Josiah Wedgwood

April 30, 2014

Josiah Wedgwood was born to Thomas and Mary Wedgwood on July 12, 1730 in Burslem, Staffordshire, England. He was the eleventh and youngest child of the couple. Early on, young Josiah showed potential at pottery and at the age of nine, he left school to join the family business at Churchyard Works. His father died in 1737 so he became an apprentice to his elder brother, Thomas Wedgwood IV.

(c) Wedgwood Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

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At the age of eleven his health deteriorated after a smallpox attack leaving him with weakened right knee that made work as a potter rather difficult. Unable to work for a while he spent his days reading and researching about pottery.  Some time in his early twenties Josiah began working with Thomas Whieldon at Whieldon’s factory in Fenton Vivian, near Stoke. Josiah’s work with Whieldon was largely concerned with the improvement of ceramic bodies, colours, glazes and shapes.

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By 1759, he ended his partnership with Whieldon and opened his own business at Burslem. In 1763, he patented a gorgeous cream-coloured ware which was highly favoured by the wife of George III,  Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and it became known as the “Queen’s Ware”.

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In 1764, he married Sarah Wedgwood, his third cousin and they had seven children together. Sarah shared Josiah’s broad sense of humor and duty to family. She was intelligent and more educated so than Josiah and she helped him with his business.

In 1789, he produced a copy of the Portland Vase, a blue and white glass vase dating back to the first century BC. It took him three years on the project before he produced a satisfactory copy.

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Sometime after passing the company to his sons, he died at home in 1795, presumably of cancer of the jaw.  He was buried in the parish church of Stoke on Trent three days later.  Wedgwood’s company is still a famous name in pottery today and the term Wedgwood China is often used for its Jasperware which is still common throughout the world.

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