Potteries of Trenton Society

Isaac Broome: America’s First Ceramic Sculptor

Presented by
Potteries of Trenton Society
New Jersey State Museum
Trenton Museum Society


Saturday, April 5, 2014 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

New Jersey State Museum Auditorium
205 West State Street, Trenton, NJ

Isaac Broome: America's First Ceramic Sculptor

Isaac Broome SculptorThe Potteries of Trenton Society is pleased to partner with the New Jersey State Museum and the Trenton Museum Society to present our eleventh annual Trenton Ceramics Symposium on April 5, 2014. This year our speakers will celebrate the life and work of sculptor Isaac Broome, the first sculptor to work in the American ceramics industry. Although perhaps best known for his famous Baseball Vase, created for Ott & Brewer's display at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, Broome made other models for that display, and he was also a designer, modeler and manufacturer of tiles in Trenton and Brooklyn.

An American sculptor, ceramic modeler and teacher, Isaac Broome (1836-1922) was educated at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, where he was elected an Academician in 1860 and taught in the Life and Antique department from 1860 to 1863. In 1854 he assisted Thomas Crawford with the statues on the pediment of the Senate wing of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, and tried unsuccessfully to establish a firm for architectural terracotta and garden ornaments in Pittsburgh and New York. Beginning in 1875, Broome was employed as a modeler by Trenton's Ott & Brewer pottery. The parian porcelain sculpture he created for their display at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia won medals for ceramic arts. Following his success at the Exhibition and at the Exposition Universelle of 1878 in Paris, for which he was appointed USA Special Commissioner, he was active as a teacher and lecturer and was keenly interested in educational, political and industrial reforms. He also continued as a modeler for potteries in Ohio and Trenton, including the Trent Tile Co. and the Providential Tile Co. in Trenton, producing major work as late as 1917, when he modeled a parian portrait bust of Walter Scott Lenox for the Lenox Company.

The Symposium will open with registration and reception from 9 to 10 a.m. Light refreshments will be served. Lectures in the morning with examine Broome's life and work. After a catered lunch in the State Museum's galleries, the afternoon talks will examine Broome's famous Baseball Vase from many aspects.

This year's keynote speaker will be Molly Randolph. Randolph, who recently completed her thesis on Isaac Broome for her master's degree in the history of decorative arts from the Smithsonian-George Mason University program, will present an overview of Broome's life and work. She is currently the curator of the Old Governor's Mansion at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia.

Michael W. Padwee, an historian and collector of United States art tiles, will examine “Isaac Broome and the Spirit of Innovation and Design in the Tile Industry after the Centennial Exhibition.” Padwee has published "A Field Guide to the Key Patterns on the Backs of United States Ceramic Tiles, 1870s-1930s" and writes a regular column, "Tile Back Views," for "Flashpoint, the Newsletter of the Tile Heritage Foundation" and for the THF's e-newsletter. The talk is posted on his blog:

Ellen Denker will present Broome's famous Baseball Vase as a key document in the history of American baseball and as the first work in American clay officially classified as art. She may be assisted in this endeavor by members of the Neshanock Base Ball Club, a group of re-enactors from Flemington, New Jersey, who will be costumed in authentic uniforms of the late 1800s and who will explain the game as it was played in Broome's day.

The day will finish with a closing reception sponsored by the Trenton Museum Society to be held at Ellarslie, the Museum of the City of Trenton, in Cadwalader Park. Participants will be able to view the Society's collection of Trenton ceramics, including an exhibition case devoted to Broome's work.

POTS has been able to secure a group of tickets for the Trenton Thunder game on April 5 for Symposium registrants who would like to linger over baseball. The Thunder is an Eastern League Class AA Affiliate of the New York Yankees, and has been recognized as the "Nation's Best Franchise" for providing an outstanding and unique fan experience. The April 5 game will be one in the Thunder's season-opening series against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, an affiliate of the Toronto Bluejays. The Thunder and the Fisher Cats finished the 2013 regular season in second and third place, respectively, in the Eastern League's Eastern Division. Those who register in advance will be able to add tickets for the April 5 game to their order for the Symposium. No tickets will be available to late registrants.

The Trenton Ceramics Symposium is open to the public. The registration fee is $35 if paid by March 14. Members of the Potteries of Trenton Society, the Friends of the NJ State Museum, and the Trenton Museum Society may attend for $30, if paid in advance. Everyone who pays at the door will be charged $40. Registration includes all lectures, lunch, and the Ellarslie reception.

A mail-in registration form (pdf) may be downloaded and printed; or interested parties may contact POTS President Patricia Madrigal at 609-695-0122 x 100 or e-mail. POTS cannot take credit cards, but checks are welcome.