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

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

James Carr and the City Pottery of New York

James Carr

The name James Carr is well known to American majolica collectors but relatively little is actually known about the man or the pottery he founded.

James Carr was born in Staffordshire England in July of 1820. Raised as a potter, Carr left England with his wife Mary in November of 1844 to find work at the potteries of New Jersey. He first found positions in Trenton at the American Pottery then in South Amboy at the Swan Hill pottery.

Rockingham type foot warmer attributed to Carr, 
Swan Hill Pottery, Amboy, NJ

James Carr c. 1871

Carr majolica vase

In 1853 James Carr partnered with a man by the name of Morrison to open Carr & Morrison on west 13th Street in New York. It was largely a retailer of imported and domestic pottery. In 1871 Carr dissolved the partnership and opened the New York City Pottery at the same location. It was here that Carr began the experiments with glazes that led to his development of a line of majolica.

Ad for Carr's New York Pottery

Ad for Carr's New York City Pottery

A rare marked example of Carr majolica

Reverse of the above plate showing the distinct hand written Carr mark

Carr Pottery majolica plate

With the exception of a few pieces we don't know precisely what lines of majolica he made. Atlee Barber in his book The Ceramic Art claims that he prepared majolica jars, pedestals, seats, boxes, and cups. Charles Rebert in his book American Majolica 1850-1900 claims that he made a line of shell and seaweed majolica. There is no proof he created the pattern he referred to.

In 1876 Carr exhibited majolica and parian ware at the 1876 Centennial celebration in Philadelphia. In the sole surviving image of his display, shown below, we can see quite a few Parian busts; decorated ironstone; several majolica pedestals with a scene of Washington crossing the Delaware; a majolica jardiniere in the shape of a wooden barrel; majolica sardine boxes in the style of George Jones; a majolica dog sitting up and several majolica platters, though their design is indiscernible.

Carr's exhibit at the 1876 Centennial celebration in Philadelphia

Carr Parian bust "Evening" modeled by W.H. Edge

Carr Générant Grant Parian bust modeled by W. H. Edge
Washington Crossing The Delaware pedestal 
created for the 1876 Exhibition

An example of Carr's decorated Ironstone
Jar for William S. Kimball & Co. Vanity Fair tobacco

Carr Pottery majolica vase

Carr vase from the top

Carr's Rip van Winkle majolica tazza 
c. 1876. Modeled by W. H. Edge,

Carr majolica pitcher

James Carr majolica pedestal

He also exhibited at the 1878 Paris Exhibition where he received an award for quality in workmanship for his display.

Carr cobalt vase

In 1879 in partnership with Edward Clark, Carr purchased a failing pottery in Trenton and renamed it the Lincoln Pottery. The pottery was dedicated to utilitarian cream ware and granite for everyday use. It was not a long lived venture however as the pottery was sold again just a few months later and Carr resumed his work at the New York City Pottery.

Carr's first wife, Mary Elizabeth Smith Carr

Carr kept an active social life. After Carr's wife Mary died at the age of 59 in 1886 he married second wife Emily Kerr in 1889. She died just six years later. He had a total of thirteen children.

James Carr and his family

In 1888 Carr closed the NYC Pottery and retired. His investments in rental properties on west 13th Street kept him a wealthy man until his death in 1904. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery with his first wife Mary in the Bronx, New York alongside other wealthy citizens of victorian New York.

Carr's grave in the Bronx, N.Y.

Parian bust of James Carr modeled by W.H. Edge

Mark of the New York City Pottery

*The post has been updated since it was first published.


  1. I am James Carr's great-great granddaughter per my mom's dad, Alfred R. Carr. The family also has one of his Parian busts, along with other pieces. For more information about him check out "Reminisces of an Old Potter: A Series of Letters by James Carr, published in 1901 in Crockery and Glass Journal. Grad student Caroline Hannah also did her Master of Arts thesis on James Carr in 2000 at the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, a very complete work.

    1. Thank you! Greatly appreciate your input.

    2. Hi, James Carr was my great-great-great Uncle. I wondered if you would be willing to share any information you may have regarding the articles you mention. I have searched the internet but have not been able to locate them.

      Hope to hear from you.


    3. Barber's book " The Ceramic Art" is available for free download online as both a PDF and an eBook. Copies of Rebert's book on "American Majolica 1850-1900" can be purchased from used book dealers online. A copy of Caroline Hannah's thesis on the Carr Pottery can be purchased through the Bard Graduate Center Library.

  2. Alexander Morrison who was James Carr,s partner in Morrison and Carr is my great great grand uncle...and John Eliot Jeffords of Philadelphia City Pottery and JE Jeffords Pottery who learnt the pottery business at Morrison and Carr Pottery is my great grandfather..I have two pieces of signed New York City Pottery pottery and a great deal Jeffords pottery supposedly inspired by James Carr...I would very much enjoy being in touch with you..

  3. The sign on the back wall of the 1876 exhibit says Coxon & Co...which would have been run bu Charles Coxon's son John at that time...can you explain..??..

    1. My guess is that the sign refers to a different display behind the James Carr display

  4. Hi James Carr was my third great Uncle. I can trace my ancestors to Hanley SOT, but also have a trace lading to Jackfield and Ironbridge the acknowledged birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in Shropshire England.It may well be that the Carr family lived there before moving to industrial Hanley.

    1. Thanks for the information!

    2. I have built a tree for the US end of the James Carr family...My great grandfather J E Jeffords learned pottery from James Carr and my great great grand uncle Alexander Morrison...was partner in Morrison and Carr in New York City

    3. I am a great great granddaughter of James Carr. I have traced my family tree and can give you as much info as we have. Some of the information on line is incorrect. I would love to speak with you and learn more about the Morrison Carr Partnership.

    4. If you could write me at the email listed in my profile I would. be happy to discuss this with you.

  5. I would like to be in contact with James Carrs 3rd great nephew...who left a message on June 23 2020

    1. I’m sorry, I don’t have any contact information for the Carr family.