What is this?
Staffordshire creamware pitcher featuring scenes from Constitution‘s 1812 victories.
When is it from?
Why is it Important?
Probably manufactured by the firm of Enoch Woods and Sons of Staffordshire, England, this pitcher depicts two of Constitution‘s finest escapades during the War of 1812. The first, in mid June 1812, recounts the ship’s 57-hour escape from a British squadron off Long Island, NY. The second shows the climax of the Feb. 20, 1815 battle between “Old Ironsides” and two British warships. During both episodes the crew demonstrated a great deal of ingenuity and “Yankee pluck”- just the sort of characteristics Americans of the Early Republic liked to congratulate themselves for possessing.
The development of transfer printer ceramics in the mid-eighteenth century revolutionized the English pottery industry. While first applied to soft-paste porcelain and enamels, manufacturers like Josiah Wedgewood and Sadler and Green soon used transfer printing on less expensive earthenwares. The white grounds of these new “creamwares” and “pearlwares” made a perfect backdrop for black-inked prints of popular military and political heroes, landscapes, and other common motifs. Americans especially loved the many pitchers, plates, bowls, mugs, and vases that glorified the accomplishments of their new nation. English exporters eagerly seized this market. Between 1795 and 1800 Staffordshire potteries exported almost 10 million pieces per year. By 1808, as the US trade embargo on British goods came into effect, this number had fallen by 60 percent. The Treaty of Ghent in 1815 released restrictions on trade between the countries, as well as the surplus products of the past seven years, and merchants imported 21 million pieces of English ceramics in that year alone. It was not until the 1870s that the domestic American ceramics industry began to stem the tide of cheap English imports.
This diminutive transfer-printed creamware pitcher stands six inches tall and features a globular body, pronounced neck, fluted spout, and elegant scrolled handle. One side bears an engraving of “THE CONSTITUTION’S ESCAPE FROM THE BRITISH SQUADRON AFTER A CHASE OF SIXTY HOURS. The pitcher’s reverse features “Constitution Taking the Cyane and Levant.” Pink lustre trim highlights the rim, spout, and handle. The engravings are signed “Bentley, Wear and Bourne, Engravers & Printers, Shelton, Staffordshire.”