Plate with the Capitol, Washington
Made by Enoch Wood & Sons, Burslem, Staffordshire, England, 1818 - 1846
Various methods of printing on a ceramic body by means of a transfer were introduced in England in the 1750s. For printing under the glaze, the earliest and most basic method consisted of applying color—most notably cobalt blue—to an engraved copper plate. From this engraved plate, the design was transferred to a thin paper which was then pressed onto the unglazed surface of a ceramic object before being softened with water and peeled away. The decoration was hardened in a muffle kiln, then glazed and fired again. The resulting decoration had the appearance of an engraved print.
This process of printing on ceramics allowed standardization of decoration, permitting intricate designs to be created quickly and in large quantities. The major centers for the production of English transfer-printed wares were located in pottery centers in the county of Staffordshire and in Liverpool. As early as the late eighteenth century, manufacturers working in these areas realized the potential of the nascent American market and created ceramics decorated with scenes of this country’s monuments, both built and natural.