|Teapot, circa 1884
Maker: W.E. Welding
With relief portrait of the manufacturer
Canadian Museum of Civilization
Cat. no. 980.111.329a,b
Photo S97-17902, CD2004-877
CANADIAN DARK-BODIED EARTHENWAREThroughout the nineteenth century, potters were at work in Canada. Their activities were usually limited and their sales confined to their locality, however, because local potting clays known during much of the period were suitable only for dark-bodied earthenware. For stoneware and whiteware, clays had to be brought in from the United States or England, adding considerably to production costs.
Canadian potters, therefore, concentrated in large measure on utilitarian earthenware: bowls, pie plates, kitchen jugs. Even here there was competition from overseas, especially in the earlier years of the century and particularly for potters working near ports where ocean-going vessels put in with cargoes from abroad.
But in spite of economic uncertainties, always a hazard in Canada's potting industry, there were at all times potters venturesome enough to attempt ornamental items. Ontario potters were making dog figures in the 1850s; in 1885 one of them sent "fancy dogs" to the Universal Exhibition in Antwerp. Increasing use of tobacco led to the creation of ornate tobacco jars. The emergence of the family photograph as a parlor accessory inspired some potters to frame it in earthenware.
It needed only imagination to turn dark-bodied earthenware into something more than humble wares for kitchen use.
Smokers in nineteenth-century Canada were many, but few can have had so ornate a jar for their tobacco as this one produced at the Dion Pottery in L'Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec. Use of tobacco also gave potters the opportunity to include spittoons in their output. Offices, legislative chambers and some homes were equipped with spittoons, often of earthenware and sometimes ornamented with beavers.