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Thomas Mayer: a very intelligent potter

detail from Arms of State border

Thomas Mayer is an elusive figure in Staffordshire pottery history.  We know little of his early life; records indicate he was born in Staffordshire around 1800[i].  He was married in 1826 to Charlotte Bridges Adams, the wedding taking place in London.  A daughter, Mary, was born and christened in Stoke-upon-Trent in December, 1827.  About that time, and in that same town, Mayer occupied a pottery, “At the top of Stoke, called Cliff Bank, is the manufactory, (now occupied by Mr. Thomas Mayer, a very intelligent potter,).”[ii] It was an old factory, but it was on those premises that Mayer produced the remarkable set of patterns for the American market known by collectors today as the Arms of the States series.

cliff BankCliff Bank Works, Stoke-upon-Trent,

Mayer made both earthenware and china at Cliff Bank, and was still listed there in 1835. In 1836 Thomas Mayer acquired the factory of Joseph Stubbs who was declining business because of ill health. In the same year the North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce was founded, and Mayer paid a subscription based on the number of pottery ovens on his factory, seven are noted.[iii]  Stubbs died in 1837, his widow left her home in 1838 and the Mayer family moved into the house adjacent to the manufactory which was in Dale Hall, a district of Longport, Burslem in the Staffordshire Potteries. Perhaps in his new business Thomas Mayer needed more capital, or more help and he was joined by his brother, 1841 trade directory lists “Mayer, Thomas & John”.  By 1846 Thomas & John were joined by  another brother, Joseph[iv] and they continued in business at Dale Hall as T. J. & J. Mayer.  The 1851 census tells us that Thomas and Charlotte B. Mayer lived at Dale Hall, Sandy Butts in the parish of St. Paul’s, Burslem.  They lived well, their 15 year old-niece Flora Adams was living with them at the time of the census, and a cook, a housemaid, and a footman were live-in servants. We also learn that 50 year-old Thomas, listed as an Earthenware Manufacturer, was born in Newcastle, Staffordshire, while 56 year-old Charlotte was born in London.

delawarePrinted design of the Arms of Delaware
from the Arms of the States Series
Winterthur Museum

 The business continued as T. J. & J. Mayer until the time of Thomas’s death in October 1855. His will, proved in May 1856, left all his personal property including “ all my household furniture, cash in the house, paintings, prints, plate, linen, china, glass, and liquors of every kind, and all other effects which shall be in and about my dwelling house,  and also the carriage and horses …  unto my dear wife Charlotte Bridges Mayer” . He left his real estate holdings to his wife and to his son-in-law John Pike a wealthy clay merchant in Wareham, Dorset, and it was in Dorset with her daughter and family that Charlotte retired to spend the last years of her life.

Thomas Mayer is remembered as a potter who had an extensive trade with America.  He made a great many printed wares with Romantic American themes for the export trade, but his Arms of the States series, made at the Cliff Bank Pottery, Stoke-upon-Trent,  will stand as evidence of his brief participation in the short lived fashion for the rich dark blue printed patterns.



[i] Census 1841
[ii] Simeon Shaw. 1829. History of the Staffordshire potteries; and the rise and progress of the manufacture of pottery and porcelain; with ... notices of eminent potters, [Simeon Shaw]. p.63
[iii] Rodney Hampson, 1990 “Ovens galore”,  Echoes and Reflections, Northern Ceramic Society, pp.73-74
[iv] Williams Commercial Directory for Stafford and the Potteries, 1846,  lists for Longport, “Mayer, Thomas, John, & Jos. Ironstone and earthenware manufacturers”, and lists both Thomas and Jos. Living in the same district.