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Barbara H. Magid and Bernard K. Means
In the Philadelphia Style: The Pottery of Henry Piercy

Ceramics in America 2003

Full Article
Contents
  • Figure 1
    Figure 1

    Dish, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1796. Slipware. D. 10". (All objects courtesy Alexandria Archaeology unless otherwise noted; photos by Gavin Ashworth unless otherwise noted.)

  • Figure 2
    Figure 2

    Dish, Topham/Miller Pottery, Philadelphia, ca. 1795–1815. Slipware. D. 13 1/2". (Courtesy, Dr. Richard J. Dent, Department of Anthropology, American University.)

  • Figure 3
    Figure 3

    Tankard, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1795. Lead-glazed earthenware. H. 6 1/4".

  • Figure 4
    Figure 4

    Tankard, Philadelphia, ca. 1770s. Lead-glazed earthenware. H. 6 1/4". (Courtesy, National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-57732.)

  • Figure 5
    Figure 5

    Dish, Philadelphia, ca. 1769. Slipware. D. 9". (Courtesy, National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Franklin Court V-627.) This Moravian-style vessel, with a multicolored slip-trailed tulip design, shows a strong Germanic influence.

  • Figure 6
    Figure 6

    Dish, Philadelphia, ca. 1769. Slipware. D. 8 3/4". (Courtesy, National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-24523.) The sgrafitto technique of scratching a design through a layer of slip was commonly used in England.

  • Figure 7
    Figure 7

    Philadelphia earthenware- related sites, superimposed on nicholas Scull's plan of Philadelphia, 1762.

  • Figure 8a
    Figure 8a

    Pans, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1796. Slipware. D. 11 3/4", 12 1/2" and 12 3/4". These vessels were found in a privy behind a china and glass shop that Henry Piercy owned from 1795 to 1796.

  • Figure 8b
    Figure 8b

    Pans, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1796. Slipware. D. 11 3/4", 12 1/2" and 12 3/4". These vessels were found in a privy behind a china and glass shop that Henry Piercy owned from 1795 to 1796.

  • Figure 8c
    Figure 8c

    Pans, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1796. Slipware. D. 11 3/4", 12 1/2" and 12 3/4". These vessels were found in a privy behind a china and glass shop that Henry Piercy owned from 1795 to 1796.

  • 9a
    9a

    Pans, Philadelphia, ca. 1770–1815. Slipware. D. 11 3/4", 9", 7 3/4" (Courtesy, National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-23683, Inde-57278; and Dr. Richard J. Dent, Department of Anthropology, American University.)

  • 9b
    9b

    Pans, Philadelphia, ca. 1770–1815. Slipware. D. 11 3/4", 9", 7 3/4" (Courtesy, National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-23683, Inde-57278; and Dr. Richard J. Dent, Department of Anthropology, American University.)

  • 9c
    9c

    Pans, Philadelphia, ca. 1770–1815. Slipware. D. 11 3/4", 9", 7 3/4" (Courtesy, National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-23683, Inde-57278; and Dr. Richard J. Dent, Department of Anthropology, American University.)

  • Figure 10a
    Figure 10a

    Detail of pans showing slip-trailed spiral decoration. (Courtesy, Alexandria Archaeology; and National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-57278.) The example on the left, from the Piercy kiln site, shows the even, finely executed spirals found on Alexandria slipware. The example on the right is from Philadelphia, ca. 1770s.

  • Figure 10b
    Figure 10b

    Detail of pans showing slip-trailed spiral decoration. (Courtesy, Alexandria Archaeology; and National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-57278.) The example on the left, from the Piercy kiln site, shows the even, finely executed spirals found on Alexandria slipware. The example on the right is from Philadelphia, ca. 1770s.

  • Figure 11
    Figure 11

    Pan fragment, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, 1792–1809. Slipware. This rim from the Piercy waster dump is embellished with a chain pattern made of two intersecting lines of slip. A plain line or single wavy line is more common.

  • Figure 12
    Figure 12

    Pan, Alexandria, ca. 1792– 1809. D. 10 1/4". Slipware with green copper-oxide splotches.

  • Figure 13
    Figure 13

    Pan, Philadelphia, ca. 1770s. Slipware with black and yellow trailed slip. D. 8 1/2". (Courtesy, National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-57209.) Similar black slip is used by Shenandoah Valley potters, but not in Alexandria.

  • Figure 14a
    Figure 14a

    Chargers, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1796. Slipware. D. 13", 12 1/2", 13". These large dishes were among more than eighty of Piercy’s manufacture that were found in a privy behind his King Street retail shop, occupied for only six months from 1795 to 1796.

  • Figure 14b
    Figure 14b

    Chargers, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1796. Slipware. D. 13", 12 1/2", 13". These large dishes were among more than eighty of Piercy’s manufacture that were found in a privy behind his King Street retail shop, occupied for only six months from 1795 to 1796.

  • Figure 14c
    Figure 14c

    Chargers, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1796. Slipware. D. 13", 12 1/2", 13". These large dishes were among more than eighty of Piercy’s manufacture that were found in a privy behind his King Street retail shop, occupied for only six months from 1795 to 1796.

  • Figure 15a
    Figure 15a

    Chargers, Philadelphia, ca. 1770s. Slipware with green copper-oxide daubings. D. 11 3/4" and 9 1/2". (Courtesy, National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-57214 and Franklin Court V-279.)

  • Figure 15b
    Figure 15b

    Chargers, Philadelphia, ca. 1770s. Slipware with green copper-oxide daubings. D. 11 3/4" and 9 1/2". (Courtesy, National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-57214 and Franklin Court V-279.)

  • Figure 16
    Figure 16

    Dish, Topham/Miller Pottery, Philadelphia, ca. 1795–1815. Slipware. D. 7 1/2". (Courtesy Dr. Richard J. Dent, Department of Anthropology, American University.) A faint circle from the drape mold can be seen in the center.

  • Figure 17
    Figure 17

    Detail of a dish, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, 1792–1796. This dish clearly shows the use of a multiple-spouted slip cup.

  • Figure 18
    Figure 18

    Detail of the combed slip on a dish from the Henry Piercy site, Alexandria, 1792–1796.

  • Figure 19
    Figure 19

    Dish fragment, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, 1792–1809. Slipware. This sherd from the Piercy kiln site is decorated with combed slip and copper-oxide splotches.

  • Figure 20
    Figure 20

    Dish, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, 1792–1796. Slipware. D. 10".

  • Figure 21
    Figure 21

    Detail of the dish illustrated in fig. 20, showing a repair made at the time of manufacture. Small areas of slip were damaged when the dish was removed from the drape mold. Repairs were made using mismatched fragments of slip decoration, which may have been trimmed from the edge of the dish.

  • Figure 22
    Figure 22

    Bowls, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1796. Slipware. D. 5 1/2", 6", 5". Note the variation in slip decoration.

  • Figure 23a
    Figure 23a

    Bowls, Philadelphia, ca. 1770–1815. Slipware. D. 6 1/4", 5 1/4", 6". (Courtesy National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-54233 and Inde-60183; and Dr. Richard J. Dent, Department of Anthropology, American University.) The application of the slip in lobes, or “petals,” can be clearly seen on the example from Franklin Court (left).

  • Figure 23b
    Figure 23b

    Bowls, Philadelphia, ca. 1770–1815. Slipware. D. 6 1/4", 5 1/4", 6". (Courtesy National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-54233 and Inde-60183; and Dr. Richard J. Dent, Department of Anthropology, American University.) The application of the slip in lobes, or “petals,” can be clearly seen on the example from Franklin Court (left).

  • Figure 23c
    Figure 23c

    Bowls, Philadelphia, ca. 1770–1815. Slipware. D. 6 1/4", 5 1/4", 6". (Courtesy National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-54233 and Inde-60183; and Dr. Richard J. Dent, Department of Anthropology, American University.) The application of the slip in lobes, or “petals,” can be clearly seen on the example from Franklin Court (left).

  • Figure 24
    Figure 24

    Sherds of narrow-mouthed vessels, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1809. Lead-glazed earthenware. Wheel marks seen on the interior surface indicate that these sherds, from the Piercy kiln site, come from narrow-mouthed vessels such as jugs and pitchers. The potter smoothed the interior of wide-mouthed bowls, porringers, and chamber pots.

  • Figure 25
    Figure 25

    Syrup jugs, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1796. Lead-glazed earthenware. H. 7". These examples are from the site of Piercy’s shop.

  • Figure 26
    Figure 26

    Pitchers, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1796. Lead-glazed earthenware. H. 9". Both styles are also found in Philadelphia. These examples are also from the site of Piercy’s shop.

  • Figure 27
    Figure 27

    Chamber pot, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1796. Lead-glazed earthenware. D. 7 1/2".

  • Figure 28
    Figure 28

    Porringer, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1796. Lead-glazed earthenware. D. 5 1/2".

  • Figure 29
    Figure 29

    Porringer, Philadelphia, ca. 1769. Lead-glazed earthenware. D. 5 1/2". (Courtesy, National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-23705.)

  • Figure 30
    Figure 30

    Bowl, Henry Piercy, ca. 1792– 1809. Lead-glazed earthenware. D. 6 1/2". This black-glazed bowl is from the Piercy kiln site.

  • Figure 31
    Figure 31

    Bowl, Philadelphia, ca. 1770s. Lead-glazed earthenware. D. 8". (Courtesy, National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-59910.) Note the well formed by shaping the footring.

  • Figure 32
    Figure 32

    Jars, Alexandria, ca. 1792– 1809. Lead-glazed earthenware. H. 8 1/2", 8 1/2", 7".

  • Figure 33
    Figure 33

    Utilitarian pots, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1796. Lead-glazed earthenware. H. 13", 9". The largest pots have lug handles.

  • Figure 34
    Figure 34

    Utilitarian pot, Philadelphia, ca. 1770s. Lead-glazed earthenware. H. 10". (Courtesy, National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-57294.)

  • Figure 35
    Figure 35

    Milk pan, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1809. Lead-glazed earthenware. D. 11". Milk pans are glazed on the inside of the vessel and have a pouring spout, seen at lower left. They range in size from 10" to 15 1/2" in diameter. Most are shallow like this example, but a few have steeper sides.

  • Figure 36
    Figure 36

    Pipkins, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792– 1809. Lead-glazed earthenware. H. 5", 8 1/2". The small pipkin on the left, from Piercy’s shop, has a flat bottom. An example from a privy on Market Square has tripod feet to raise it above the hot ashes on the hearth.

  • Figure 37
    Figure 37

    Flowerpot fragment, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1809. Unglazed earthenware. D. 10". This sherd from the Piercy kiln site displays a piecrust flange. Some Alexandria flowerpots also have a piecrust rim and wavy combed lines on the body.

  • Figure 38
    Figure 38

    Detail of the piecrust flange of a flowerpot, Philadelphia, ca. 1769. (Courtesy, National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-24490.)

  • Figure 39
    Figure 39

    Waster sherds attributed to Daniel Topham, Philadelphia, 1766–1783, recovered from the rear of 711 and 712 Arch Street (Block 2 of the Metropolitan Detention Center site in Philadelphia). (Courtesy, Dr. Richard J. Dent, Department of Anthropology, American University.) Included are fragments of utilitarian pots; a slipware pan, dish, and bowl; and black-glazed vessels.

  • Figure 40
    Figure 40

    Dish, Philadelphia, ca. 1769. Slipware. D. 11 3/4". (Courtesy, National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-24234.) This vessel from Franklin Court has a bird motif.

  • Figure 41
    Figure 41

    Detail of a hollow ware vessel, Philadelphia, ca. 1769. Slipware. (Courtesy, National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-23688.) This vessel from Franklin Court has black on white slip decoration on the exterior.

  • Figure 42
    Figure 42

    Tankard, Philadelphia, ca. 1769. Lead-glazed earthenware. H. 4 3/4". (Courtesy, National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-23646.) This vessel from Franklin Court has a ribbed midsection reminiscent of Buckley ware.

  • Figure 43
    Figure 43

    Piercy’s homeland in Saarbrücken, Germany, was a major center of earthenware production. (Artwork by Nichole Drgan and Wynne Patterson.)

  • Figure 44
    Figure 44

    Sites related to Henry Piercy, and other Alexandria potters, superimposed on the Gilpin map of Alexandria, 1798.

    A. Piercy Pottery, 1792–1809 (44AX87).
    B. Piercy waster pile, 1792–1809 (also 44AX87).
    C. Piercy and Graham’s china and glass shop, 1795–1796 (44AX91 4KSW-15).
    D. Piercy’s house, 1796 (127 S. Fairfax Street). 
    E. The Fisher Pottery, 1795–1798 (44AX80).
    F. The Plum Pottery, 1800–1803.
    G. The Plum Pottery, 1814–1828 (44AX7).

  • Figure 45
    Figure 45

    Test excavation at the Piercy Pottery site (44AX87), 1968. (Photo, Richard Muzzrole, Smithsonian Institution.) Note fragments of slipware pans and bowls and black-glazed bowls.

  • Figure 46
    Figure 46

    Teapot fragment, Thomas Fisher, Alexandria, ca. 1795–1798. Lead-glazed earthenware. These sherds from the Fisher site have glaze on a broken edge, an indication that the pot broke in firing.

  • Figure 47
    Figure 47

    Teapot fragments, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1796. Lead-glazed earthenware. These sherds were found at Piercy’s property at 127 S. Fairfax Street. Some have a poorly fired glaze and display marks from contact with kiln furniture or other pots.

  • Figure 48a
    Figure 48a

    Bottle and jar fragments, probably Lewis Plum, Alexandria, ca. 1799–1809. Salt-glazed stoneware with iron-oxide wash. These wasters were found at the Piercy kiln site.

  • Figure 48b
    Figure 48b

    Bottle and jar fragments, probably Lewis Plum, Alexandria, ca. 1799–1809. Salt-glazed stoneware with iron-oxide wash. These wasters were found at the Piercy kiln site.

  • Figure 49
    Figure 49

    Jug, John Swann, Alexandria, ca. 1813–1820. Salt-glazed stoneware with iron-oxide wash. H. 12". This example is from a domestic site, but many similar wares were found at Swann’s pottery on Wilkes Street. The reeded neck and iron wash are also found on bottle, jug, and jar wasters from the Piercy Pottery. These vessels are attributed to Lewis Plum who rented the pottery in 1799 and with whom Swann apprenticed.

  • Figure 50
    Figure 50

    Stoneware fragment, probably Lewis Plum, Alexandria, ca. 1799–1809, from the Piercy kiln site. Salt-glazed stoneware with slip-trailed cobalt.

  • Figure 51
    Figure 51

    Pitcher, possibly Alexandria, ca. 1799–1820. Salt-glazed stoneware with slip-trailed cobalt. H. 8 1/2". This pitcher from a privy on Market Square has decoration similar to the fragment from the Piercy kiln site illustrated in fig. 50.

  • Figure 52
    Figure 52

    Excavations at the Piercy waster dump (44AX87), 1999. (Photo, Bernard K. Means, Alexandria Archaeology.)

  • Figure 53
    Figure 53

    Pan, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1809. Slipware. Many wasters from the Piercy Pottery were overfired and discolored, or have a bubbled or pitted glaze. Some, like this slipware pan fragment, are severely burned.

  • Figure 54
    Figure 54

    Pan, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1809. Slipware. D. 13". This vessel from the Piercy waster pile shows his well-executed, tightly spaced spiraling slip.

  • Figure 55
    Figure 55

    Dish, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1809. Slipware. D. 7 1/2". This vessel is from the Piercy waster pile.

  • Figure 56a
    Figure 56a

    Punch bowl, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1799. Slipware. D. 10". The incomplete inscription includes the partial date “17—” and the word “Com(p)any.” This vessel from the Piercy waster pile is the only dated piece of Alexandria earthenware. The stippled surface denotes areas of restoration.

  • Figure 56b
    Figure 56b

    Punch bowl, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1799. Slipware. D. 10". The incomplete inscription includes the partial date “17—” and the word “Com(p)any.” This vessel from the Piercy waster pile is the only dated piece of Alexandria earthenware. The stippled surface denotes areas of restoration.

  • Figure 57
    Figure 57

    Reconstruction of the Piercy punch bowl illustrated in fig. 56. (Illustration, Andrew Flora.)

  • Figure 58
    Figure 58

    Sagger with syrup jar, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1809. H. 8 1/2". The glazed wares were placed in saggers for protection in firing.

  • Figure 59
    Figure 59

    Kiln furniture, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1809. Fire bars and wedges were used to separate large pots with heavy rims and to steady the stacks of pottery in the kiln. Small wads of clay were pinched between the potter’s fingers and used to support the pots as they were stacked in the kiln.

  • Figure 60
    Figure 60

    Oil lamp, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1809. Lead-glazed earthenware. H. 7 1/2". This lamp is from the Piercy shop. Fragments from a similar vessel were found at the kiln site.

  • Figure 61
    Figure 61

    Jar, lid, and vase, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1809. Lead-glazed earthenware. H. 5 1/2", H. 2 1/2", Base D. 3 1/4". These atypical vessels with swirls of slip are from the Piercy shop site.

  • Figure 62a
    Figure 62a

    Pan, dish, and dish fragments, possibly Alexandria, ca. 1792–1809. Slipware. D. 11 1/2", 10", and 6 1/2" (extrapolated). A pan from the Piercy shop and a small dish from nearby McKnight’s Tavern have atypical yellow on brown decoration. These pieces were thought to be imported, but similar sherds were found at the Piercy waster dump.

  • Figure 62b
    Figure 62b

    Pan, dish, and dish fragments, possibly Alexandria, ca. 1792–1809. Slipware. D. 11 1/2", 10", and 6 1/2" (extrapolated). A pan from the Piercy shop and a small dish from nearby McKnight’s Tavern have atypical yellow on brown decoration. These pieces were thought to be imported, but similar sherds were found at the Piercy waster dump.

  • Figure 62c
    Figure 62c

    Pan, dish, and dish fragments, possibly Alexandria, ca. 1792–1809. Slipware. D. 11 1/2", 10", and 6 1/2" (extrapolated). A pan from the Piercy shop and a small dish from nearby McKnight’s Tavern have atypical yellow on brown decoration. These pieces were thought to be imported, but similar sherds were found at the Piercy waster dump.

  • Figure 63
    Figure 63

    Detail of a pan, Philadelphia, ca. 1770s. Slipware. D. 10 1/2". (Courtesy, National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-60179.)

  • Figure 64
    Figure 64

    Detail of a bowl, Philadelphia, ca. 1770s. Slipware. (Courtesy, National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park, Inde-60183.)

  • Figure 65
    Figure 65

    Dish fragments, Henry Piercy, Alexandria, ca. 1792–1809. Slipware. The appearance is similar to that of Philadelphia wares.

  • Figure 66
    Figure 66

    Dr. Romeo Segnan explains Mössbauer spectroscopy in his physics laboratory at American University. (Photo, Bernard K. Means, Alexandria Archaeology.)

  • Figure 67
    Figure 67

    The central peak for the Alexandria clay spectrum shows larger splitting than the corresponding peak in the Philadelphia clay spectrum. (Courtesy, Drs. Romeo Segnan and J. P. Auffret, Department of Physics, American University.)