The Material Culture of Tableware is a fascinating and authoritative study of patterned tableware in the US. There were many companies producing thousands of patterns of tableware in the 19th and 20th centuries, but British companies in general and Johnson Brothers of Stoke-on-Trent in particular were especially successful. Johnson Brothers were the primary exporter of British-made tableware to the American market until the 1960s, and their designs were often emulated by other firms. Their buyers included such major US retailers as Macy’s.
The book undertakes a visual analysis of Johnson Brothers patterns of tableware pottery, with reference to comparable designs by other British companies, such as Spode and Adams. It examines how this practical genre reflected the aesthetic values, sense of identity and aspirations of the American consumers who purchased its products. The study also sheds light on British opinions and understandings of American culture.
The book’s chronological organisation shows how tableware designs reflected the cultural developments of American society during the long 20th century. From status-seeking 1890s beaux-arts patterns and the nostalgic historical scenes of the 1930s, to whimsical 1960s patterns and the contemporary motifs of the 1970s, The Material Culture of Tableware tells a compelling story about who 20th century middle-class Americans were and wanted to be.