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Dennis, William
Place Made:
Randolph County North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
earthenware –lead-glazed
HOA: 13″
Accession Number:
Thrown on a pottery wheel, this earthenware dish has a application of dark manganese slip beneath the slip decoration on the rim and the center of the dish. Red, green, and white slip were trailed over the dark ground color. The date 1812, is prominent in the center of the dish and is enclosed in a red slip circle. Projecting from the circle are lines of interlocking s’s that alternate with Jeweled petal-like shapes. Beneath the lead glaze, the surface of the clay appears a rich reddish-orange, and the white slip appears cream or yellow. A lead glaze was made up primarily of a lead oxide, most often red lead, that was ground, mixed with a clay so that the mixture would adhere to the pottery, and liquefied water. Earthenware is a porous material and must have an applied glaze in order to hold liquids.

MAKER: Potters of British descent were responsible for much of the earthenware produced in the North Carolina backcountry, particularly during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The most elaborate examples of slipware are associated with Quakers William (1769–1847) and Thomas (1791–1839) Dennis, who worked in the Quaker settlement of New Salem in northern Randolph County.

The technically accomplished wares associated with the Dennis sites suggest that William learned his trade from a highly skilled potter and passed his knowledge on to his son Thomas. Quaker craftsmen typically trained their own children or apprenticed them to other members of their faith. The Society of Friends’ Disciplines advised brethren “to bring up their children to habits of industry, placing them with sober and exemplary members of the society, for instruction in such occupations as are consistent with our religious principles and testimonies.” Slipware associated with William and Thomas Dennis includes dishes with floral motifs and abstract patterns that resemble skeletons, clock hands, and radiating serpentine leaves with jeweled dots around their edges. Both men also made decorated hollow ware, although no examples have been discovered thus far. (Art in Clay Gallery Guide)

Pugh, Hal E. and Eleanor Minnock-Pugh. “The Dennis Family Potters of New Salem, North Carolina.” CERAMICS IN AMERICA (2010): 140-167.

Credit Line:
Gift of Frank L. Horton