Robert A. Genheimer


Cincinnati’s contribution to the nineteenth century American yellow ware market has received little attention in the literature.  Like East Liverpool, Ohio, Cincinnati in the 1840s attracted a significant number of British-born, and Staffordshire-trained potters.  Between ca. 1842 and ca. 1870, at least a half-dozen Cincinnati potteries produced large quantities of yellow ware and Rockingham in factory settings.  In an effort to better understand this production, an assemblage of 289 discrete yellow ware vessels recovered from six major urban archaeology projects in Cincinnati, Ohio and Covington, Kentucky is carefully examined.  The majority of vessels originate from nineteenth century privy shafts, many of which exhibit well-dated depositional horizons beginning in the 1840s.  A broad range of vessel types is identified including chamber pots, bowls, pitchers, spittoons, plates, and unspecified hollow ware.  While a significant proportion of the vessels is undecorated, numerous slip decorations, including common cable, cat’s eye, annular banding, slip trailing, dendrites, and broad slip bands are identified.  Only a very small number of sample vessels are marked, however at least six-dozen unmarked vessels from Covington Pottery wasters allow for attribution to William Bromley.  Although a number of privy shafts producing yellow ware are well dated, a broad range of sample vessels recovered from the lowest levels of those features indicates that much of the full range of decoration was already present by the time of deposition.  As a result, no sequence of decorative types can be ascertained through an examination of their depositional origins.  A Cincinnati production system is defined based upon economic constraints, decorative types, and vessel color.  The suite of slip and dendritic applications identified within the Cincinnati vessel sample is not unique to Cincinnati, and similar vessel treatments are noted for an early yellow ware and Rockingham manufacturer in East Liverpool, Ohio.  And, while there are significant differences in color between Cincinnati and East Liverpool samples, the broad range and overlap of color matches between the two samples suggests that attribution based upon color should be avoided.

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