This teapot was made in England about 1766-1770, possibly by the Cockpit Hill Factory, Derby, England. Inscribed on one side of the teapot is “No Stamp Act” and on the other is “America, Liberty Restored,” both within flowerheads and stylized scrolling leaftips in black. The cover is painted with a matching border.
Teapots such as this were made for sale to the American market soon after the 1766 repeal of the hated Stamp Act, passed by the British Parliament on March 22, 1765. The Stamp Act required American colonists to pay a tax on all printed materials—from documents to playing cards. This was the first direct tax on the American colonies and provoked an immediate and violent response throughout the colonies.
The Stamp Act and ensuing Stamp Act Crisis were crucial to the shaping of the political landscape in the U.S. According to historian Gordon Wood, the colonists’ response to the Stamp Act emphasized “the suffrage itself as a basic prerequisite of representation—an emphasis that had momentous implications for the development of American political thought.” Wood argues that the Stamp Act Crisis justified the formation of “numerous associations and congresses” and led to an attempt to draw “a distinction between external and internal taxes in an effort to delimit the separate spheres of authority the colonies and Parliament had held during the eighteenth century.”
In addition, the “No Stamp Act” teapot documents the often conflicted relationships between trade, international politics, and global. Associations between England and the colonies were certainly strong, and many British citizens supported or at least sympathized with the colonists. But the fact that this teapot was made in England for the American market to celebrate the repeal of an official Act of the British government speaks volumes about the importance of trade with colonial America to British industry. The experiences of the British pottery industry, as documented by this teapot, illustrate the rapid changes occurring in the international economy of the 3rd quarter of the 18th-century. Before this period, ceramics were imported to the American colonies from many countries—Holland, France, Germany, and China as well as from England. Around the time the “No Stamp Act” teapot was made, England’s potteries were industrializing rapidly, increasing production, lowering costs, and forcing out competition in the American market. But, production capacity quickly outgrew existing demand. The potteries responded in many ways, one of which was to appeal to the American market with decorations that directly contradict British political will.
The teapot also serves as documentation of the intersections between home and public life. In the pre-revolutionary era, the fashionable social custom of taking tea was fast becoming politicized. In her 1961 monograph on tea drinking, Rodris Roth points to the importance of tea drinking to “the social life and traditions of the Americans” as well as to the political, historical, and economic importance that tea holds to U.S. history. By the time the “No Stamp Act” teapot was made, tea was very popular in the colonies and accessible to most Americans. The importance of tea and tea drinking to colonial society is underscored by the controversy surrounding it; in 1767 merchants and citizens protested the Townshend Act which imposed a duty on tea (as well as other commodities), and in 1773 the Boston tea party became a defining moment in American history.
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