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Sugar Jar

Artist/Maker:
Albright/Loy Pottery
Place Made:
Alamance County North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
1790-1810
Medium:
earthenware –lead-glazed
Dimensions:
HOA: 9 1/2″; DIA: 7 1/2″
Accession Number:
89.9
Description:
This covered jar, referred to as a “sugar pot” in period inventories, is an example of pottery made in the St. Asaph’s district of North Carolina. It is wheel thrown and made of earthenware clay. The lid was likely thrown on a hump of clay upside down, making the bowl form of the lid and flange, cutting it away from the hump of clay, and then trimming the top to make the knob. The handles on opposite sides of the jar were made with pulled or extruded bars of clay shaped into an arch and adhered at the shoulder. It is decorated with wavy and straight bands of red, green, and white slip. There are concentric horizontal circles around the body of the pot, brackets, and jeweled dot and “grass” motifs executed in white, dark manganese, and green slip trailing. The jar has a lead glaze. A lead glaze was made up primarily of a lead oxide, most often red lead, that was ground, mixed with a clay so that the mixture would adhere to the pottery, and made liquid with water. Earthenware is a porous material and must have an applied glaze in order to hold liquids. Beneath the lead glaze the white slip appears yellow. Although jars such as this are referred to as “Sugar Pots” and “Sugar Jars” on period inventories, those same inventories suggest that they were used to store a variety of food stuffs.

STYLE: Most of the surviving examples of North Carolina slipware are associated with Germanic craftsmen who worked in and around the St. Asaph’s district of Orange County (now southern Alamance County). The forms and motifs introduced by the first potters who settled in that area coalesced in southwestern Germany, arrived with immigrant craftsmen who initially settled in Berks County, Pennsylvania, and persisted in North Carolina from the middle of the eighteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth century. Unlike some areas of the backcountry, where interactions with different ethnic groups or various social and economic forces lead to the assimilation of Old World craft traditions, the interrelated and interdependent Germanic communities of southeastern Guilford County and southern Alamance County were obstacles to change.

Slipware from the St. Asaph’s tradition differs significantly from that associated with the Moravians. Whereas the Moravians had a naturalistic vocabulary with theological underpinnings and appear to have limited their trailing to dishes and plates, the St. Asaph’s potters used a wide range of motifs— stylized crosses and plant forms, fylfots, imbricated triangles, and other geometric designs—on both flat and hollow ware forms. Surviving examples of slip-decorated hollow ware include pitchers, tankards, bottles, flasks, barrels, bowls, and distinctive covered vessels referred to during the period as “sugar pots.” The St. Asaph’s potters used dark brown and black grounds to a much greater extent than other American earthenware potters.

MAKER: Much of the earthenware from the St. Asaph’s tradition centered on the closely allied Albright and Loy families. Jacob Albright (1753-1825) was listed as a “potter” as early as the 1800 tax records for St. Asaph’s district, and he was also the father-in-law of potter Henry Loy (1777-1825) and the grandfather of potter Solomon Loy (1805-after 1865).

Ceramic fragments recovered at the site of Jacob Albright’s pottery document the production of earthenware with dark brown and black grounds and polychrome slip decoration. The decorative vocabulary of his pottery included marbleizing—a technique rare in southern slipware— as well as trailing in both abstract and naturalistic styles. Most of the fragments are from dishes, but bases from three mugs or tankards with polychrome banding indicate that Albright’s pottery also made decorated hollow ware. “An Inventory and an Account of Sales of the Estate of Jacob Albright Decd,” dated March 24, 1825 listed two potter’s wheels, a glaze mill, a clay mill, a grindstone, a pipe mold, a stove mold, and numerous crocks, dishes, basons, jugs, pitchers, and sugar pots. The amount of equipment would have been sufficient for a modest workforce.

Beckerdite, Luke, Johanna Brown, and Linda Carnes-McNaughton. “Slipware from the St. Asaph’s Tradition.” CERAMICS IN AMERICA. Milwaukee, WI: Chipstone Foundation, 2010.

Carnes-McNaughton, Linda. “Solomon Loy: Master Potter of the Carolina Piedmont.” CERAMICS IN AMERICA. Milwaukee, WI: Chipstone Foundation, 2010.

Credit Line:
Gift of Frank L. Horton