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 a person bridling a horse, an image that can also be found near the center of a transfer print plate with the image “Rural Scenery.” Archaeologists compared the fragment with a complete example of the plate that featured the pattern by Thomas, John, and Joseph Mayer of Staffordshire, England. Because so much pottery was imported to the United States from potteries in Staffordshire, it is likely Clark purchased this plate locally, perhaps at a store in town.
Free Frank McWhorter platted New Philadelphia in western Illinois in 1836. He was a former slave who became the first African-American in the United States to establish a town. He purchased his wife’s freedom in 1817 and his own freedom in 1819. He then purchased freedom for family members. He lived from 1777-1854. New Philadelphia was located in Pike County and is now a National Historic Landmark.