Saturday 12 July 2014

"Am I Not a Man And a Brother?"

Josiah Wedgwood (Burslem, Staffordshire, England, 12th July 1730 - Etruria, Staffordshire, England, 3rd January 1795)

Many years ago before I threw open my salon doors, I lived for a short time in the beautiful county of Staffordshire. One of the deservedly favourite sons of that area is Josiah Wedgwood, whom we have welcomed before here on these pages. 

The Wedgwood seal
The Wedgwood seal

Wedgwood was not only a talented businessman and inspired potter, he was also a passionate political reformer and was dedicated to the abolition of the slave trade. He first learnt of the reality of slavery from his close friend, Thomas Clarkson, and inspired by the abolitionist cause, Wedgwood produced numerous pieces featuring the seal for the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. 

Although Wedgwood popularised this iconic image through mass-production and wide sales, he did not actually design the iconic image and this honour belongs to William Hackwood, a modeller in Wedgwood's Etruria pottery.

Wedgwood sent medallions to Benjamin Franklin and donated several hundred to the Society for Abolition to distribute, and soon the image became a fashionable statement. It was worn in jewellery, embedded in trinkets or even hung on walls and the image was instantly recognisable, a perfect example of where politics and art met in the long 18th century.


Carol Dixon said...

Wonderful to see a rare reference to Thomas Clarkson. The Wedgwood image is used on Clarkson' memorial in the centre of his home town, Wisbech.

Catherine Curzon said...

Thank you; Clarkson should be more well known!

Antoine Vanner said...

I'm glad to say'Clarkson@ is a not uncommon Christian name in Nigeria.I doubt if one person in a hundred knows of him in Britain but he lives on in Africa. I think he would be pleased.