The present tiny teabowl has only recently been identified as an example of the earliest porcelain made in Colonial America.
Printed with Chinoiserie vignettes that mysteriously include palmetto trees, it can be confirmed through archaeological evidence and scientific analysis of the clay to have been made at the factory operated by the Staffordshire potter John Bartlam at Cain Hoy, outside of Charleston, South Carolina 1765-1770.
Three other such teabowls are known, two in public collections, the third in a private collection, the decoration on all corresponding exactly to sherds found at Cain Hoy in what has now been identified as the kiln site for Bartlam's short-lived factory. The first to be so identified was acquired by the Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee, its existence confirming the Bartlam attribution of all four. Its attribution and acquisition was heralded by Robert Hunter in his article for the January/February 2011 issue of The Magazine Antiques and subsequently celebrated at the November 2011 meeting in Milwaukee of the American Ceramics Circle. Another was sold to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the Fall of the following year [2012-77-1].
Little but the basics outlined in the 2007 edition of Ceramics in America and in Robert Hunter's article for The Magazine Antiques is known about John Bartlam, the master potter from Staffordshire who came to South Carolina circa 1763 to start a factory using light quality local raw materials. Pottery was first produced, then soft paste porcelain. In 1770, he moved production from Cain Hoy to the city of Charleston. By 1773, the factory closed and Bartlam returned to England.
It is interesting that all four extant examples of Bartlam's work originated in English collections, the present example and that acquired by the Philadelphia Museum with the same dealer. It is likely that these two examples were together since they were made in the eighteenth century and not impossible that the Chipstone example or the example in a private collection shares this provenance, as the dealer sold three at the fair as examples of Isleworth porcelain, an attribution now disproved by the excavation at Cain Hoy.