What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“An Assortment of Delft Ware.”
In the January 6, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette, William Moore advertised several commodities frequently purchased in bulk, including rum, sugar, and nails. He concluded his list with “an Assortment of Delft Ware,” perhaps for sale directly to consumers or perhaps intended for retailers to stock their shops in Savannah and its hinterland.
Delftware, a type of earthenware with an opaque white glaze enhanced with an overglaze decoration (usually done in blue), came in many designs and patterns. According to Amanda E. Lange, delftware was the most common kind of ceramic imported into the American colonies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. “Produced in a wide variety of forms, ranging from the purely decorative to the decidedly utilitarian, plates, dishes, punch bowls, mugs, tea wares, tiles, apothecary jars, and chamberpots formed the bulk of delftware imported to America.”
Although delftware derived its name from the town of Delft in the Netherlands, the center for delftware production had shifted to England by the eighteenth century. Whether made in England, the Netherlands, France, or elsewhere, delftware represented a less expensive alternative to fashionable Chinese porcelain.
Moore advertised his “Assortment of Delft Ware” in the final years of its popularity. More durable pottery produced in Staffordshire, England, displaced the fragile delftware in the late eighteenth century. Josiah Wedgwood, Lange notes, “perfected his version of creamware in the 1760. Wedgwood’s effective marketing skills and knowledge of current fashions eventually ruined the market for delftware.” Production in England sharply declined in the 1760s; by the end of the century it ceased.
At the time of Moore’s advertisement, however, delftware remained popular in the English colonies. Selecting among a variety of designs, sometimes imitating Chinese patterns and sometimes depicting European scenes, allowed consumers to assert their own tastes as well as demonstrate their knowledge of the latest fashions. Given the costs of Chinese import porcelain, acquiring delftware served as a substitute for displaying gentility on a budget.