Extremely Rare and Important "Samuel Bradford Maker at Thomas Morgan Factory" Stoneware Jar (Baltimore, 1835)

Fall 2021 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 173

Estimate: $3,000-$5,000.  A Note About Estimates

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Fall 2021 Auction Catalog

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Sold!  $2,500. 


Extremely Rare and Important Two-Gallon Stoneware Jar with Elaborate Cobalt Floral Decoration, Inscribed "Samuel Bradford / Maker / at Thomas Morgan / factory / 27 of March / 1835," Baltimore, MD, 1835, ovoid jar with footed base, squared rim, and arched tab handles, decorated around the body with stems bearing graduated leaves and tulip blossoms. Cobalt highlights to handle terminals. Underside incised with the fine, cursive inscription, ""Samuel Bradford / Maker / at Thomas Morgan / factory / 27 of March / 1835," including a small, incised flower blossom below. Thomas Morgan operated the oldest stoneware pottery in the city. Founded in 1793, Morgan's early works, none of which have been documented, were presumably undecorated or dipped in iron slip. By 1835, as evidenced by this jar, Morgan was producing stoneware with beautiful floral motifs based on decorations by local potter, David Parr, Sr. Morgan's shop would close in 1838, after over forty-five years in operation, after a kiln fire destroyed the pottery. The city council refused to allow him to rebuild his kiln. This jar is the only signed example of decorated stoneware known from Morgan's site, an important "rosetta stone" piece used to attribute future works, based on its form, decoration, and distinctive capacity mark. It survives as one of the most heavily-inscribed examples of Baltimore stoneware known as it identifies not only the pottery at which it was made, but the individual artist, Samuel Bradford, whose work would otherwise be lost to history.

Bradford was born in or about 1816 in Columbia, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. His family probably moved to Baltimore early in his life, or he may have been sent down to the city to learn the potter's trade. At any rate, in 1835, at about the age of 19, we find him working at Morgan's shop. By 1850 Bradford (who had married his wife, Susanna, and had multiple children) moved to Chester County, Pennsylvania, where he was working at the prolific shop of John P. M. Grier. Grier, cousin of the more famous Ralph J. Grier, left behind no marked examples of his stoneware, but operated his pottery for three decades on end before its takeover by his cousin. (See Arthur E. James, The Potters and Potteries of Chester County, Pennsylvania, 74-77.) Bradford went on to pot in Wilmington, Delaware, probably at the likewise prolific pottery of William Hare, from about 1855 until the early 1880's. (See James R. Koterski, Early Potters and Potteries of Delaware ..., 150-151.) On January 1, 1864 Bradford joined the Fifth Maryland Volunteer Infantry Regiment and quickly became involved in the Union operations around Petersburg and Richmond that culminated in Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, at which the regiment was present. In 1883, in his mid-sixties, Bradford checked into the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Hampton, Virginia, suffering from an infection and "General Weakness." He died on November 4, 1886.

This jar represents a remarkable "document in clay," combining beauty, extreme rarity and historical importance. Literature: Illustrated and discussed in Kille, "Distinguishing Marks and Flowering Designs: Baltimore's Utilitarian Stoneware Industry," Ceramics in America 2005, pp. 100-101, figs. 14, 15. As-made condition with a long Y-shaped separation on interior, visible as a long Y-shaped line on exterior. Two short and minor, vertical in-the-firing lines at base. H 12".



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