George Washington Tankard

This rare creamware tankard depicts an equestrian portrait of George Washington, made for the American market, probably by the Liverpool-based Herculaneum Pottery Company [1]. A nearly identical pearlware example in a private collection and previously unrecorded appears in Anglo-American Ceramics Part 1 (1998) written by David and Linda Arman in  p. 196, pl. W.10.

George Washington Transferware Mug, Herculaneum Pottery Company, 1785-1790. CG2015004

The 1775 print “GEORGE WASHINGTON, Efqr. GENERAL and COMMANDER in CHIEF of the CONTINENTAL ARMY in AMERICAserved as the original design source for this rare export, which was “Done from an original Drawn from the Life by Alex’r Campbell of Williamsburg in Virginia. Published as the Act directs, 9 Sept’r 1775 by C. Shepherd.” However, the representation is fictitious, and furthermore, no such artist is known to exist. In 1776, Washington himself wrote to Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Reed that, “Mr. Campbell, whom I never saw to my knowledge, has made a very formidable figure of the Commander-in-Chief, giving him a sufficient portion of terror in his countenance.”[2] False representations of American revolutionaries such as this were common in England and Europe before accurate portraits became available [3].

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “George Washington, Esqr.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1775 – 1890. 

British potteries manufactured cream-colored-earthenware, or creamware, as early as 1720, though its popularity expanded once the Staffordshire potter and merchant Josiah Wedgwood perfected the medium in the 1770s[2]. English manufacturers catered to the American market by decorating their products with popular American images and commemorative scenes such as this one. 


[1] David and Linda Arman, Anglo-American Ceramics Part 1 (Portsmouth: Oakland Press, 1998), 196.

[2] Ann Aspinwall, From Revolution to Republic in Prints and Drawings (New York: New York Public Library, 2007), IV.

[3] Aspinwall, From Revolution to Republic, IV.