"City of Pittsburgh" Staffordshire platter by James and Ralph Clews, c. 1830-35
The most coveted Staffordshire platter depicting the "City of Pittsburgh," with steamboat "Pennsylvania" foreground and other harbor traffic, this black transferware piece was created in the 1830s by the noteworthy Staffordshire potters James and Ralph Clews.
The brothers Clews found success in exporting stoneware to the American market, onto which they reproduced - in varied colors of blue, brown, black and purple - several images of the newly developing America, largely inspired by the early illustrations of painter and printmaker Karl Bodmer (1809-1893).
Geographical accuracy seems to have been irrelevant to the brothers Clews, as The Point as Pittsburgher’s know it today is indiscriminate in this image, and the hills beyond largely exaggerated.
Despite the late 19th-century novelty of displaying such large platters on the wall like prints or paintings, this piece was certainly used for a Thanksgiving feast at some point in its historical journey, as indicated by the few visible knife marks on this object.
Brothers Ralph and James Clews were born in 1788 and 1790 respectively. The sons of milliner John Clews of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, the brothers began making pottery commercially in 1813 and in 1815 rented a pottery works from William Adams in the Staffordshire village of Cobridge. There they produced the high quality transfer wares they came to be known for, such as the iconic platter “The Landing of Lafayette” and plates depicting Thomas Rowlandson’s “Doctor Syntax” series.
The brothers Clews partnership ended in 1834, after which James Clews ventured to America to help establish a pottery in Troy, Indiana. The pottery works was not successful, and after five years he returned to England.
- Kurt Shaw
Platter size: 16.25" x 19.5" x 1.62"
Condition: Very good, with minimal wear and faint craquelure throughout.