Bean crock and lid, pitcher, cake mold
Welcome to American Redware
The term “American Redware” applies to simple, lead glazed earthenware pottery produced in the United States from roughly after 1625 to present. Before the arrival of the European colonists, Native Americans were already hand-forming this surface clay into useful vessels for food storage, cooking pots and water bowls. They used stones to burnish or rub the insides of the dried pieces until compressed and smooth to create a temporary impenetrable surface which retained enough water for transport. Because such pieces were not fired they were eventually absorbed back into the ground after their usefulness.
Redware was the first pottery made by European colonists after settling North America. They brought the tools and knowledge necessary to produce serviceable pottery using this native clay abundant along stream and riverbeds along the East Coast. This type of clay was rich in iron mineral deposits, pliable and fired in wood burning kilns to temperatures between 1600 and 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of the early earthenware pottery was generally formed into utilitarian pieces such as jugs, storage crocks, platters, plates and bowls.
Despite its widespread availability, the redware fashioned by European colonists had one major drawback - it was extremely porous. To hold liquids, redware had to be coated with a lead-based glaze. As the Pennsylvania Mercury warned its readers in 1785, the lead “becomes a slow but sure poison” when the pottery was used for food or drink.
Despite this problem, redware continued to be widely used until more durable stoneware and ironstone ceramics became popular around 1850. In parts of Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia, redware is still made today. Modern non-toxic glazes make these pieces safe for cooking and eating.
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