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Attributed to David Spinner, American, 1758 - 1811

Made in Milford Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America


Lead-glazed earthenware, white slip (for sgraffito decoration), copper oxide, manganese

2 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches (5.7 x 29.8 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of John T. Morris, 1901

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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.

Besides turning pottery on the wheel, Pennsylvania German potters adopted the English method of forming a shallow plate by draping a rolled slab of damp clay over a convex mold. After shaping, this dish was left to firm up before glazing.

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. White slip was applied to the surface when the ware was damp, and the green accents are copper oxide daubed on before glazing. The designs were created using 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.