Historic American Staffordshire China
Blue and white, and the many colored Staffordshire genre dinner services, and commemorative pieces that had been produced in America by factories established in the northeastern colonies during the period from 1790 through 1840, have become an eminently collectible antique category of its own. Rare pieces have been sold for $1000’s of dollars.
Prominent English potters, J&R Clews, Enoch Wood, William Adams, Davenport, Andrew Stevenson, Joseph Stubbs, and a list too long to print here, setup their factories in several areas of the northeast: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Delaware and other locations in order to take advantage of the available labor supply, and the special earths and clays of the areas. Their expansion to the New World was driven by the market growth and demand. Shipping the fine china from England by slow ships was dangerous and not efficient, leading to great loss on occasion
Today, collectors are seeking to acquire these historic antiques. Their charm and beauty is compelling. The examples in dark cobalt blue are the most collectible. Their history is part of the great history of colonial America.
Many popular designs were developed based upon famous artists’ drawings. Popular are George and Martha Washington at Mt. Vernon; Landing of Lafayette at Castle Gardens, New York; Landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock; Hudson River scenes; a commemorative 13 states plate; the capitol at Washington, D.C.; The Boston Commons; and hundreds of historic scenes of churches, hospitals, libraries public buildings and countless scenic views.
I am showing six plates from my personal collection starting with the first image “The Rookery,” a soup bowl by William Adams; “Castle Forbes, Aberdeenshire” by Enoch Wood; “Faulkbourn Hall,” by Andrew Stevenson; and three rare selections by J&R Clews- “Fishkill,” and “Bakers Falls,” from their Hudson River scenes, and the famous “Pittsfield Elm.” As the Pittsfield legend has it, during Revolutionary days, a minister while delivering his sermon at the church in the background of the plate’s scene, threw aside his vestments revealing his Continental Army uniform. He then rallied the men around him to the Elm in the Pittsfield village square and organized them into a fighting company.
If you are fortunate to find one of these antique treasures, be sure that it is in pristine condition. Any tiny chip, hairline crack or repair will diminish the value. Descriptions of the scenes or seals will usually (but not always) be impressed, or printed on the obverse with the name of the potter, i.e., Clews Warranted Staffordshire, or Adams Burslem. There may be color and tiny stilt marks where the plate was set when going into the kiln. That’s normal. You can still find beautiful antique china with minor defects that will serve well as decorative pieces at reasonable prices.
There are excellent books available for this category. Some of my favorite are out of print.
• The Dictionary of Blue & White Printed Pottery, A.W. Coysh & R.K. Henrywood, Volumes I and II., is the most comprehensive.
• The Old China Book, by N. Hudson Moore, 1937 is good.
• The Blue China Book, by Ada Walker Camehl, 1916 is interesting.
These last two may be found at antique shows.