by Emma Saaty – CART Archaeological Field and Lab Intern
History: North American Stoneware was first produced in the English colonies of North America in the early 1700s, and was heavily influenced by British and German traditions. North American Gray stoneware was first produced in New York, and was made to look like a less delicate version of Rhenish stoneware. Two of the most prominent potters of the time were Johannes Remmey and William Crolius, who both set the standard for how high quality stoneware should be produced. Stoneware production began in different parts of the United States at different times depending on when large deposits of clay were discovered. By the turn of the 19th century, North American stoneware was being produced in many centers around North America, becoming the predominant houseware of the era. Before the time of the Civil War, most North American stoneware production was done by small companies and sold locally. After the war, however, production grew exponentially with small businesses expanding and new ones constantly opening. In order to keep up with growing demand, potters changed their methods from wheel throwing to molding, and by the beginning of the 20th century small potteries were being forced out of business by larger producers. Most potteries did not make it through the great depression, as the need for utilitarian North American stoneware began to be replaced by other materials such as glass and metal.
Identification: North American Gray stoneware is similar to Rhenish stoneware, in that it is typically a gray, salt-glazed vessel often with a bright blue cobalt oxide painted or incised decoration. The salt glazing gives the stoneware a distinct dimpled “orange peel” surface texture. Although North American gray and Rhenish blue and gray stoneware are similar, they can be easily differentiated. North American stoneware will have a coarser clay body, or paste, and will have decoration that is less refined and delicate. North American stoneware tended to be a utilitarian stoneware, most commonly made for food preparation and serving. These vessels were typically hand thrown or pressed into specially carved molds for rim decoration.
See Rhenish Stoneware for more information.
Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland. Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab, 2002. Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, www.jefpat.org/diagnostic/ColonialCeramics/colonial-stoneware.html. Accessed 7 Nov. 2018.
Hunter, Robert, editor. Ceramics in America. Vol. 2013, Milwaukee, Chipstone Foundation, 2013.
Russ, Kurt, and Sterling Schermerhorn. “Rocketts Red Glare.” Chipstone, http://www.chipstone.org/article.php/197/Ceramics-in-America-2005/Rockettsâ€™-Red-Glare:-John-P.-Schermerhorn-and-the-Early-Richmond-Area-Stoneware-Industry.
Ketchum, William C., Jr. American Stoneware. Henry Holt and Company, 1991.