JOSIAH WEDGWOOD AND QUEENSWARE
In TO TASTE TEMPTATION the hero, Samuel Hartley has traveled from
Prior to the mid-eighteenth century, commoners ate off of pewter plates or wooden trenchers. Very rich people had pottery plates either made in Europe or imported from China. But the European pottery was very much inferior to the Chinese-made porcelain. The Chinese in effect kept the making of their fine porcelain a trade secret. The European pottery was thicker, the glazing not as fine. For years Europeans tried to devise a way of making pottery as fine as that imported from China.
Josiah Wedgwood came from a family of potters from Burslem, Staffordshire. He was born in 1730 and as a boy he contracted smallpox. He survived, but his knee was injured and he walked with a cane. More importantly, he was unable to work a potter’s wheel with his bad knee. Instead of making pottery, he turned to designing it. By the early 1760’s Wedgwood was perfecting a fine creamware pottery with classical lines and a light cream-colored glaze. In a brilliant act of marketing, Wedgwood presented his new product to Queen Charlotte and got the first celebrity endorsement, enabling him to name his pottery Queensware and call himself Potter to Her Majesty.
Queensware was beautiful, of very good quality, affordable to the middle class both in England and in the American Colonies, and hey, the Queen herself used it. Queensware took off like a rocket. Archaeologists excavating Colonial Williamsburg have said that it’s one of the most widely found types of pottery prior to and just after the Revolutionary War.
When you read TO TASTE TEMPTATION, watch for the appearance of Mr. Thomas Bentley. He’s a real person and Wedgwood’s business partner. Sam met with Mr. Bentley because Wedgwood himself was up in Staffordshire at the time of the book!