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Slipware Mug - 'Cat's Eye' Pattern

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Artifact Description

The most numerous category of ceramics visible on the surface of the "Blue China" wreck site were 358 British slip-decorated utilitarian earthenwares representing 37.3% of the total pottery. They comprise an assortment of bowls, jugs and mugs referred to in contemporary sources as ‘dipped’ or ‘dipt’ ware. A sample of 48 examples was recovered for study.

The excavation produced four banded slipware mugs in two different sizes corresponding to one-half and one full pint capacities. Two of the examples, including the one featured here, are decorated with the fanciful ‘cat’s-eyes’ slip decoration.  The pint-size mug featured has a cream ground with blue bands and is decorated with a cat’s eye pattern below a blue-and-cream band separated by six narrow brown bands. The other smaller, half-pint sized mug has a cream ground with a wide blue band that is decorated with a cat’s eye pattern enclosed by double narrow brown bands. This mug has a large chip. No maker’s marks are visible on either of the two mugs. 

First produced by Staffordshire potters in the late 18th century, these generic whitewares enjoyed a long period of popularity and were among the least expensive imported decorated earthenware available to American consumers from the 1780s well into the 1850s. These wares are well represented amongst archaeological assemblages excavated in American taverns and households of the first half of the 19th century along the Eastern Seaboard. The British manufacture and export of these bold and colorful dipped wares was in fact so extensive that their sherds are found on nearly every American domestic archaeological site.

A number of features related to production changes that took place in the 19th century independently confirm the date range of 1850-60 for the dipped wares found on the Jacksonville "Blue China" shipwreck, while additional artifacts from the site narrow its most plausible date of loss to 1854. One was a reduction in color choices. Originally slips comprised a variety of earth colorants. Iron oxide produced reds and rusts, and manganese produced black and dark browns. Cobalt oxide yielded blue, copper oxide green, and antimony and uranium yellow. The lead glaze that vitrified the objects also enhanced these earth colors. When the toxicity of many of these substances became realized, they were removed from circulation and became obsolete. As a result, the colors found on dipped wares in the second half of the 19th century are predominantly black, blue, gray and white and lack the earlier vitality.


Other Details

H. 9.2-11.7cm