Pitcher, "Commodore Decatur"

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This transfer printed creamware pitcher is decorated with a portrait of Stephen Decatur on one side and a ship under sail on the other. Commodore Stephen Decatur is depicted in his full naval uniform facing left. Script above his head reads “Commodore Decatur” while below a scroll reads “Free Trade and Sailors Rights.” Below that is the text “Destroyed the Frigate Philadelphia 1814/Captured and brought in the Macedonian 1812.” On the other side is a ship under sail, flying the United States flag, with a scroll underneath that reads “A Privateer on a Cruize.” This pitcher touches upon two of the main issues that led to the War of 1812—Free Trade and Sailor’s rights. Free trade was hindered due to the British blockades of France during the Napoleonic Wars. The blockades prevented the United States from selling its goods to most of continental Europe. Sailor’s right were hindered by the British policy of impressment—the forced recruitment of captured private sailors into the Royal Navy.
This pitcher is part of the McCauley collection of American themed transfer print pottery. There is no mark on the pitcher to tell us who made it, but it is characteristic of wares made in large volume for the American market in both Staffordshire and Liverpool between 1790 and 1820. Pitchers of this shape, with a cream colored glaze over a pale earthenware clay, known as Liverpool type, were the most common vessels to feature transfer prints with subjects commemorating events and significant figures in the early decades of United States’ history. Notwithstanding the tense relationship between Britain and America, Liverpool and Staffordshire printers and potters seized the commercial opportunity offered them in the production of transfer printed earthenwares celebrating the heroes, the military victories, and the virtues of the young republic, and frequently all of these things at once.
Currently not on view
place made
United Kingdom: England, Liverpool
Physical Description
monochrome, red (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, earthenware, refined (overall material)
transfer printed (overall production method/technique)
overall: 8 1/16 in x 9 1/8 in x 6 in; 20.47875 cm x 23.1775 cm x 15.24 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
collector/donor number
Credit Line
Robert H. McCauley
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Domestic Furnishings
McCauley Liverpool Pottery
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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