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Ring Bottle

Watkins, Henry
Place Made:
Randolph County North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
lead glazed earthenware
HOA: 11″ ; DIA: 9 1/2″ : DOA: 2 1/2″
Accession Number:
Lead-glazed earthenware ring bottle with a molded spout and a mottled glaze that combines copper oxide for green and manganese for dark purplish brown decoration. Because they could be easily tied with a leather string or strap, ring bottles were often used to transport drinkable liquids, such as water, during travel.

Inscribed on both sides fo the spout: “A present to Amos Weaver.” The handwritten script on the ring bottle, especially the letter W, bears a strong resemblance to Henry Watkins’s signature on the signed jar in MESDA’s Collection.

MAKER: Henry Watkins (c.1797-after 1852) was a Quaker potter working in Randolph and Guilford counties in the first half of the 19th century. Watkins converted to Quakerism and was accepted as a member of Marlborough Monthly Meeting in Randolph County on November 1, 1817. Two years later, he married Elizabeth Elliott of neighboring Center Meeting. In 1837, Watkins moved with his family to southern Guilford County, where he was listed as a potter in the 1850 Guilford County census.

This ring bottle is emblematic of the Quakers’ opposition to slavery and establishment of the North Carolina Manumission Society. The organization was formed in 1816 by Quakers and their allies in the Baptist and Methodist churches who were opposed to slavery. It existed until approximately 1834 with a stronghold in the heavily Quaker-settled region of Guilford and Randolph counties. Henry Watkins’s father-in-law, Obediah Elliott (1764-1837) was one of the society’s early members.

According to the inscription, Watkins made this ring bottle as a gift to Amos Weaver (1805-1889), one of North Carolina’s most outspoken abolitionists. In 1830, Weaver became famous. After a speaking tour to many of the Quaker meeting houses, including Marlborough and Center, he authored an anti-slavery tract, “An Address to the People of North Carolina on the Evils of Slavery,” published by the Manumission Society. The ring bottle was probably an expression of gratitude and support at that time. In 1830, Weaver was also elected by the voters of Guilford County to the North Carolina General Assembly. He was unseated, however, the following year. During his lifetime Weaver served as a Methodist and later as a Baptist minister in Guilford, Davidson, Iredell, and Johnston counties.

RELATED OBJECTS: The MESDA Collection includes three other objects by Henry Watkins that descended in the Frazier family: the signed jar (Acc. # 3252.1), a dish (Acc. # 3252.2), and a lamp (Acc.# 3252.3).

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