staffordshire men, the brothers clung to that time of year to take account of their business.

  • [31]

    James Goodwin, a potters’ miller from Stoke-on-Trent. He stayed only three years, returning to England in December 1844, shortly after his brother Thomas had joined him in Illinois. Thomas became a successful farmer. Letters to Thomas Goodwin from his relations in Stoke-on-Trent, including James, were published in Of What We Potters Are: A History of Some Descendants of John Goodwin of Cheddleton, Staffordshire, England, Based upon Letters from England and Other Family Letters, 1845–98, edited by W. L. Goodwin (n.p., privately printed, 1975).

  • [32]

    Benjamin Berrisford returned to Stoke-on-Trent in 1844 with James Goodwin. A letter from Berrisford to his wife and children dated December 19, 1843, was published in PE&WA 2, no. 6 (July 6, 1844): 46.

  • [33]

    Letter from Walter and Sarah Croxton of Alton, Illinois, dated November 1, 1841, in PE&WA 1, no. 21 (April 20, 1844): 167.

  • [34]

    “4s per dozen.” Before the decimalization of British currency in the 1970s, money was divided in pounds, shillings, and pence, frequently abbreviated to £.s.d. There were twelve pence to a shilling and twenty shillings to a pound. At this time the pound–dollar exchange rate was approximately five dollars to the pound.

  • [35]

    “4’s jugs, plain.” In Stoke-on-Trent the size of flat wares were reckoned by the inch, hollow wares were reckoned by the dozen, but a potter’s dozen was rarely twelve. “4’s” were therefore large jugs as there would be only four to the dozen, “12’s French” referred to as the next item were smaller vessels, counted as twelve to the dozen. The potter’s dozen could be as few as four or as many as forty-eight to the dozen. Walter and Thomas carried their familiar way of reckoning with them in their new venture.

  • [36]

    Nappies were shallow dishes. As flatware they were reckoned by the inch. “12’s” were therefore twelve inches in diameter.

  • [37]

    Twifflers were plates between 8 1/2 to 9 3/8inches. Muffins were plates between 7 1/2 and 8 3/8 inches.

  • [38]

    Letter from Walter and Sarah Croxton of Alton, Illinois, dated September 12, 1843, in PE&WA 1, no. 22 (April 28, 1844): 175–76.

  • [39]

    Gotham presumably meant that Harrison was born in America, rather than being an immigrant as were so many settlers in Illinois.

  • [40]

    Possibly the Robinson mentioned in Walter Croxton’s letter (see note 33).

  • [41]

    James Clews of Cobridge, Stoke-on-Trent, was a master potter who had been declared bankrupt in 1834. He came to Troy, Indiana, in 1837 to establish a white ware manufactory but failed. It was taken over by Jabez Vodrey, another Englishman, from 1837–1846. Frank Stefano, Jr., “James Clews, 19th century Potter,” parts 1 and 2, Antiques 105, no. 2 (February 1974): 324–328; no. 3 (March 1974): 553–555. Letter from Thomas Gotham of St. Louis, Missouri, December 18, 1842, to Mr. Michael Hill, Clayton, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, in PE&WA 4, no. 23 (November 1, 1845): 189–90.

  • [42]

    “Play” was the north Staffordshire term for being idle through lack of work. It was often used ironically by potters when their employers would not provide work for them.

  • [43]

    Letter from Elijah and Charlotte Croxton of St. Louis, Missouri, dated April 30, 1843, to “Father, Mother, Brothers and Sisters,” in PE&WA 4, no. 24 (November 8, 1845): 189–90.

  • [44]

    William Ridgway, a pottery manufacturer from Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, came to Kentucky in the early 1840s to set up a factory there. He failed, and the sale notice for his American property was advertised in the Staffordshire Advertiser newspaper, August 12, 1848. Geoffrey Godden, Ridgway Porcelains (Wappingers Falls, N.Y.: Antique Collectors’ Club, 1985), p. 169.

  • [45]

    John, Thomas, and Jos Mayer had an earthenware manufactory at Longport from 1843 to 1855. They exported much of their ware to the United States.

  • [46]

    Letter from John Poole of Washington County, Missouri, dated July 17, 1845, to John Mould, Cobridge, Stoke-on-Trent, in PE&WA 5, no. 1 (November 29, 1845): 213.

  • [47]

    There were four Howson brothers. Three immigrated to America, while the fourth, George, remained in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, and opened his own pottery as a sanitary ware manufacturer. 

  • [48]

    Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, was the main market town of north Staffordshire, about five miles from Burslem where the Howson family lived.

  • [49]

    A pottery-making district of Derbyshire from which a number of men emigrated to America.

  • [50]

    Presumably at Vodrey’s factory.

  • [51]

    Letter from B. Howson, East Liverpool, Columbia City, Ohio, to Mr. John Howson, dated September 12, 1843, in PE&WA 1, no. 16 (March 16, 1844): 125.

  • [52]

    Letter from J. Walker of Utica, New York, to Mr. John Howson, undated, in PE&WA 1, no. 12 (February 17, 1844): 95–96.

  • [53]

    In fact Howson left Stoke-on-Trent in June 1844, only a few days before Garner. In light of their subsequent actions, it is very probable that they discussed Walker’s letters: both were published in PE&WA before the two men left England.

  • [54]

    Letter from S. [sic] Walker of Utica, New York, to Mr. Garner, dated March 25, 1844, in PE&WA 2, no. 10 (August 3, 1844): 78–79.

  • [55]

    Ashby-wholds was a center for pottery making, near Burton-on-Trent, Derbyshire. A number of potters at East Liverpool, including the Bennett brothers and the Tunnicliffes, were from Derbyshire, rather than the neighboring county of Staffordshire.

  • [56]

    Garner was a thrower; Cartwright was presumably turning Garner’s ware for him. 

  • [57]

    Letter from George Garner of Birmingham, Allegany County, State of Pensilvania [sic], dated December 25, 1844, in PE&WA 3, no. 12 (February 15, 1845): 93–94.

  • [58]

    Posthumous Letter of a Pioneer Potter (East Liverpool, Ohio: Simms Printing Co., 1934).

  • [59]

    Gates, City of Hills & Kilns, p. 44.

  • [60]

    According to George Garner’s letter in PE&WA 3, no. 12 (February 15, 1845): 93–94, Howson landed in New York early in August 1844. If he stayed nine months at Utica he would have left for Zanesville in May 1845.

  • [61]

    Letter from John Howson, Zanesville, Muskingham County, Ohio, to Mr. Thomas Lloyd, dated February 8, 1846, in PE&WA 5, no. 25 (May 16, 1846): 197–98.

  • [62]

    Zanesville Courier, December 5, 1846. Richard Hallam, the new partner, was also from England.

  • [63]

    Letter from Sarah Tunnicliffe to an unknown correspondent, dated April 21, 1851, and reproduced in the Sunday Times Signal, Zanesville (Ohio), June 26, 1949.

  • [64]

    The Tunnicliffes, like Howson, produced Rockingham and yellow wares. Bernard Howson had known the family from the time when both had worked in East Liverpool for the Bennett brothers. He joined the Tunnicliffes as a thrower. Sunday Times Signal, Zanes­ville (Ohio), November 17, 1957.

  • [65]

    Possibly the Thomas Cartwright who went to East Liverpool and Birmingham.

  • [66]

    Letter from Thomas Mountford of Whitewater, Wallworth County, Wisconsin Territory, dated November 1, 1846, to Barnet Mountford, in PE&WA 6, no. 24 (August 8, 1846): 190.

  • [67]

    Possibly another reference to Thomas Cartwright. 

  • [68]

    An interesting contrast with Wedgwood’s comments.

  • [69]

    It is possible that Enoch Bradshaw was not the only potter to have been turned off for his radical beliefs. 

  • [70]

    Throwers in Staffordshire invariably used the “Great Wheel” in which the motive power was provided by a child or woman. This type of wheel was clearly not used in Wisconsin where Mountford was using a type of kick wheel.

  • [71]

    Letter from Thomas Mountford of Whitewater, Wallworth County, Wisconsin Territory, dated February 19, 1847, to Barnet Mountford in PE&WA 7, no. 26 (June 26, 1847): 198.

  • [72]

    The Staffordshire Advertiser, August 17, 1850, and March 1, 1851.

  • [73]

    Gates, City of Hills & Kilns, p. 89, Table 4.

  • [74]

    Ibid., pp. 44–45. Cartwright was one of the six men who emigrated in June 1844. 

  • [75]

    Annual hiring contracts were abolished in 1866, although Martinmas remained the time when wage rates were set for the following year until 1888. Payment “good from oven” was finally abolished in 1964. It had lingered in the sanitary ware trade after being abolished in other branches in 1919.

  • [76]

    Letter from Sarah Eardley, Staffordshire, 1879, quoted in Gates, City of Hills & Kilns, p. 88.

  • [77]