A salt-glazed, thinly potted, gray, tan or white-bodied non-porous stoneware that is generally identifiable by its characteristic pitted "orange peel" surface. The tan or gray pasted wares are white slipped (dipped) to make them appear whiter and often have a characteristic brown oxide coating on hollow form rims, handles, and spouts—areas where the slip did not adhere very well.
White salt glaze stoneware was manufactured for a hundred year period between circa 1685-1785, although it was most popular from circa 1720-1770 (Edwards and Hampson 2005:30, 34, 46). The versatility and durability of white salt-glazed stoneware allowed it to quickly replace tin glazed earthenware and to serve as an affordable substitute for porcelain. This pottery was the most common dining and tea ware used in England during the mid-18th century, only to be replaced in popularity by creamware in the 1760s. Manufacturing and decorative techniques, used in combination with vessel form, can be used to narrow the production range for any given vessel or sherd (Tables 1 and 2).
Dipped white salt glaze stoneware – Dipped white salt glaze stoneware is characterized by tan or gray pastes that have been white slipped (dipped) to make the surface of the vessel appear whiter. Dipped vessels often have brown oxide coating on hollow form rims, handles, and spouts, areas where the white slip (also known as engobe) tended to pull away from the ceramic body.
Traditionally, dipped white salt-glazed stoneware had been dated to ca. 1715 by researchers in the Chesapeake region (Noël Hume 1970:114-115). Recent reports on the excavations at John Dwight’s pottery in Fulham, just north of London, however, suggest that this date could be pushed back to the mid-1690s (Noël Hume 2001:199; Skerry and Hood 2009:97). Staffordshire potters appear to have been copying the dipped Fulham pieces by the late 1690s, and were almost certainly doing so by the first decade of the 18th century (Noël Hume 2001:199). A dipped tankard found in Williamsburg bears an impressed ale-measure mark dating its manufacture between 1700 and 1702 (Skerry and Hood 2009:97), thus confirming its early presence in the Chesapeake. Brown edged dipped white salt-glazed pieces stayed in production through much of the 18th century and are found on archaeological sites in the Chesapeake region dating through the end of the Revolutionary War (Skerry and Hood 2009:99). Later dipped wares tend to occur in less “prestigious” vessel forms, such as tankards or toiletry-related forms like chamberpots and washbasins (Edwards and Hampson 2005:24).
White-bodied white salt glaze stoneware - Although dipped white salt glaze wares continued in production for much of the eighteenth century, wares that were fully white bodied dominated white salt glaze stoneware production from the 1720s on. The manufacture of these wares, which had flint in both the body and the glaze, became possible due to the exporting of white-firing ball clay from Devon and Dorset to Staffordshire and other British pottery centers (Edwards and Hampson 2005:24).
Table 1. Manufacturing Attributes of White Salt Glaze Stoneware
||Common Vessel Forms
|Dipped white salt glaze
||c. 1690s – most of 18th century
|Hollow vessels, such as tankards, gorges, jugs and cups
||greyish or tan paste covered with white slip
|White bodied white salt glaze
c. 1720 - 1780
|All manners of tea, table and chamberwares.
Ointment pots and chamberware forms more common mid-18th century on
||c. 1690 - c. 1780
||For cylindrical objects like tankards, jugs and jars, and circular objects like plates
||Produced for the entire period of white salt glaze manufacture
||Began c. 1740
|Flat (plates, dishes) and hollow (sauceboats, tureens, creamers) vessels
||Prior to c. 1740, press molding used primarily to create minor elements like handles, feet and spouts
||Began c. 1740
|Hollow vessels like teapots, sauceboats, bowls, coffee and chocolate pots, mugs, tureens
(1)Skerry & Hood 2009:97, 99;
(2)Skerry & Hood 2009:99;
(3)Skerry & Hood 2009:159;
(4)Hilyard 2005:42; Skerry & Hood 2009:114;
(5)Skerry & Hood 2009:114 for use of plaster-of-Paris molds (which allowed vessels to be produced through slip casting) in Staffordshire.
Until about 1730, cylindrical or circular vessels like tankards, plates, jars, jugs and bowls were thrown on a wheel (Lewis 1999:70) and a lathe was used to make adjustments to the surface of the leather hard vessel. Incised lines and pedestal foot rims were added to vessels by turning (Edwards and Hampson 2005:77). Later advancements in production techniques allowed molding to be used to create highly decorated vessels.
In addition to thrown vessels, molding (either as block press molding or slip casting) was commonly used for white salt glaze stonewares. Both molding techniques allowed for the manufacture of intricately shaped vessels, and were especially popular for teapots. In press molding, thinly cut slabs of clay were pressed against specially carved molds of wood, fired clay, metal or alabaster (Noel Hume 2001:198). Plates with molded rim motifs were produced by press molding. In slip casting, liquid clays were poured into plaster molds. The porous walls of the plaster-of-Paris molds drew the water out of the slip, pulling the clay into the sides of the mold. Slip cast pieces can be identified easily because the moldings on the interior and exterior of the vessel mirror one another. This technique generally produces “lighter, finer shapes” than press molding (Edwards and Hampson 2005:81). Slip casting was being used by around 1740 (Skerry & Hood 2009:114).
Molded plate rims in standardized patterns were introduced around 1740, including "dot, diaper and basket", "bead and reel", "barley", “feathered” and “gadrooned”. The dot, diaper and basket and barley patterns were being “manufactured by most of the potters producing salt-glaze between 1750 and 1770” (Edwards and Hampson 2005:215). Floral, vine and moth motifs were also made, but appear less frequently on archaeological sites.
Table 2. Decorative Attributes on White Salt Glaze Stoneware
||Full Date Range
||Common Vessel Forms
||c. 1720 to 1740
|Flasks, cups, scent bottles
||Rarely found on North American sites
||c. 1742 to 1778
|Saucers, cups, teapots, cream pots, sugar dishes, chamberpots
||Scratch blue seems predominant in the decorated white salt glaze market until around 1750
|Debased scratch blue
||c. 1760 to c. 1795
|Teawares, jugs, chamberpots
||Debased scratch blue has been found in archaeological contexts dating as late as 1820.
||1750 to 1765
|Teapots, sauceboats, baskets
||Edwards and Hampson (2005:47) give 1775 as end production date.
||Mugs, tankards and other hollow forms
||Less commonly used after the development of press molding and slip casting
|Molded Rim Plates
||c. 1740 to 1770
||By the 1750s and 1760s, a number of molded plate rim designs had been developed
|Overglaze enamel painting
||Began c. 1739 to c. 1770
|Cups, saucers, small bowls, teapots, cream pots
||c. 1757 to 1770
||Seems to have been limited to use on plates
|Mugs, teapots, figural jugs, figurines
(1)Edwards & Hampson 2005:28; Skerry & Hood 2009:104;
(2)Edwards & Hampson 2005:28.
(3)Edwards & Hampson 2005:28; 10;
(4)Gaimster 1997:323; peak range of popularity as ca. 1765-ca. 1790 (Noel Hume 2001:209);
(5)Noel Hume 2001:209; 11;
(6)Skerry and Hood 2009:121;
(9)Edwards & Hampson (2005:28) give 1739 as earliest dated piece of enamel decorated ware; date range attributed to most enameled vessels shown in Skerry & Hood (2009) and Edwards & Hampson (2005);
(10)Skerry & Hood 2009:137;
(11)Poole 1995:58; Hildyard 2005:43.
White salt-glazed stoneware has a homogenous, fine-textured non-porous body. The earlier dipped wares have gray or tan-colored pastes and are slightly grainy. Whiter fabrics were achieved by using whiter clays and adding calcined flint to the paste (Hildyard 2005:41).
This ware is salt-glazed by the addition of common salt into the kiln when it is at the highest temperature. The vaporized sodium combines with the silica on the surface of the vessel to create a clear, glossy, hard glaze that allows the fabric to show through. Salt-glazing is characterized by a pitted glossy surface with a distinctive "orange peel" texture. Dipped white salt-glazed stoneware can be distinguished from true white salt-glazed stoneware by the presence of a visible thin white band on the surface of the paste, while the glaze and body on true white salt-glazed stoneware are largely indistinguishable.
Although uncommon, tin glazed stonewares were produced briefly by some Scottish and Liverpool potters around the mid-eighteenth century (Skerry and Hood 2009:171). These wares had the durability of stoneware, but the advantage of looking like tin glaze (and presumably the ability to be decorated in the manner of tin glaze). One example of tin glazed stoneware, a tankard was present at the Angelica Knoll site (18CV60), an eighteenth-century plantation on the Chesapeake Bay.
A variety of molded and applied techniques, often in combination, were used to decorate white salt-glazed stoneware. Techniques to create dimensionality (press molding, slip casting, sprig molding, engine turning, and rustication) were combined with applied techniques that added color (colored slips and oxide powders, incising, overglaze polychrome enamels and transfer printed designs).
The use of rouletted bands was common on hollow vessels like tankards and bowls, as well as incised bands from lathe turning and handle grooving on dipped tankards (Edwards and Hampson 2005:21). Sprig molding was a method used to add dimensionality to white salt glazed vessels, particularly before the development of slip casting made possible elaborate molded decorations. Clay was pressed into molds and then applied to the body of the vessel. Sprig molded designs are generally small and leave slight “shadow” or outline marks around the sprig from the mold being pressed into the leather hard vessel (Edwards and Hampson 2005 :78).
In addition to thrown vessels, molding (either as block press molding or slip casting) was commonly used for white salt glaze stonewares. Both molding techniques allowed for the manufacture of intricately shaped vessels, and were especially popular for teapots. In press molding, thinly cut slabs of clay were pressed against specially carved molds of wood, fired clay, metal or alabaster (Noel Hume 2001:198). Plates with molded rim motifs were produced by press molding. In slip casting, liquid clays were poured into plaster molds. The porous walls of the plaster-of-Paris molds drew the water out of the slip, pulling the clay into the sides of the mold. Slip cast pieces can be identified easily because the moldings on the interior and exterior of the vessel mirror one another. This technique generally produces “lighter, finer shapes” than press molding (Edwards and Hampson 2005:81). Slip casting was being used by around 1740 (Skerry & Hood 2009:114). Slip-cast tea and coffee wares are very uncommon on North American archaeological sites (Skerry and Hood 2009:116). These pieces were left plain white or painted with polychrome enamels or colored slips such as tortoiseshell or clouded wares.
A rare but distinctive decoration was made by sticking bits of shredded clay in bands on teawares, or all over animal figures, especially bears, as "breadcrumb" fur. This technique, known as rustication, was popular in the 1740s (Poole 1995:58).
An early form of decoration on white salt glazed stonewares involved incising simple floral and linear motifs (swags, roulettes, patches of grass), which were then filled with iron or cobalt oxides. The excess powdered oxides were wiped away, leaving only the brown or blue-filled lines after firing. Scratch-brown designs, relatively rare on colonial archaeological sites, were made ca. 1720-1740. More common, beginning around 1740, were designs filled with cobalt blue oxide. This decoration, scratch-blue, was very popular on teawares from the mid-1740s up through the Revolutionary War period (Noel Hume 2001:206,207). A later version of scratch-blue stoneware, debased scratch-blue, was popular from ca. 1765 – ca. 1795, and continued to be made into the early nineteenth century (Skerry and Hood 2009:106). The cobalt powder was more heavily applied and not wiped away from the undecorated surface, creating amorphous blue areas outside the incised lines (Gusset 1980:28-30). Many debased scratch-blue vessels also bore applied “GR” sprig medallions (Skerry and Hood 2009:106) and appeared to emulate Rhenish blue decorated stonewares (Noël Hume 2001:207-209).
By the 1750s, some of the more expensive tablewares were overglaze painted by enamelers in floral, figural and landscape motifs (Mountford 1971: 60, Edwards and Hampson 2005:160, Skerry and Hood 2009:123). Another decorative technique, in use by 1757 (Hildyard 2005:48), employed transfer printing in black, red, and purple on top of the glaze. Technology limited the size of the designs, which were often on the centers of plates. While most commonly left plain white, these plates were sometimes painted with metal oxides similar to the clouded patterns seen on Whieldon creamwares.
An overall blue surface (ranging from pale blue to purple) on white salt glaze stoneware, known as Littler’s Blue or Littler-Wedgwood Blue, was produced between 1750 – 1765 (Skerry and Hood 2009:121). This glossy-surfaced ware was often elaborately gilded or painted with white enamel, and is rarely found on archaeological sites (Noël Hume 2001: 277-279).
Wheel thrown, press-molded and slip-cast forms included all types of tea and tablewares, as well as pitchers, jugs, mugs and tankards and a variety of specialized forms, such as sauceboats, salts, casters, mustard pots, soup tureens, leaf shaped dishes, sweetmeat dishes, candlesticks and figurines. Food preparation and service vessels included patty pans, potted meat dishes, storage jars and strainers. Chamberpots were the most common toiletry vessel form but close stool pans, ointment pots, washbasins and bottles were also produced. There is no evidence to suggest that white salt glaze stoneware plates were made before the early 1740s, although the technology for producing them did exist prior to that time (Edwards and Hampson 2005:77).
Common forms of dipped white salt-glazed stoneware include mugs, tankards and coffee pots. Scratch-blue stoneware forms included tablewares, especially teawares, pitchers, punch pots and loving cups. Mugs, tankards, teawares and chamberpots are the common forms in debased scratch-blue stoneware. These chamberpots are frequently decorated with sprig-molded medallions of George III, and in the last decades of the 18th century, the Great Seal of the United States (Noël Hume 1970:117).
Edwards and Hampson 2005; Gaimster 1997; Gusset
1980; Green 1999; Hildyard 2005; Mountford 1971; Noël Hume 1970, 2001; Poole 1995; Skerry and Hood 2009.
Around 1675, John Dwight of Fulham established the first successful salt-glazed stoneware manufacturing industry in England. By the early 1680s, Dwight had perfected a white-bodied, salt-glazed stoneware that proved to be popular, particularly the globular mug, known as a gorge.
It is distinguishable by the presence in the paste of black iron specks
up to one millimeter in diameter, and a sometimes cream-colored glaze.
It can also be slightly translucent, and vessel walls are generally 2
mm. or less in thickness. Production of this Fulham "fine white"
ware had apparently ended by the late 17th century (Green 1999:125).
The Fulham products were better made than their Staffordshire counterparts, showing evidence of being turned on a lathe and bearing a distinct knife finish on the handles (Green 1999:135-140).
The introduction of calcined flint to the manufacturing process, traditionally credited to John Astbury in 1720 (although Dwight may have used flint too), helped refine white salt-glazed stoneware. By
1740, English white salt-glazed stoneware was produced by press molding,
which allowed objects to be cast in relief in an array of patterns. The
versatility and durability of white salt-glazed stoneware allowed it to
quickly replace tin glazed earthenware and to serve as an affordable substitute
for porcelain. This pottery was the most common dining and tea ware used
in England during the mid-18th century, only to be replaced in popularity by creamware in the 1760s.