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Stove Tile

Christ, Rudolph ||Aust, Gottfried
Place Made:
Salem North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
earthenware –lead-glazed
Accession Number:
Master potter Gottfried Aust started making stove tiles in the winter 1756. Stove tiles were produced by “pressing rolled sheets of clay onto molds. After trimming the waist and removing the impressed slab, he [the potter] set the tiles aside on pieces of coarse fabric to dry. Once the clay hardened enough to be handled, he added clay flanges to the back of each tile. The flanges allow the tiles to be set into clay mortar, which hardens when the stove is first fired and serves as a thermal barrier against loss of heat” (Brown 2009: 107-108). After this stove tile was molded, it was coated with a white slip, then manganese and copper slips were daubed onto the surface creating the cream, brown, and green coloring beneath the lead glaze. A mold in this same pattern survives in the collection of Old Salem Museums & Gardens. “Most of the press-molded tiles made by Moravian potters were for stoves commissioned for public buildings and houses in and around Wachovia.” (Brown 2009: 107).

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 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.

Master potter Gottfried Aust arrived in Bethabara, North Carolina in 1755 and immediately sought local stores of clay and flint for use in his pottery. By the spring of 1756 he had conducted firing experiments on these materials, and in August he built a larger kiln in which he fired earthenware. Aust stayed in Bethabara until 1771, when he moved to the Moravians’ newly built town of Salem and served as master of the pottery there until his death in 1788. 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). He also continued the press-molded forms made by Aust, such as the stove tiles. Rudolph Christ apprenticed under Gottfried Aust in Salem, North Carolina. He 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.

Beckerdite, Luke and Brown, Johanna. “Eighteenth Century Earthenware from North Carolina: The Moravian Tradition Reconsidered.” CERAMICS IN AMERICA (2009):2-67.

Brown, Johanna. “Tradition and Adaptation in Moravian Press-Molded Earthenware.” CERAMICS IN AMERICA (2009):107-108.

See “Ceramics in America” 2009 and “The Moravian Potters in North Carolina” John Bivins, Jr. pp. 174-188.
Credit Line:
Not Previously Accessioned