Decorative Arts

New Philadelphia Plate Fragment

Image of plate fragment recovered from excavations at New Philadelphia, an African-American settlement in western Illinois.
This plate fragment came from the home site of Alexander Clark, an African American blacksmith living in New Philadelphia, Illinois, in the mid-1800s. It shows a portion of a bridge and person bridling a horse, an image that can also be found near the center of a transfer print plate with the image “Rural Scenery.”

New Philadelphia Plate Fragment

Image of plate fragment recovered from excavations at New Philadelphia, an African-American settlement in western Illinois.
Rarely are completely intact artifacts found during archaeological explorations. It is up to archaeologists and anthropologists to use their knowledge and skill to find the missing pieces in order to tell the rest of the story. This plate fragment was recovered from excavations at New Philadelphia, an African American settlement in western Illinois founded by Free Frank McWhorter, a former slave.

Fraternal Ribbon

Image of Fidelity Lodge No. 54, I.A. of C.W. Fraternal Ribbon
Beautiful silk ribbon with badge, from a member of the Fidelity Lodge No. 54, I.A. of C. W. (International Association of Car Workers), Pullman, IL.

The Lone Ranger’s Saddle

Image of The Lone Ranger’s Saddle
Brace Beemer, who portrayed the Lone Ranger on radio station WXYZ in Detroit, Michigan, used this Western saddle. Beemer was born in Mt. Carmel in 1902, and made personal appearances for The Lone Ranger radio show on a white horse called Silver. Thousands of children turned out for the appearances. Millions of children and adults listened to the serialized program three times a week.

Milton Jones Hanging Noose

Image of Milton Jones hanging noose
This piece of rope was a souvenir from the hanging of Milton Jones in Mt. Carmel on October 11, 1850. Jones was sentenced to die for the killing of his employer, Joseph Miller, while they were traveling through Lawrence County in May 1849. The trial and execution took place in Wabash County, a change of venue from where the killing took place.

Peanut Roasting Machine

Image of Peanut Roasting Machine
Kerosene and a mechanical crank powered this peanut-roasting machine owned by John Coleman of Mt. Carmel. The kerosene tank provided light to work by and powered the burners under the roasting chamber. A steam jacket under the glass dome kept the peanuts warm.

Pearlware Fragments

Image of Hand Painted Dish Fragments
These fragments were discovered during an investigation of a well that had been filled in at the Williams Fort site in southeastern Illinois. The site was the location of a farmstead occupied by the family of Aaron and Tabitha Williams from about 1811-1838. To defend against the possibility of attack by Native Americans during the War of 1812, a stockade was constructed. A tavern was operated at the site in the years following the war.

Competition Across the Continents

Image of Staffordshire Plates
Although the “Baker’s Falls” plate was made by James and Ralph Clews, and the “Water Works” and “Race Works” plates were made by Job and John Jackson, all three plates are identical in diameter and apparently were made from the same mold. Note that they all share the same scalloped rim edged with raised dots. We don’t know if the Jacksons obtained the molds from the Clews pottery through gift, purchase, or outright theft. The Jacksons were nephews of James and Ralph Clews and trained at the Clews pottery in Cobridge, Staffordshire, England before setting out on their own.

Artistry, Labor Strife, and Cutthroat Competition

Image of Refined Earthenware Plate: Cobridge, Staffordshire, England. Ca. 1823-1835
The transfer plate process allowed producers of Staffordshire earthenware plates to produce ever-more detailed works of art, but that was not enough to stay ahead of the competition. The business was rife with labor strife, cutthroat competition, and theft of artwork and designs. This plate was made by the pottery of brothers James and Ralph Clews, located in Staffordshire, England. Opened at about the time Illinois became a state, the Clews continued in operation until 1835. The Clews pottery was a major exporter to the United States, and its ceramics were a familiar sight in Illinois homes.

The Finer Things

Image of Refined Earthenware Plate from Staffordshire, England
Even in frontier Illinois, families sought out nice things for their homes. This plate is typical of those used on the Illinois frontier in the 1830s. It was produced by the pottery of brothers Job and John Jackson, located in Staffordshire, England. Operating their pottery from 1831–1835, the Jacksons produced a large amount of pottery for export to the United States, and pottery from the Staffordshire region dominated the Amerian market at the time. Fragments of their wares have been found at archaeological sites across Illinois, including Woodlawn Farm outside Jacksonville.

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