Tea Set, England, c. 1904

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MakerWedgwood & Sons
Medium: Jasperware
C100 Gift of Dorothy Byerly in 2016
Classical figures set against a blue background have become popular symbols of the Wedgwood pottery company. Many people don’t know that these little vessels were made by the world’s first luxury brand. Founder Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) revolutionized more than just the world of pottery. Coming from humble origins in Burslem, England, he completed an apprenticeship with Thomas Whieldon, the potter who invented “tortoiseshell” glaze. Wedgewood saw that tea culture was evolving and that the demand for ceramic ware for tea was rising. He developed a durable cream ware and won a competition judged by Queen Charlotte; his pieces were henceforth known as “Queens’s ware”. His London showroom catered to the elite; however, after an item grew stale, he slashed the price, so the ordinary English citizen could purchase a set. From the port of Liverpool he conducted a steady export business to the colonies. George Washington even ordered a Wedgwood set. Following Wedgwood’s model, other companies took notice and began to market their products in a similar fashion.
Although this is the only set in the Hammond-Harwood House collection, Wedgwood pottery has a history connected to the house. According to former Collections Committee chair Dr. Charlie Webb, “From 1928 to 1932 Richard T. Haynes Halsey, previously a co-founder of the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum in NYC, was a professor of Fine Arts at St. John’s College and in charge of the Hammond Harwood House when the College owned the building before the Hammond-Harwood House Association. Elegantly furnished by his friend Francis P. Garvan, Halsey used it as a museum and teaching center of American Colonial Decorative Arts for the College. It was the first such course in the country. In 1930 to honor the 200th anniversary of Josiah Wedgwood’s birth, he put on a special exhibit of Wedgwood’s work. It was the only such exhibit in this country and Halsey did it deliberately to draw attention to St John’s and to the House.”
This set was owned by Lieutenant Guy Davis (1883-1956), who rented the Hammond-Harwood House north wing from 1910 to 1911. Davis had a long-distinguished career in the US Navy. He was a member of United States Naval Academy class of 1907. He was given a medal for his bravery during World War I.
Davis married Mabel Mathewson in 1909 shortly before moving into the Hammond-Harwood House, which they rented from the last private owner, Hester Harwood. Their daughter Dorothy Helen Davis was born November 15, 1911 at the Hammond-Harwood House. Davis’ granddaughter, Dottie Byerly, is an active volunteer docent at the museum today. For more on Wedgwood and his wares you can read Dr. Brian Dolan’s book Wedgwood: The First Tycoon.
By Rachel Lovett, Curator

Hammond-Harwood House

The mission of the Hammond-Harwood House Association is to preserve and to interpret the architecturally significant Hammond-Harwood House Museum and its collection of fine and decorative arts, and to explore the diverse social history associated with its occupants, both free and enslaved, for the purposes of education and appreciation.
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