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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

15 May 2008

JOSIAH WEDGWOOD AND QUEENSWARE


In TO TASTE TEMPTATION the hero, Samuel Hartley has traveled from Boston to London for two reasons. The first is that he is looking for the traitor who caused the massacre of an entire regiment six years before in the American Colonies. The second reason is business. Sam is a wealthy importer of goods to Boston and he has heard that Josiah Wedgwood the potter has devised a new type of tableware that Sam hopes to see and buy to import. What is the tableware?

Queensware.

Prior to the mid-eighteenth century, commoners ate off of pewter plates or wooden trenchers. Very rich people had pottery plates either made in Europe or imported from China. But the European pottery was very much inferior to the Chinese-made porcelain. The Chinese in effect kept the making of their fine porcelain a trade secret. The European pottery was thicker, the glazing not as fine. For years Europeans tried to devise a way of making pottery as fine as that imported from China.

Josiah Wedgwood came from a family of potters from Burslem, Staffordshire. He was born in 1730 and as a boy he contracted smallpox. He survived, but his knee was injured and he walked with a cane. More importantly, he was unable to work a potter’s wheel with his bad knee. Instead of making pottery, he turned to designing it. By the early 1760’s Wedgwood was perfecting a fine creamware pottery with classical lines and a light cream-colored glaze. In a brilliant act of marketing, Wedgwood presented his new product to Queen Charlotte and got the first celebrity endorsement, enabling him to name his pottery Queensware and call himself Potter to Her Majesty.

Queensware was beautiful, of very good quality, affordable to the middle class both in England and in the American Colonies, and hey, the Queen herself used it. Queensware took off like a rocket. Archaeologists excavating Colonial Williamsburg have said that it’s one of the most widely found types of pottery prior to and just after the Revolutionary War.

When you read TO TASTE TEMPTATION, watch for the appearance of Mr. Thomas Bentley. He’s a real person and Wedgwood’s business partner. Sam met with Mr. Bentley because Wedgwood himself was up in Staffordshire at the time of the book!

Elizabeth Hoyt

www.elizabethhoyt.com

4 Comments:

Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Bentley's exactly the sort of person I like to meet in a historical romance, Elizabeth. There's so much fascinating stuff about Georgian and Regency England that happened outside of our usual precincts of Mayfair -- I love reading about the Wedgwoods, the Darwins, the Watts. People who were so important in such material ways to that energetic, changing society. And let me recommend a super book: The Lunar Men: Five Friends Whose Curiosity Changed the World, by Jenny Uglow. They met every month at a tavern when the moon was full (so they could walk home easily, hence the name), to discuss their research and discoveries: Josiah Wedgwood, Matthew Boulton, James Watt, Joseph Priestley, Erasmus Darwin.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Elizabeth Hoyt said...

That does sound like a good book, Pam. Thanks for the recommendation!

2:12 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

Definitely writing that book down and adding it to the Amazon list! Thanks, Pam!

English china is a favorite topic of mine. My Mom has some gorgeous old pieces of Wedgewood that she bought at estate sales when we lived in England.

Isn't it interesting how some people take the lemons life has given them, like a bum knee, and makes irreplaceable lemonade, so to speak!

7:17 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Oh, and I do love Wedgewood China.....the really old stuff in the beautiful cream colors and later on, the glazed white with edgings like seen in "The Distinguished House of Wedgwood" line. Very cool. Wish I had the occasions to use such beautiful stuff--or even own some!

8:13 PM  

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