The term “Rockingham” refers to a rich brown glaze that received its characteristic color through the addition of manganese. It was first made in England in the late eighteenth century, but a few decades later the technique spread to the United States, where it became a standard of many potters—especially those in the Northeast, Maryland, and Ohio. American potters initially followed the English example of dipping their wares in the glaze to achieve a solid brown surface, but they soon switched to dripping, sponging, or splattering the glaze on the ceramic body in order to achieve a pleasing, mottled effect. By 1845, Rockingham pottery dominated the American ceramics industry, and it remained immensely popular for the rest of the century.
In addition to the brown glaze, Rockingham pottery is further characterized by the elaborate, relief-molded designs that embellish so many of the objects. Among the common decorative motifs were hunt scenes, historical figures, flowers, and hound handles. Toby jugs and animal sculptures were also prevalent. The Mint Museum is fortunate to have many fine examples of such works, thanks in part to the tremendous generosity of Jay and Emma Lewis of Queens, New York.