Historical Note


In 1965 when he began his research of the porcelain manufactory established by Bonnin and Morris, Graham Hood was Associate Curator of the Garvan and Related Collections of American Art at Yale University Art Gallery. At the close of the decade Hood was working at the Detroit Institute of Art as curator of American Art. During the early 1970s, Hood accepted a position at Colonial Williamsburg, where he served as vice president for collections and museums and Carlisle H. Humelsine curator until his retirement in December 1997. His book, "Bonnin and Morris of Philadelphia: the first American porcelain factory, 1770-1772," was published in 1972. Hood has also written about American silver, the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia and Charles Bridges and William Dering, two painters of colonial Virginia. He also edited the catalogue to the 1970 exhibition of the Robert Hudson Tannahill bequest to the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The subject, which according to Hood spasmodically occupied his leisure time over a five-year period, was the business established in 1770 by Gousse Bonnin and George Anthony Morris in the Southwark section of Philadelphia. Their ambitious project was to manufacture soft-paste porcelain using clay from the banks of the Delaware River, near Wilmington, Delaware, and employing skilled English workmen to produce their wares. Operating as the American China Manufactory, the business was short-lived, closing in 1772. Despite its brief operation, the venture staked by Bonnin and Morris was significant. It was the first porcelain manufactory in colonial America, and in fact the only one in the eighteenth century. The task Graham Hood assumed was to determine definitively if the wares attributed to Bonnin and Morris were truly theirs and if so, whether the objects were porcelain or earthenware. Hood's research literally went to the source of his questions; that is, to the site where the manufactory once stood. Because the subject so intrigued Dr. John Cotter, a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania, he took his archaeological class to investigate the site. This in turn led to an excavation done in the fall of 1967 by Paul R. Huey and Garry Wheeler Stone. Dr. Cotter's class prepared an additional investigative report the following summer. Hood gave the shards uncovered during the excavation to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.