Salt glazing is a technique used by stoneware potters to create a glassy surface. When the pottery kiln reached over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, salt was introduced into the kiln, creating a vapor. This vapor adhered to the silica in the clay, forming a glassy appearance on the pottery. Because of the high temperature at which the pottery was fired, the clay often became non-porous, or vitrified. This, combined with the salt glazing, meant that potters did not have to apply a glaze to the interior of the vessel. It could hold liquids and not seep, unlike earthenware storage vessels.
MAKER: Born in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, Benedict Calvert Milburn (1805-1867) may have worked with John Swann at the Wilkes Street pottery in Alexandria prior to 1831; records show that he was certainly working there by 1833 for Hugh Smith, Sr. In 1841, Milburn purchased the Wilkes Street pottery himself and continued operating the business with his sons until his death in 1867. His sons maintained the family’s stoneware business unil 1876.
Magid, Barbara H. “‘Stone-ware of excellent quality, Alexandria manufacture’ Part I: The Pottery of John Swann.” CERAMICS IN AMERICA (2012) 111-145.
_____. “‘Stone-ware of excellent quality, Alexandria manufacture’ Part II: The Pottery of B. C. Milburn.” CERAMICS IN AMERICA (2013) 77-119.