The term "Staffordshire" is a generic name for pottery produced in the Staffordshire district, by any of the potteries in that area. England is divided into "shires" the way our states are divided into "counties." So "Staffordshire pottery" is comparable to saying "Florida oranges."
Staffordshire is a province adjoining Wales, and the region known as the "Potteries" is a district 10 miles wide and 5 miles long on the eastern side of the river Trent.
After the War of 1812, trade with America obviously suffered. In an effort to reclaim the American market, Staffordshire potteries "appealed to American pride" and began producing inexpensive transferware depicting scenes of American heroes, views of prominent buildings and places, and illustrations of historical events.
American housewives were delighted to replace their plain pewter plates with this lavishly illustrated tableware. We must remember, there was little reading material available at the time, and certainly no pictures or illustrations as we know them today. These Staffordshire pieces were highly prized in early 19th century America.
Another popular early design was a series featuring maxims, morals, and proverbs. Many included "Poor Richard's sayings," such as "A rolling stone gathers no moss" or "Make hay while the sun shines." Religious mottoes and Bible verses were also popular.
There are literally hundreds of companies, large and small, who have operated in Staffordshire over the years. In early ware, each potter had a unique border decoration, which may help to identify a piece. The most important information you can have about a piece is the bottom stamp or mark, which will yield information about its origin.
Well known Staffordshire potteries include Minton, Wedgwood, and Royal Doulton.
Born in 1765, Thomas Minton served as an engraver for Josiah Spode. He was the first to engrave the famous "Willow Pattern." He founded his own pottery around 1793 in Stoke-on-Trent, England. He was famous for Minton ware, which was cream-coloured and blue-printed earthenware and bone china.
Minton was the only company in 19th century England to use the French process "pate-sur-pate," which was introduced when M.L. Solon of France came to work for Minton. The process involved the application of clay diluted with water to the consistency of a batter, called "slip," instead of enamel. The slip was laid on by thin washes with a paintbrush, one after another.
Minton also produced statuary made of Parian porcelain, a hard, unglazed body that resembles marble. In the 19th century, Minton was the most popular factory for made-to-order dinnerware for embassies and heads of state. They are still in operation today as part of Royal Doulton.
After the 1860s, Minton became preoccupied with Oriental motifs influenced by Turkish pottery, Japanese lacquer, and Islamic metalwork.
Next week we will explore other Staffordshire potteries, including Wedgwood and Royal Doulton.