THE CULTURAL LANDSCAPE OF BALTIMORE'S 19TH-CENTURY WORKING CLASS STONEWARE POTTERS
Kille, John Elliot
Sies, Mary C.
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In the world of ceramics, too often there is a focus on the "greatness" or "uniqueness" of potters. Traditional approaches involving decorative arts tend to favor rarity or aesthetic qualities of the wares they produced, while archaeological studies often focus on systematic categorizations or classifications of recovered ceramics, with little in the way of interpretation from a humanistic point of view. With regard to Baltimore's 19th-century stoneware potters, portions of their history or narrow related aspects have been studied, but there has been no attempt made to examine the birth, life, and death of an industry that lasted for a century. In order to better understand the vernacular or ordinary existence of these skilled potters a comprehensive study was undertaken to document the dynamic and changing cultural landscape to which they belonged. In addition, the experiences and contributions of these artisans are also placed within the perspective of working class labor history. This research project is concerned with the following three central questions. How did Baltimore's 19th-century stoneware industry shape the city's social, physical, and natural environment? How did the social, physical, and natural environment shape Baltimore's stoneware industry? What key historical circumstances such as industrialization, new technologies, and modern manufacturing methods influenced these dynamic relationships? The framing of research and interrogation of evidence involved a systematic, interdisciplinary cultural landscapes model that creates a three way relationship between humans, artifacts (the built environment), and the natural environment. A systematic social history methodology was also used to recover accessible types of data involving the social/economic and cultural dimensions of urban places, including artifactual evidence. This study reveals a cultural landscape shaped by enduring cultural traditions, a superior transportation system for marketing wares, a shared and restricted urban environment involving pollution and the threat of fire, and industrialization leading to technological advancements in food preservation and storage.