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Hawk Tolson, Ellen Gerth, and Neil Cunningham Dobson
Ceramics from the "Blue China" Wreck

Ceramics in America 2008

Full Article
Contents
  • Figure 1
    Figure 1

    The Blue China wreck’s ceramic cargo on the ocean bottom under approximately 1,000 feet of water. (Photo, Odyssey Marine Exploration.)

  • Figure 2
    Figure 2

    Jar, Pearson and Company, Whittington Moor Potteries, near Chesterfield, England. Stoneware with Bristol glaze. Height not recorded. Mark: incised stamp, on shoulder, “Pearson & Co., Whittington Moor Potteries, near Chesterfield.” (Courtesy, Odyssey Marine Exploration.) The recovery of this jar by a fishing trawler ultimately led to the discovery of the Blue China wreck site.

  • Figure 3
    Figure 3

    Schematic map of the Blue China wreck site showing the distribution of ceramics. (Courtesy, Odyssey Marine Exploration.)

  • Figure 4
    Figure 4

    Close-up of the cargo illustrated in fig. 1. The dishes shown here would have been closely packed in wooden crates or barrels that have since rotted away. (Photo, Odyssey Marine Exploration.)

  • Figure 5
    Figure 5

    Close-up showing the retrieval of a shell-edged plate using the robotic arm of a remotely operated vehicle known as the Ultimate ROV. (Photo, Odyssey Marine Exploration.)

  • Figure 6
    Figure 6

    Plates, England, ca. 1845–1855. Whiteware. D. 9 7/16". (Unless otherwise noted, all artifact photography by Gavin Ashworth.) Two types of shell-edged plates were recovered whose impressed edge treatments and shades of cobalt blue differ slightly.

  • Figure 7
    Figure 7

    Detail of the rim of the plate illustrated at left in fig. 6.

  • Figure 8
    Figure 8

    Impressed “tally” marks from the shell-edged plates found in the Blue China wreck. These marks were used by potter workers to keep track of the vessels that came out of the kiln in good shape. 

  • Figure 9
    Figure 9

    An impressed “5” from a shell-edged plate found in the Blue China wreck. 

  • Figure 10
    Figure 10

    Soup plate, England, ca. 1845–1855. Whiteware. D. 10 1/2". This is one of the thirty-five shell-edged soup plates recovered from the Blue China wreck.

  • Figure 11
    Figure 11

    Detail of the rim of the soup plate illustrated in fig. 10. 

  • Figure 12
    Figure 12

    Detail of the tally mark on the base of the soup plate illustrated in fig. 10. 

  • Figure 13
    Figure 13

    Octagonal dishes, England, ca. 1845–1855. Whiteware. L. of largest 15 7/16". Sixteen of these shell-edged dishes were found, in three graduated sizes. 

  • Figure 14
    Figure 14

    Detail of the rim of one of the dishes illustrated in fig. 13.

  • Figure 15
    Figure 15

    Detail of the impressed tally marks on the octagonal shell-edged dishes illustrated in fig. 13.

  • Figure 16
    Figure 16

    Bowls, England, ca. 1845–1855. Whiteware. D. of larger bowl 6 1/2". Thirty-five bowls with simple dipped decoration in the “London shape” were recovered from the wreck. Two sizes are shown here. 

  • Figure 17
    Figure 17

    Jugs, England, ca. 1845–1855. Whiteware. H. of larger jug 7 3/4". Eight dipped decorated jugs were found in two basic sizes. 

  • Figure 18
    Figure 18

    Jug and glass tumblers, England, ca. 1845–1855. Whiteware and glass. H. of jug 7 3/4". Five of the eight recovered dipped jugs contained clear glass tumblers. A sixth jug contained fragments of two green glass tumblers.

  • Figure 19
    Figure 19

    Mugs, England, ca. 1845–1855. Whiteware. H. of larger mug 4 5/8". Five dipped decorated cylindrical mugs were recovered from the wreck.

  • Figure 20
    Figure 20

    Mugs, England, ca. 1845–1855. Whiteware. H. of larger mug 4 1/2". Two of the dipped mugs are decorated with the so-called cat’s-eye slip technique. 

  • Figure 21
    Figure 21

    Teabowl and saucer, England, ca. 1845–1855. Whiteware. D. of saucer 5 3/4". Twenty-six saucers and seventeen teabowls are painted in a simple floral pattern. The teabowls have a modified London shape.

  • Figure 22
    Figure 22

    Teabowl and saucer, England, ca. 1845–1855. Whiteware. D. of saucer 5 3/4". 

  • Figure 23
    Figure 23

    Detail of the tally marks found on teabowls of the type illustrated in figs. 21 and 22.

  • Figure 24
    Figure 24

    Detail of the tally marks found on the saucers illustrated in figs. 21 and 22.

  • Figure 25
    Figure 25

    Cream jugs and covered sugar bowl, England, ca. 1845–1855. Whiteware. H. of jugs 4 7/16". Eight cream jugs and four sugar bowls were recovered among the painted teawares. The site yielded no evidence of teapots.

  • Figure 26
    Figure 26

    Plate, England, ca. 1850–1860. Whiteware. D. 9 3/8". A single example of this brown transfer-printed Asiatic Pheasants pattern was found. Asiatic Pheasants, among the most popular of nineteenth-century printed patterns, was used by numerous British firms. 

  • Figure 27
    Figure 27

    Detail of the mark printed on the bottom of the plate illustrated in fig. 26. The Fedele Primavesi firm, active from 1850 to 1915, was located in Cardiff and Swansea, Wales, and specialized in the distribution of Welsh and Staffordshire pottery wares.

  • Figure 28
    Figure 28

    Plate, England, ca. 1845–1855. Whiteware. D. 9 3/8". This is the only example of the popular Blue Willow pattern plate found among the recovered ceramics.

  • Figure 29
    Figure 29

    Detail of the printed mark on the bottom of the plate illustrated in fig. 28. This mark represents the firm of Beech, Hancock and Company, which started production at the Swan Banks Works in Burslem in 1851. This suggests the earliest possible date for the wreck.

  • Figure 30
    Figure 30

    Sauceboat, Staffordshire, England, ca. 1850–1860. Whiteware. H. 3 9/16". The name of this light-blue pastoral pattern has yet to be identified.

  • Figure 31
    Figure 31

    Plate, England, ca. 1850–1860. Whiteware. D. 8 1/4". Three of these unmarked, molded dinner plates were recovered.

  • Figure 32
    Figure 32

    Bowls, England, ca. 1850–1860. Whiteware. H. of larger bowl 3 5/8". Fifteen of these plain bowls in the flaring London shape were found in two different sizes.

  • Figure 33
    Figure 33

    Detail of what is likely a size mark on the bottom of one of the bowls illustrated in fig. 32.

  • Figure 34
    Figure 34

    Chamberpots and basin, England, ca. 1850–1855. Whiteware. These plain but necessary toilet wares represent the least expensive ceramic ware of the period.

  • Figure 35
    Figure 35

    Salve jar, probably England, ca. 1850–1860. Whiteware. D. 3 3/16". Eleven bases and five covers from salve containers were recovered. Several of them still contain medicinal content, which has yet to be fully analyzed. 

  • Figure 36
    Figure 36

    Bowl and mug, England, ca. 1850–1860. Whiteware and yellow ware. H. of mug 3". This yellow ware mug, shown next to one of the mocha bowls for comparison, was the only example recovered in the ceramic assemblage. 

  • Figure 37
    Figure 37

    Chamber pot, England, ca. 1850–1860. Yellow ware. H. 5 3/8". The only decoration on this yellow chamber pot are five slip-trailed lines surrounding the body and rim.

  • Figure 38
    Figure 38

    Chamber pots, England, ca. 1850–1860. Yellow ware. H. 5 3/8". These two pots illustrate a blue dendritic mocha pattern applied vertically along a band of white slip.

  • Figure 39
    Figure 39

    Chamber pot, England, ca. 1850–1860. Yellow ware. H. 5 3/8". This yellow ware chamber pot has the blue dendritic mocha design applied in a horizontal band around the pot rather than a vertical one, as illustrated in fig. 38. 

  • Figure 40
    Figure 40

    Ginger jars, Canton, China, ca. 1840–1860. Porcelain. H. 6 5/16". These blue-decorated ginger jars were common exports to England and America during the mid-nineteenth century.

  • Figure 41
    Figure 41

    Bottle, Europe, possibly Germany, ca. 1850. Stoneware. H. 11 1/8". Jugs of this type were used to hold a variety of fluids, ranging from seltzer water to ink. 

  • Figure 42
    Figure 42

    Jug, probably New York, ca. 1850–1860. Salt-glazed stoneware. H. 13". This jug was the only identifiable American-made ceramic object found at the Blue China wreck site. It may have been either part of the cargo or for use by the crew.