Saturday, June 30, 2012

Importers' Marks from St. Louis

Keeping on the St. Louis theme for a bit…

I’m working on a study of pre-Civil War artifacts recovered during the 1990s from several downtown neighborhoods. On this post, I thought I’d show some rather rare “importers’ marks” found on ironstone (and whiteware) plates dating to the 1840s and 1850s.

Large scale American wholesalers of British “Queenswares” (the generic term for refined British earthenwares from pottery centers such as Staffordshire) often created direct relationships with the manufacturers of the table and teawares sold in their stores. In some cases, the names of these American merchants were printed directly on the pottery (alongside the makers’ names). A number of St Louis wholesalers (dating as early as the late 1820s) had such relationships with British potters, and some of their names are marked on pottery excavated in St Louis and the surrounding communities.

Here’s a sampling of St Louis makers’ marks. These are pretty rare – they appear on fewer than 5% of the marked specimens that we recover archaeologically. Besides providing a glimpse into the nature of the international trade in mass-produced goods during the mid 19th century, these artifacts also serve to illustrate the very important role St Louis played in shaping the material landscape of the Midwest before the Civil War. A very large percentage of the pre –1860 material culture that is excavated across Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota (as well as further up the Missouri River) began its journey in a warehouse in downtown St Louis.

A colleague of mine is preparing an overview of St Louis importers, so stay tuned….

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