research and learning

Did Benjamin Franklin invent transferware?

Erich, Wendy W.

ON 3RD NOVEMBER 1773 Benjamin Franklin (1706–90) wrote a letter to Peter Perez Burdett, a young engraver then based in Liverpool, thanking him for sending his recently produced specimen of transfer-printed chinaware (see Appendix below). 1 Following words of appreciation and encouragement for the china, the elder statesman then makes an astonishing claim that he himself had pursued his idea for transferring pictures to pottery more than twenty years earlier, only to be laughed at by the English pottery trade. The invention of transferware pottery has been subject to academic dispute, but credit was ultimately bestowed on John Brooks as the creator and John Sadler, of Sadler & Green, Liverpool,as the developer of the transfer-printed style that revolutionised the surface decoration of ceramics for the following two hundred years. 2 However, the importance to ceramic history of this 1773 letter written by Franklin has been overlooked.

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