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Chicken Caster

Christ, Rudolph __Attributed to ||Holland, John __Attributed to
Place Made:
Salem North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
HOA: 3 3/4″
Accession Number:
In the shape of a chicken, this small press-molded caster made in Salem, North Carolina, is made of earthenware clay. It has nine small holes in the chest indicating that it was likely made as a caster, not just as a whimsy. There is also a hole in the bottom for a stopper. Chickens designed for dispensing spices or fine powders first appear on the 1810 inventory of stock on hand at the Salem Pottery.

Moravian potters in North Carolina made press-molded earthenware for more than one hundred and twenty-five years. The range of forms documented by surviving objects, molds, and references in pottery inventories is far greater than that of any other contemporary American ceramic tradition. From smoking pipes to stove tiles, the Moravian potters at Bethabara and Salem expanded the production of press-molded earthenware to include figural bottles and casters, non-figural bottles, and toys.

A press mold was usually made of plaster, consisting of two parts with the exterior design impressed (from a model) on the interior of each half of the mold. Clay was applied to the molds and once the clay was set up, the molds were removed. The form remained with the impressions of the mold. After the pieces were removed from the mold, they were assembled and then coated with a white slip. For this particular piece, decoration in the form of copper and manganese slips was applied, which, under the lead glaze, appear yellow, green, and brown after firing.

Rudolph Christ can be credited for the successful production and marketing of press molded figural wares during his tenure as master of the pottery at Salem (1789–1821). Rudolph Christ apprenticed under Gottfried Aust in Salem. Christ established his own pottery in Bethabara in 1786 and worked there until 1789. He succeeded Aust as master potter in Salem from 1789 to 1821. The production of press-molded wares also continued through the tenure of John Holland, who apprenticed under Rudolph Christ and as noted in Moravian records, inherited molds used in Christ’s shop. Rudolph Christ retired in 1821 and John Holland took over as Salem’s third master potter. Although the pottery ceased to operate as a congregational business in 1829, production of press-molded wares continued in the shop of Holland and another Salem potter, Heinrich Schaffner, until at least the middle of the nineteenth century.

Brown, Johanna. “Tradition and Adaptation in Moravian Press-Molded Wares.” CERAMICS IN AMERICA (2009) 105-138.

Erickson, Michelle, Robert Hunter, and Carolina M. Hannah .”Making a Moravian Squirrel Bottle.” CERAMICS IN AMERICA. (2009): 199-216.

Credit Line:
The William C. and Susan S. Mariner Collection