Elem Historic Ceramics

Stoneware and porcelain items.
Maker’s marks and their period of manufacture.
O.P.Co. (Onondaga Pottery Company) mark.
Onondaga Pottery factory
Hand painted, transfer ware, and decal over glaze pieces.
Ceramic marbles and cat nose.
Porcelain door knob.
Clay beads.

Although historic and recent Euro American ceramics were recovered throughout the project area (148 pieces), most historic ceramics were recovered from the Historic Feature area (see “Elem Historic Features” section).   In addition to typical tableware, ceramic pieces included stoneware and porcelain marbles and other toys, fireplace and chimney brick, English stoneware beverage containers, vases, porcelain doorknobs, and terra cotta flowerpots.

Ceramic items were made of stoneware, cream ware, porcelain, and earthenware.

Though most ceramics were plain white glazed ware, patterns included hand painted, transfer ware (0-305, 306), and decal over glaze (0-36, 182, 278).

Pieces recovered represented manufacture from the late 1800’s through the 1960’s.

A few pieces with maker’s marks were recovered.  Those shown to the left include Thomas Furnival & Sons (0-199) manufactured between 1818 and 1890, Johnson Brothers (0-415) manufactured between 1883 and 1913, Gibson Overseas (0-307) manufactured after 1979, and an unidentifiable “Kingsbury” mark (Godden 1991). 

The “O.P. Co.” mark of the Onondaga Pottery Company was found on one piece (0-172).

W.H. Farrar opened a ceramic business in Geddes New York in 1841.  He made salt-glazed stoneware, utilitarian pots, jars, and bowls known as Rockingham ware.  In 1868, Farrar and three partners established the Empire Pottery Company in Syracuse.  In 1871, 16 businessmen formed a partnership and purchased Empire Pottery renaming the operation the Onondaga Pottery Company (O.P.Co.) after the region’s Native Iroquois Tribe (see historical drawing of plant).  In 1888, James Pass developed America’s first truly vitreous china.   His new ware won the medal for translucent china at the Chicago Exposition in 1893 and in 1895 the words “Syracuse China” were added to the makers mark.  In 1966, O.P. Co. changed its name to Syracuse China.  In 1971, it became the Syracuse China Corp. and in 1978 merged with the Canadian Pacific Investments Co.  Syracuse China bought the Mayer China Company in 1984 and Shenango Pottery in 1988.  In 1989, Canadian Pacific put Syracuse China up for sale and it was bought by the Susquehanna-Pfaltzgraff Company.  In 1995, Syracuse China was bought by Libbey Inc. and still manufactures Syracuse China Syracusethenandnow.org, 2007).

Other Ceramic Items

Toys are not the first thing that comes to mind when discussing ceramics, however, two ceramic marbles and the nose of a ceramic animal vase or statue were recovered.   One marble was white glazed stoneware (0-238) and was likely manufactured between 1884 and 1930 (Webb 1994:19). The other marble was porcelain (0-289) and was most likely manufactured in Germany or England between 1880 and 1914 (Webb 1994:20).  The cat or dog nose appeared to be plaster or low-fired cream ware that had been poured into a mold.

Porcelain doorknobs were recovered (0-165) and suggest late 1800’s house construction.

One bead was recovered that appeared to be ceramic (0-310).

Ceramic Density

The map below shows the density of all isolated ceramics recovered during project monitoring.  This
includes both historic and modern ceramics.  It indicates several areas of increased density.  

The highest density was in the northeastern portion of the property (near the road that leads to a recently used community dump).   Other dense ceramic areas include the north-central area (lots 2, 30 and 31) and western area, which was the location of the late 1800’s village of Elem.

Although many areas of the reservation were not within the project-monitoring zone, it is assumed
that the distribution extends to the lakeshore.