The mid-nineteenth century was a time of evolution, expansion, and innovation in American ceramics. While utilitarian forms in earthenware and stoneware continued to be made throughout the century, their numbers slowly decreased as a growing urban population had less need for large storage jars, churns, and other objects designed for an agrarian economy. Many potters adjusted to this lower demand by creating wares that were more aesthetically appealing – objects that consumers would want to live with in
their homes. Numerous factories from Vermont to Ohio to South Carolina produced “fancy” wares: objects that might still have practical functions—such as pitchers, vases, or flasks—but were notable primarily for their attractive shapes. Porcelain factories also began to proliferate during this period, producing high-quality wares that catered to the tastes of more affluent consumers.
On view in this exhibition are works of art from The Mint Museum’s permanent collection, selected to illustrate the variety of American wares produced in the second and third quarters of the nineteenth century. The objects range from the unadorned to the ornamented and include examples from prominent manufacturers and craftsmen active during this time period.