Dish

Possibly made by Abraham Hubener, American

Geography:
Made in Bethlehem, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America

Date:
1778

Medium:
Lead-glazed earthenware, slip with manganese (for sgraffito decoration), white slip

Dimensions:
1 3/4 x 12 1/8 inches (4.4 x 30.8 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1903-355

Credit Line:
Gift of John T. Morris, 1903

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This dish was made from high-quality clay found under the wet topsoil of Pennsylvania's low-lying plains. Southeastern Pennsylvania's terrain could support farms on the topsoil and potteries on the subsoil, so by 1810 potteries could be found in almost every township in Buck's County.

The work of the potter fit into the agricultural calendar. The clay was dug in the fall: topsoil was cleared and a foot-deep layer of clay was sliced and shoveled into a wagon, hauled to the pottery, and stacked. Before freezing weather, the clay was carried in baskets and dumped into a mill - a round tub with a revolving post set with blades. A horse harnessed to a sweep walked slowly around the tub, turning the blades. Water was flushed through to clean the clay and the resulting mass of plastic earth turned gray to yellow. The clay was then shaped into one hundred pound blocks and stored in a cellar where it was kept moist but would not freeze.

This dish started out as a flattened ball of clay. The straight sides, flaring rim, and everted edge were formed by the potter on his wheel, which was rotated at variable speeds by the potter pushing a foot wheel, which in turn was connected to a balance wheel, allowing for smooth and continuous rotation.

Colorful slip (an opaque glaze) and sgraffito (incised) ornamented the ceramic wares, such as this one, and were the presentation pieces of the rural potter. Manganese in slip was applied to the surface when the ware was damp, which produced the deep brown color. The tulips, two encircling bands, and vase are sgraffito, which is a technique highly developed by Pennsylvania potters. Outlines and solid areas were scratched through a coating of slip to reveal the red underbody, which then shone red through the glaze. Slip accented with iron caused the tulip petals, banding, and vase decorations to shine bright orange through the glaze.

Inscribed (translation): There are three flowers on one [stem] and do not take them. 1778