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Mochaware was once in the mid-1940's regarded as common kitchen ware and did not appeal to many collectors. It was utilitarian, common household pottery which was used in modest kitchens and taverns even in England and not placed on colonial cupboards only to be viewed. Mochaware is a soft pottery and much has been broken and can be found in privies and outhouses along the eastern seaboard.
Earthworm or common cable pitchers and bowl
It's also known as banded creamware or dipped ware. In general the term "mocha" is used to describe all dipped earthenwares. However, recent scholars say the term should only be used for tree-like or dendritic patterns. The scholarly name is industrialized slipware. In the old potteries it was referred to at Mocha or dip't ware. In 1799 it cost sixty percent more than plain creamware. By 1814, it appears on potters' price lists as only twenty percent more, and it stayed that way until the 1840's.
The decorations all created with liquid clay, or slip in wonderful colors make each piece unique adding to the desirability of mochaware. One scholar tracked over 4000 unique pieces and another has identified 22 distinct designs that make mocha different from other pottery are abstractions with fantasy names-cat's eyes, worming, marbleizing, trailing, all created with liquid clay, or slip, in the most vibrant colors. Most all mochaware has a clear lead glaze. Colored glazes were added to specific areas to produce the desired color.
Mochaware was first made by William Adams of the Greengates factory, Tunstall, England (1745-1805). Along with his blue painted and enameled pottery, it brought Adams into significant notoriety. This style of pottery, which could be sold at a moderate price, found considerable favor in some quarters from its very quaintness. It was white or cream ware, somewhat rudely decorated with seaweed or tree-like effects, in black or dark brown, on a pale colored zone of pale blue or light brown outlined with narrow bands of dark colors. The name "mocha" was derived from mukha, a precious stone, a variety of moss agate, found near the town of Mocha, in Arabia. English factories were turning out quantities of mocha, almost always hollowware- mugs and pitchers as opposed to flat pieces like plates.
Mochaware continued to be made by his Adams cousin, William Adams (1748-1831) of the Brick House, Burslem who started a large new factory at Sneyd Green, Cobridge Hall in 1770 and remained here until 1831. Burslem was the center and principal seat of the Potteries in the seventeenth century. It was still being made in the Adams factory as late at 1903.
Brick House Works
Mochaware was also made in other British factories, among them Bristol and in the Cambrian Pottery in Swansea, South Wales Pottery at Llanelly, Leeds and Hull in Yorkshire, and in Glasgow, Scotland where the common drinking cups, bowls, and mugs were made as early as 1823. The grounds were usually brown, green, or yellow decorated with ornamental rings. Mochaware in classical shapes and distinctive greens and yellows was also made in four French factories after a group of English potters emigrated across the Channel in the early 1800's. A fair amount of French mocha was exported to Louisiana. However, it did not appear in America until later.
Fragments of pieces dug up at the Cambrian Pottery include marbled designs with colored slips, mugs and jugs with lines and bands of color and impressed bands, a pattern with crude stars and wavy lines, and the seaweed pattern. The pieces are seldom marked, but jugs and mugs have been found with a raised crest with a crown and plumes and the word "Imperial" impressed made about 1834.
William Adams business card, used 1787-1805
One of the earliest mentions of mocha ware in America was an invoice dated 22 June 1797 for the wares being "ship'd by Messrs Rathbone, Hughes & Duncan of Liverpool & consigned to Messrs Cuttler & Armory of Boston on the Account and Risque of Wood & Caldwell of Boston" This invoice includes the following:
The Bastile, Brick Chainban and F. Grey refer to slip decorated patterns.
Here are a few other mentions of mochaware in colonial newspapers:
The Boston Daily Advertiser in 1815: "53 doz. Moco Bowls, 24 doz. check do, 23 doz. Painted do-B & G edged dishes. 21 Moco Mugs, 18 doz. Pitchers various patterns; gold neck Landscape, Hunting, Fluted gold Lions-Blue printed Turkish & Roman patterns."
The Boston Daily Advertiser on January 19, 1816, Blake and Cunningham have the following notice: "C.C. Dishes, plates flat & soup Bowls, Moco Mugs, Salad bowls, chambers. Also an assortment of fine Blue printed ware. Hunting Jugs."
The New York Commercial Advertiser, January 2, 1823, Wm. M. Shirley advertises: "10 crates new chequ'd or dipt bowls and jugs."
A notice appears on August 2, 1823 which actually gives the name of a maker of Mocha ware and associates the ware with other wares made at the same time.
Andrew Stevenson, 58 Broadway (Cobridge 1808-29)
The New York Commercial Advertiser for May 30, 1825, the following notice appears: "8 crates C.C. Chambers, filled with Mocho Bowls." And in the same newspaper on June 28: "Mocha and green banded Jugs and Mugs," and on August 13 the same firm, Fish and Grinnell, advertise:
"Mocho, Marble, and Fancy Jugs, Mugs, Cups and Saucers, Bowls, Teapots, Sugar Boxes and Milk Jugs."
By 1850's mocha ware was being made in America by Edwin Bennett of the Bennett Pottery Company (1846-1936) in Baltimore, Maryland and in factories in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Archaeological excavations continue to provide a wonderful glimpse into the manufacture of mochaware.
In 1852, Charles Dickens, visited the Copeland Pottery Works at Stoke-upon-Trent in Staffordshire, England and described the process: "For (says the plate) I am well persuaded that you bear in mind how those particular jugs and mugs were once set upon a lathe and put in motion, and how a man blew the brown color (having a strong natural affinity with the material in that condition) on them from a blow pipe as they twirled ; and how his daughter, with a common brush, dropped blotches of blue upon them in the right places; tilting the blotches upside down, she made them run into rude images of trees, and there and end."
Classifications of Decoration
Often the same article has several types of decoration combined, such as tree and cat's-eye, or twig and cat's-eye, or tree and rope. Many pieces have a combination of impressed and painted horizontal bands as their only decoration.
Patterns were made on Mocha ware by the following process. The thrower or man at the potter's wheel first formed the vessel by hand, after which it was sent to the turner, who put it on the lathe and shaved the surface smooth or often gave it a pattern with the engine turning process; the white parts were thus tooled or turned out. The ground color or tint was then blown on the article from a bottle or atomizer by the turner, and while the surface was still wet, the piece was handed to an assistant, who placed it top downward and with a camel's-hair brush or feather or sponge, dipped into a prepared color solution composed of tobacco, turpentine, and acid, then touched the top of the moist zone so that the pigment flowed down and spread out in delicate mosslike tracery. This is the ingenious process that produced the curious arborescent effect and explains the seaweed and tree patterns. Some are set against a background of blue and pink tints that suggest the silhouette of trees against a winter sunset, and we wonder if the potter had some such impressionistic idea in mind. Rings of colored slip were trailed on from a vessel with a spout while the piece turned on the lathe.
British pearlware mochaware dipped fan pattern pepper pot, ca. 1820. Of baluster form, banded in dark brown with three dark brown, rust, tan, and white fans on a butternut slip field, 4 1/2" high. Sold at Northeast Auctions 10/26-28, 2010 for $12,180
Additional Decorations Uses
Since mochaware almost never have maker's marks, they are difficult to date accurately. Knowing a few simple facts may help with the identification of mochaware.
The earliest mocha was made of caneware, a tan clay made by Wedgwood that didn't take a shiny glaze. Most examples of mocha-type decoration made before 1830, are found on creamware, a light-bodied English earthenware covered with a tin-oxide slip glaze, or pearlware, creamware with cobalt added to the glaze for whiteness. When pearlware went out of fashion around 1830, mocha decoration was applied to yellow ware, a type of earthen ware underglazed in a yellow slip varying from a warm pumpkin to a dull tan color, with a clear overglaze.
American-made mocha is murkier, both as to information and in appearance. American potteries weren't industrialized until the middle of the nineteenth century and by then mocha designs were well past their peak of virtuosity. American mocha was made of buff-colored clay or yellowware, usually with a standard band of seaweed, or a looping "worm." It's known to have come from factories in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, (Brockville Works) and Virginia (the Shenandoah Pottery), and Baltimore, Maryland (Bennett Pottery Company).
Creamware and pearlware look and feel more refined. They have a brilliant glaze, the best color, the most interesting designs, and are generally the collectors' choice. American mocha is not in the same league with the best English and French mochaware. It also tended to become rather heavy and thick walled and appeared to be not as finely executed as the earlier mochaware. The handles of most specimens are almost always white with a plain but graceful curvature. Pitchers frequently have molded spouts and handles with nicely molded foliate terminals. Other wares are decorated with applied molded sprigs or medallions in addition to the colorful slip decoration.
British pearlware dipped fan pattern porringer, Shillinavogy Townland County Antrim, Northern Ireland, ca. 1830, Sold at Northeast Auctions 10/26-28, 2010 for $7,424
Beginning production dates for certain types of decorations have usually been determined from tools used in producing the designs or descriptions in dates potter's records. For the collector, here are a few important clues to help you date the piece:
Typical mochaware forms
Mocha decoration has been found on a wide variety of forms, most of them hollow pieces. Mugs and bowls are most common, but mustard pots, vases, cups and saucers, teapots, pepper pots, open salts, shaker, jugs, and beakers are also known. Flat pieces like plates and saucers are extremely rare. Perhaps the most popular article made in Mocha ware is the mug. Mugs are of various sizes, from the large heavy tavern size almost 9 inches in height to the small child's mug. Handles are simple curves, but usually there is a foliation where the handle joins the body of the mug. Many mugs have engine-turned geometric designs. The most refined articles of Mocha ware are the coffeepots or teapots, the cups and saucers-which are very rare, the covered sugar bowls, and the covered urns. These articles have molded detail on their handles and the finials of the teapot and the urn covers are molded flowers. Some Mocha urns have molded lions' heads as handles.
Mocha pitcher, 19th century with cat's eye and navy blue decorations, 6 3/4" high, sold at Pook and Pook 1/16/2010 for $11,700
The subtle coloring of Mocha appeals to the artist and collector.It is low in color intensity, colors like buff, olive green, chocolate, and terra cotta predominating. These colors are given character by the use of contrasting black and white and strong intense blue and orange. Perhaps the dull greens are the most beautiful, although the pieces with trees silhouetted against blue and rose washes on a tan ground have a special aesthetic value.
Mocha pepper pot, 19th century with blue and brown bands, 4 3/4" high, sold at Pook and Pook 10/3/09 for $1,755
Since Mocha ware was made as recently as the early 20th century, the collector must be careful in his choice of pieces for his collection. If he does not have that rare ability of "feeling" the age of an antique, each piece should be analyzed carefully before buying. Shapes and tooling vessels indicate age. Thinner weights are earlier than heavier pieces. The earlier samples had simpler contours. Fine coloring usually dates earlier than cruder colors and is also rarer. Pieces with refinements of decoration on the spouts and handles are a clue to better workmanship and to an earlier date. Cups and saucers, plates, and porringers are rare in form. Even though the porringer we have pictured in our article has chips at the rim, it is the highest valued piece shown.
Source: Research & text by Bryan Wright
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