MAKER: John Bartlam (1735-1781) was a master potter from Staffordshire, England who migrated to South Carolina around 1763 to establish his own ceramic manufactory. Today, he is credited with being the first American potter to successfully create both creamware and soft-paste porcelain, in addition to a variety of molded and tortoise shell glazed earthen wares that closely resemble their English contemporaries. Bartlam’s pottery was first located at Cainhoy, on the Wando River outside of Charleston, and later at Ford’s Court, off Meeting Street in Charleston itself. There, he advertised in the South Carolina Gazette making “Queens Ware” and “china.” After 1773, he relocated his pottery to Camden, South Carolina, and shipped his wares to Charleston, which he asserted were “equal in quality and appearance…as any imported from England.” (South Carolina Gazette, April 11, 1774)
Bartlam’s workforce included other skilled British potters he had recruited to come with him to America. Among these was William Ellis (b. 1743), who after the closure of Bartlam’s Charleston pottery ventured to the Moravian settlement of Salem, North Carolina in 1773-1774, where he taught the local German potters Gottfried Aust (1722-1788) and Rudolph Christ (1750-1833) how to produce British-styled creamware.
The seven known examples of Bartlam’s surviving porcelain include a teapot, four tea cups, and two saucers. All of these pieces were discovered in England and feature two scenes of identical cobalt decoration, suggesting they might be part of a single tea service shipped with Bartlam to Britain around 1770, when he returned home to recruit additional men and supplies for his factory. Careful scientific analysis has connected the materials used to make these pieces with the sherds that have been excavated at Bartlam’s kiln site at Cainhoy. Today, these rare survivals can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Chipstone Foundation, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts-Boston, and this example on loan from a private collection to MESDA.
Bradford Rauschenberg, “John Bartlam, Who Established ‘new Pottworks in South Carolina’ and Became the First Successful Creamware Potter in America,” Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts 17, no. 2 (1991), 1-66.
Bradford Rauschenberg, “Escape from Bartlam: The History of William Ellis of Hanley,” Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts 17, no. 2 (1991), 80-102.
Stanley South, John Bartlam: Staffordshire in Carolina, South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology Research Manuscript Series 231 (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, 2004).
Stanley South,”John Bartlam’s Porcelain at Cain Hoy, 1765-1770,” Ceramics in America 2007, ed. by Robert Hunter, (Milwaukee, Wi: Chipstone Foundation, 2007), 196-202.
Robert Hunter, “John Bartlam: America’s First Porcelain Manufacturer,” Ceramics in America 2007, ed. by Robert Hunter, (Milwaukee, Wi: Chipstone Foundation, 2007), 193-195.
Lisa R. Hudgins “John Bartlam’s Porcelain at Cain Hoy: A Closer Look,” Ceramics in America 2007, ed. by Robert Hunter, (Milwaukee, Wi: Chipstone Foundation, 2007), 203-208.
J. Victor Owen, “Geochemistry of High-Fired Bartlam Ceramics,” Ceramics in America 2007, ed. by Robert Hunter, (Milwaukee, Wi: Chipstone Foundation, 2007), 209-218.