During the 17th and 18th century the vast majority of ceramics in colonial America were imported wares. In general, Great Britain preferred her colonies to be exporters of raw materials and importers of finished goods. In fact, manufacturing in the American Colonies was actively discouraged. None the less, entrepreneurs saw opportunity in providing local consumers with finished goods, often with a wink-and-nod from colonial officials. In 1733 Virginia Governor William Gooch reported to his superiors in London that “We have at York Town upon York River one poor Potter’s Work for Earthen Ware.” In reality, William Roger’s operation at York Town was anything but a poor pottery producing low-grade earthenware. Archaeological excavations conducted between 1966 and 1982 revealed that his pottery was producing high quality lead-glazed earthenware and salt glazed stoneware for export and local production. The pottery relied on both indentured white and enslaved laborers of African descent.
Despite the prolific output of this pottery, its utilitarian wares only survive archaeologically.
REFERENCES: Norman F. Barka, “Archeology of a Colonial Pottery Factory: The Kilns and Ceramics of the ‘Poor Potter’ of Yorktown”, in Ceramics in America (Chipstone Foundation: 2004)
Martha W. McCartney and Edward Ayres, “Yorktown’s ‘Poor Potter’: A Man Wise Beyond Discretion”, in Ceramics in America (Chipstone Foundation: 2004)