A look at the design, market and legacy of Victorian pottery

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Presidential Majolica

In honor of President's day I thought I'd highlight some presidential connections to majolica.

Presidents Garfield, Washington and Lincoln have all appeared on English majolica pieces made for the American market. The most famous of these is probably the Wedgwood Centennial pitcher.



Wedgwood made a number of pieces featuring American presidents in various bodies including a Black Basalt ceramic bust of Lincoln, but the only piece I know of made in majolica is the Washington/Lincoln Centennial pitcher. Featuring a cameo portrait of Washington on the one side and a portrait of Lincoln on the other, the pitcher was potted in 1876 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the United States' independence from Great Britain. Most likely created for the 1876 World's Fair in Philadelphia it was made in a number of different color combinations including cobalt and Argenta.



Other companies made presidential majolica too. This Copeland piece was also created for the Centennial celebration. It features Washington on the one side and the crossed flags of the United States on the reverse.


When President Garfield was assassinated in office in 1881 it inspired a number of majolica memorial pieces including memorial plaques and the English pitcher below.


I have also seen a large majolica memorial plaque made on the death of President Garfield but could not find an example online. 
An unknown potter created this presidential pitcher below. There is some dispute as to whether this is a Garfield memorial pitcher or a portrait of Ulysses Grant. The only thing that is agreed on is that it is definitely a US president. 


One of the more unusual Presidential majolica items I've seen is this German tray from the 1890's commemorating Lincoln's First Vice President, "Honorable Hannibal Hamlin Ex. Vice President of the United States" done in the intaglio style.


Another piece from Germany done in the intaglio style is this plate of Grover Cleveland.


As well as this tile, probably a memorial piece.


Other Presidents of the United States to appear on majolica intaglio pieces include these two tile portraits of Benjamin Harrison and Woodrow Wilson.

Majolica with presidential connections would include this service of oyster plates of 1880 Haviland porcelain with a majolica glaze from President Rutherford B. Hayes' time in the White House.


Also, in the White House Lincoln bedroom sits a wonderful Brown, Westhead Moore passion flower jardinière. Whether this actually has a presidential provenance or not, it is entirely appropriate to the period setting.



This unusual toby jug of President McKinley was made by the Bennett Pottery of Baltimore to commemorate the 1885 McKinley tariff which attempted to make American pottery competitive with inexpensive imported goods. Unfortunately it all was for naught with the passing of the Wilson-Gorman Tariff act nine years later which removed all tariffs from imported pottery and effectively sounded the death knell for American pottery manufacturers .


Finally, we have a piece of ironstone with a presidential portrait and its own majolica connection.
This campaign piece featuring President William McKinley was made by the Chester Pottery, the former Etruscan Works of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.


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