7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Friday, November 16, 2012


Delft - Imported From Holland or England


Growing up in a military family and surrounded by housewares from all over the world, I was intrigued with our collection of Asian and European china and pottery. My favorite place in a department store was the china department, where I’d wander the isles studying and admiring the hundreds of different patterns, some new and some historic.

Fascinated by the colonial period, I discovered some interesting information about the pottery our American ancestors were using for practical as well as decorative purposes.

As I began studying the origins of pottery and ceramics in America, I discovered there is some evidence that various Native Americans made and used pottery before Europeans inhabited what is now the United States. Not surprisingly, more than one state takes credit for being the location where the first American pottery was made. Whether it is Georgia, Virginia, or New England, one common thread was that colonists began making pottery around 1730. Not to minimize the potters of different locales, here’s what I learned of Virginia’s “Poor Potter”.
The "Poor Potter" of Yorktown Factory

One normally associates Yorktown, Virginia with the last major battle of the Revolutionary War, or the 1862 Peninsula Campaign during the American Civil War. However, it also claims to be the site of America’s first pottery factory built in the early eighteenth century. Making pottery was no easy feat as colonials were prohibited from manufacturing domestic products in order to protect British commercial interests. Colonials were restricted to providing only the raw materials to be shipped to and manufactured in England. The completed wares would then be sold back to the colonists, with a surcharge for transportation back and forth going to the East India Company. How William Rogers had the approval of Virginia’s royal governor to make pottery is unknown. But, from 1732 to 1745, Lt. Governor Sir William Gooch, in official reports to the Lord’s of the Board of Trade regarding Yorktown potter William Rogers, the implication was made that the “poor potter” was no threat to British trade.
Inside the Yorktown Factory

Rogers, a businessman and not a potter, was the owner of the expanding operation which was producing large amounts of earthenware and stoneware to supply the needs of the colonists. Archaeological remains revealed that the large enterprise included two pottery kilns and a large work area which would have been manned by a large staff that made two dozen different kinds of earthenware and stoneware products. The quality of Roger’s pottery was thought to be equal to that of British potters. Some of his salt-glazed stoneware unearthed ranged from chamber pots, kitchen and tableware, to storage jars.
Redware with Designs

Here are some pictures of what was commonly found in the colonies.
Redware Porringer
Blue & Grey Salt Glaze


  1. Clark and I just visited and took a bunch of pictures, too, Janet! Thanks for the post. This is only a few miles from my home yet I had never seen it. Fascinating history to it. It is funny how the British tried to mock the "poor" potter yet he did quite well it seems!

  2. I think Lt. Governor, Sir William Gooch was trying to give him cover and used the term,"poor potter", not to minimize his successful enterprise, but to justify it to the Lords of the Board of Trade.
    Thanks for stopping by, Carrie.

  3. Wonderful post, Janet. Colonial pottery and china is dear to my heart. I've been collecting a bit of Wedgwood when I can. The old colonial patterns are so beautiful. Love the history you delve into here:) Thanks so much.

  4. Thanks, Laura.
    I have Wedgwood Queensware and a few pieces of Jasper Ware from my mom.
    I love that essentially, the acting Royal Governor gave William Rogers a "pass" so he could continue making pottery.

  5. Thank you, Janet. In one of my WsIP I have a colonial Quaker lady setting dough to rise in a wooden bowl. I just may have to change that to earthenware, now. More research.

  6. I wouldn't worry about that, Judith. Wooden bowls, plates, as well as pewter were also widely used. Thanks for coming by.

  7. Spanish potters were making wares in 1580 in South Carolina, English potters arrived in first in Virg and were working by 1650 in Salem Massachusetts.


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