Josiah Wedgwood: Wikis


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Josiah Wedgwood
Etruria Hall, the family home, built 1768–1771 by Joseph Pickford. It was restored as part of the 1986 Stoke-on-Trent Garden Festival and is now part of a four-star hotel.

Josiah Wedgwood (12 July 1730 – 3 January 1795) was an English potter, credited with the industrialization of the manufacture of pottery. A prominent abolitionist, Wedgwood is remembered for his "Am I Not A Man And A Brother?" anti-slavery medallion. He was a member of the Darwin-Wedgwood family. Charles Darwin was his grandson.




Early life

Born in Burslem, Staffordshire, England, the twelfth and last child of Thomas Wedgwood and Mary Wedgwood (née Stringer; d. 1766), Josiah was raised within a family of English Dissenters. He survived a childhood bout of smallpox to serve as an apprentice potter under his eldest brother Thomas Wedgwood IV. Smallpox left Josiah with a permanently weakened knee, which made him unable to work the foot pedal of a potter's wheel. As a result, he concentrated from an early age on designing pottery rather than making it.

In his early twenties, Wedgwood began working with the most renowned English pottery-maker of his day, Thomas Whieldon. He began experimenting with a wide variety of pottery techniques, an experimentation that coincided with the burgeoning of the nearby industrial city of Manchester. Inspired, Wedgwood leased the Ivy Works in his home town of Burslem. Over the course of the next decade, his experimentation (and a considerable injection of capital from his marriage to a richly-endowed distant cousin) transformed the sleepy artisan works into the first true pottery factory.

Marriage and children

Wedgwood married Sarah Wedgwood (1734–1815), his third cousin, in January 1764. They had seven children:


1780 Wedgewood dish

Josiah worked in pottery, and his work was of very high quality. If he saw in his workshop an offending vessel that failed to meet with his standards, he would smash it with his stick, exclaiming, "This will not do for Josiah Wedgwood!"[citation needed] He was also keenly interested in the scientific advances of his day and it was this interest that underpinned his adoption of its approach and methods to revolutionize the quality of his pottery. His unique glazes began to distinguish his wares from anything else on the market. He was perhaps the most famous potter of all time.

By 1763, he was receiving orders from the highest levels of the British nobility, including Queen Charlotte. Wedgwood convinced her to let him name the line of pottery she had purchased "Queen's Ware", and trumpeted the royal association in his paperwork and stationery. In 1774, Empress Catherine of Russia ordered the Green Frog Service from Wedgwood; it can still be seen in the Hermitage Museum.[2] An even earlier commission from Catherine was the Husk Service (1770), now on exhibit in Peterhof.

As a burgeoning industrialist, Wedgwood was a major backer of the Trent and Mersey Canal dug between the River Trent and River Mersey, during which time he became friends with Erasmus Darwin. Later that decade, his burgeoning business caused him to move from the smaller Ivy Works to the newly-built Etruria Works, which would run for 180 years. The factory was so-named after the Etruria district of Italy, where black porcelain dating to Etruscan times was being excavated. Wedgwood found this porcelain inspiring, and his first major commercial success was its duplication with what he called "Black Basalt".

Not long after the new works opened, continuing trouble with his smallpox-afflicted knee made necessary the amputation of his right leg. In 1780, his long-time business partner Thomas Bentley died, and Wedgwood turned to Darwin for help in running the business. As a result of the close association that grew up between the Wedgwood and Darwin families, Josiah's eldest daughter would later marry Erasmus' son. One of the children of that marriage, Charles Darwin, would also marry a Wedgwood — Emma, Josiah's granddaughter. This double-barreled inheritance of Wedgwood's money gave Charles Darwin the leisure time to formulate his theory of evolution.

In the latter part of his life, Wedgwood's obsession was to duplicate the Portland Vase, a blue and white glass vase dating to the first century BC. For three years he worked on the project, eventually producing what he considered a satisfactory copy in 1789.

After passing on his company to his sons, Wedgwood died at home, probably of cancer of the jaw, in 1795. He was buried three days later in the parish church of Stoke-on-Trent. Seven years later a marble memorial tablet commissioned by his sons was installed there.

He belonged to the fourth generation of a family of potters whose traditional occupation continued through another five generations. Wedgwood's company is still a famous name in pottery today (as part of Waterford Wedgwood; see Waterford Crystal), and "Wedgwood China" is the commonly used term for his Jasperware, the blue (or sometimes green) china with overlaid white decoration, still common throughout the world.

He was an active member of the Lunar Society often held at Erasmus Darwin House and is remembered on the Moonstones in Birmingham. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1783 for the development of a pyrometer.

Wedgwood is credited as the inventor of modern marketing, specifically direct mail, money-back guarantees, traveling salesmen, self-service, free delivery, buy one get one free, and illustrated catalogues.[3].

Am I Not A Man And A Brother?

Am I Not a Man and a Brother? Medallion created as part of anti-slavery campaign by Wedgwood, 1787

Wedgwood was a prominent slavery abolitionist. His friendship with Thomas Clarkson - abolitionist campaigner and the first historian of the British abolition movement - aroused his interest in slavery. Wedgwood mass produced cameos depicting the seal for the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade and had them widely distributed, which thereby became a popular and celebrated image. The Wedgwood medallion was the most famous image of a black person in all of 18th-century art. [4] The actual design of the cameo was probably done by either William Hackwood or Henry Webber who were modellers in his Stoke-on-Trent factory.[5] From 1787 until his death in 1795, Wedgwood actively participated in the abolition of Slavery cause, and his Slave Medallion, which brought the attention of the public to the horrors of the Slave trade, was very effective in bringing public attention to abolition.[1] Wedgwood reproduced the design in a cameo with the black figure against a white background and donated hundreds of these to the Society for distribution. Thomas Clarkson wrote; "ladies wore them in bracelets, and others had them fitted up in an ornamental manner as pins for their hair. At length the taste for wearing them became general, and thus fashion, which usually confines itself to worthless things, was seen for once in the honourable office of promoting the cause of justice, humanity and freedom".[6]


A locomotive was named after Josiah Wedgwood and ran on the Churnet Valley Railway.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Midgley, Clare (1992). Women Against Slavery. New York: Routledge. pp. 56. 
  2. ^ Hermitage Museum
  3. ^ "They Broke It", New York Times, January 9, 2009
  4. ^ "British History - Abolition of the Slave Trade 1807". BBC. Retrieved 2009-04-11. "The Wedgwood medallion was the most famous image of a black person in all of 18th-century art." 
  5. ^ PBS
  6. ^ "Wedgwood". Retrieved 2009-07-13. "Thomas Clarkson wrote; ladies wore them in bracelets, and others had them fitted up in an ornamental manner as pins for their hair. At length the taste for wearing them became general, and thus fashion, which usually confines itself to worthless things, was seen for once in the honourable office of promoting the cause of justice, humanity and freedom." 


  • Dolan, Brian (2004). Wedgwood: The First Tycoon. Viking Adult. ISBN 0-670-03346-4.

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

JOSIAH WEDGWOOD (1730-1795), the most distinguished of English manufacturers of pottery, came of a family many members of which had been established as potters in Stafford - shire throughout the 17th century and had played a notable part in the development of the infant industry. Dr Thomas Wedgwood of Burslem was one of the best of the early salt - glaze potters. Josiah, born in 1730, was the youngest child of another Thomas Wedgwood, who owned a small but thriving pottery in Burslem. At a very early age he distinguished himself by keen powers of observation and interest in all that was curious and beautiful. Soon after the death of his father in 1739, Josiah, then scarcely ten years of age, was taken away from school and set to learn the art of " throwing " clay, i.e. shaping pottery vessels on the thrower's wheel, at which he soon became extraordinarily skilful.

In 1744 he was apprenticed to his eldest brother, who had succeeded to the management of his father's pottery; and in 1752, shortly after the term of his apprenticeship had expired, he became manager of a small pottery at Stoke-upon-Trent, known as Alder's pottery, at a very moderate salary. Within a year or two he became junior partner with Thomas Whieldon of Fenton, then the cleverest master-potter in Staffordshire. Many of Whieldon's apprentices afterwards became noted potters, and there can be little doubt that Wedgwood gained greatly at this period of his life by his association with Whieldon. But he was too original to remain long content with a subordinate position, and the pottery business was developing so rapidly that he had every inducement to commence work on his own account.

In 1759 he leased the Ivy House pottery in Burslem from some relatives, and like a sensible man he continued to make only such pottery as was being made at the period by his fellow - manufacturers. Salt-glaze and green and yellow glaze seem to have been his first staples. In 1762 he also leased the Brick - House, alias " Bell " works, at Burslem. The fine white English earthenware was just reaching perfection, and Wedgwood was soon one of its best-known makers. He was most active and energetic in his efforts, not only for the improvement of Stafford - shire pottery, but almost equally so for the improvement of turnpike roads, the construction of a canal (the Trent & Mersey) and the founding of schools and chapels. Almost the first step in his public career outside his native district was the presenta - tion of a service of his improved cream-coloured earthenware to Queen Charlotte in 1762. The new ware was greatly appreciated, and Wedgwood was appointed potter to the queen and afterwards to the king. He gave the name of Queen's Ware to his productions of this class, and this judicious royal patronage awarded to a most deserving manufacturer un - doubtedly helped Wedgwood greatly. Having laid the founda - tions of a successful business in his admirable domestic pottery - the best the world had ever seen up to that time - he turned his attention to artistic pottery, and the European renaissance of classic art - fostered by the discovery of Pompeii and the recovery of Greek painted vases from the ancient graves in Campania. and other parts of Italy - being at its height it was natural that Wedgwood should turn to such a source of inspiration.. Although every European country was affected by this neo-classical revival it may be claimed that England absorbed it more com - pletely than any other country, for the brothers Adam (the - architects) and Josiah Wedgwood brought it into absolute correspondence with modern tastes and ideas. Wedgwood was particularly successful in this direction, for his " dry " bodies - some of which, like the black and cane bodies, had long been known in the district, others, such as the famous Jasper bodies,. which he invented after years of laborious effort - lent themselves particularly well to the reproduction of designs based on the later phases of Greek art. If our increased appreciation and knowledge of Greek and Roman art makes us at times impatient with the mechanical perfection of the works of Wedgwood and his contemporaries, the fault is even more the fault of a nation and a period than that of any individual, however com - manding. It will always remain to Wedgwood's credit that he was the most successful and original potter the world has ever seen - the only one, through all the centuries, of whom it can be truthfully said that the whole subsequent course of pottery manufacture has been influenced by his skill.

Of the externals of his life a few facts will suffice. He married his cousin, Sarah Wedgwood, in 1764, and they had a numerous family of sons and daughters. One of these daughters was the mother of the famous naturalist Charles Darwin. Some time after his marriage (viz. 1768) he entered into a partnership with Thomas Bentley of Liverpool, a man of considerable taste and culture. Bentley, who was a handsome, courtly man, attended largely to the London sales. In 1769 they opened splendid new works, near Hanley, that with their classic leanings they christened" Etruria." They continued a practice of Wedgwood's in employing able artists to produce designs, and the most famous of these was John Flaxman, whose name will for ever be associated with the firm's productions. Bentley died in 1780 and Wedgwood remained sole owner of the Etruria works until 1790, when he took some of his sons and a nephew, named Byerley, into partner - ship. He died on the 3rd of January 1795, rich in honours and in friends, for besides being a great potter he was a man of high moral worth, and was associated with many noted men of his time, amongst whom should be mentioned Sir Joseph Banks, Joseph Priestley and Erasmus Darwin. His descendants have carried on the business at Etruria to this day, and have lately established at the works a Wedgwood museum of great interest.

See CERAMICS. For detailed accounts of his life see Eliza Metyeard, Life of Wedgwood (1865-1866); Jewitt, Life of Wedgwood (1865); Rathbone, Old Wedgwood (1893); Church, Josiah Wedgwood: Master-Potter (1894; new ed., 1903); Burton, History and Description of English Earthenware and Stoneware (1904); J. C. Wedgwood, A History of the Wedgwood Family (1909). (W. B.*)

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Simple English

[[File:|thumb|right|Josiah Wedgwood]] Josiah Wedgwood (July 12, 1730 - January 3, 1795, born in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent) was an English potter, who became famous for the industrialisation (making things in factories, not workshops) of pottery. His grandson was the famous naturalist, Charles Darwin.



Early life

When he was a child, Josiah had smallpox, but he survived (did not die). The smallpox injured his knee, so he could not easily work as a potter. Instead, he worked hard to design pottery. Working as an apprentice, Wedgwood learned many techniques for making pottery. He used his skills to make one of the first pottery factories, Ivy Works, in Burslem, now part of Stoke-on-Trent.


Wedgwood was very interested in science and technology, and used new ideas to make good quality pottery. He became famous for making pottery for royalty, and became very rich. He spent money on civic works, things that would help businessmen and people in the city, for example canals. He became friends with Erasmus Darwin, an important scientist and inventor. In 1780, Wedgwood and Darwin became business partners. Wedgwood's son married Darwin's daughter, who gave birth to Charles Darwin. Wedgwood and Darwin were also members of the 'Lunar Society', a group of important scientists, philosophers and businessmen.

Abolition of slavery

[[File:|thumb|left|Anti-slavery medallion produced by Wedgwood]] Together with his friends in the Lunar Society, Wedgwood worked for the abolition (ending) of slavery. Wedgwood produced medallions asking for the end of slavery. These medallions became very popular. Wedgwood died in 1795. Selling slaves became illegal (against the law) in 1807 in Britain, and having slaves became illegal in 1833.


  • Wedgwood: The First Tycoon, Brian Dolan, Viking Adult, 416 pp. (October 7, 2004). ISBN 0-670-03346-4

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