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Thompson, John W. __Workshop of
Place Made:
Morgantown West Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
salt glazed –stoneware
HOA: 14″; WOA: 10″
Accession Number:
This jar has a 3-gallon capacity stamp within a beaded circle. The capacity stamp is filled with cobalt blue slip.

STYLE: Though this style of decoration is found on pots from potteries in adjoining towns in Pennsylvania, ceramic scholars Dick Duez and Don Horvath note that John W. Thompson was likely the creator of this design. Pots with defining Morgantown characteristics are closely dated before Thompson’s death in 1863. The distinctive patterning and stamping is attributed largely to his son, David Greenland Thompson. What distinguishes their pottery from other producers is patterned, impressed handles; patterned roulette designs; and flourishing cobalt blue decorations. The cobalt decoration, as seen on this vessel, is most distinguishable by the figures of people painted on the surface. This jar has three women in dresses, one with a parasol, under a tree with leaves that have been created with a sponge decoration. An additional tree with painted leaves is to the right of the three women. Pots such as this one decorated with stylized depictions of humans are affectionately called “people pots.”

MAKER: In 1854 the John W. Thompson family of Morgantown, West Virginia, advertised the production of their first stoneware. Already prominent in the Morgantown area for their lead-glazed earthenware pottery, by the 1860s the Thompsons were producing distinctive stoneware pots. John W. Thompson (1784-1863) was the founder of the Morgantown pottery tradition, but passed the pottery on to his son James Jackson Thompson, then later to James’s brother, Francis (Frank W.), and finally to David Greenland Thompson (1821-1890). David Greenland Thompson is credited with many of the distinctive designs and characteristics of the Morgantown stoneware pottery from the 1850s and 1860s. Significant to the Morgantown potters’ work is the survival of their tools in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution. The tools, including patterned roulette wheels, beaded capacity stamps, ribs used for rim patterns, and other stamps were collected at the turn of the 20th century by assistant curator of ethnology, Walter Hough.

Duez, Richard and Don Horvath with Brenda Hornsby Heindl. “The Stoneware Years of the Thompson Potters of Morgantown, West Virginia, 1854-1890.” CERAMICS IN AMERICA (2011) 111-137

Credit Line:
The William C. and Susan S. Mariner Collection