Union Porcelain Works Figure Group


This parian, or unglazed porcelain, figure group was made around the 1880s by Union Porcelain Works of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York. The firm was established around 1861 by Thomas Carll Smith (1815-1900), a successful business man; banker; and the President of the Georgia Alabama Investment and Development Company, involved in such concerns as local railroad building. Union Porcelain Works produced electrical insulators and porcelain house trimmings, but found its greatest success in fine porcelain dining and decorative wares. The company operated until about 1922, making it one of the longest operating porcelain factories in the United States.

The statuette consists figure whih seems to represnt a male caucasian wearing a Liberty cap seated beside a large eagle in a nest, seeming to hold down a figure that appears to represnt an

African American male. A third figure that appears t orepresent a Chinese male is either attempting to climb into or is falling from the nest. No documentation has been found to shed light on the meaning of this startling figure group, or to suggest why or for whom it was made.

Large numbers of Chinese immigrants began moving to the eastern United States in the 1870s. By 1880, a local newspaper estimated that 1,000 Chinese lived in Brooklyn, where the Unions Porcelain Works factory was located, making it one of the largest Chinese populations on the East Coast. While local community response to this influx was mixed, prejudice toward the newcomers was common. It is possible that the quite conservative Thomas Carll Smith responded to the changing demographics in his own back yard by encouraging the creation of ceramic pieces that have negative connotations regarding the Chinese.

Date Made: late 1800sDate Made: 1880s

Place Made: United States: New York, Brooklyn, Greenpoint

See more items in: Home and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass, Art, Domestic Furnishings, Many Voices, One Nation

Exhibition: Many Voices, One Nation

Exhibition Location: National Museum of American History

Credit Line: Mrs. Franklin Chace

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: CE.75.122Catalog Number: 75.122Accession Number: 317832

Object Name: Figure Group

Physical Description: ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)Measurements: overall: 11 1/8 in x 8 in; 28.2575 cm x 20.32 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746a3-d466-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_575396

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.