Potteries of Trenton Society

Mayer's Majolica

Trenton’s Mayer Pottery Company – Arsenal Pottery By William B. Liebeknecht (September 2005)

These Majolica wares were produced by the Arsenal Pottery, based on sherds recovered from ceramic waster dumps located along the Lamberton riverfront, between circa 1876 and 1908. In 1876, Joseph S. Mayer established the pottery known as the Arsenal Pottery on account of its proximity to the State Arsenal. Joseph Mayer was the principal figure within the Mayer Pottery Company, the firm that operated this pottery in the early years of its existence.

The Mayer Pottery looked to diversify its business by making “Majolica and Barbotine Ware vases, jardinieres, jugs and flat ware”. This shift in production emphasis probably occurred in the mid-1880s, since it was reported in 1883 that the pottery was only then contemplating the introduction of majolica ware. The manufacture of majolica was quite rare, the Mayer Pottery being one of only a half-dozen or so establishments in the United States producing this material in the 1880s and 1890s.

Majolica is a soft, low-fired earthenware that typically displays molded decoration in relief. Vessel surfaces are coated with an opaque glaze or slip, and painted with brightly colored lead glazes that accentuate the molded designs. The term “majolica” is a trade name introduced in England by Herbert Minton around 1850; “barbotine” wares are the French version of majolica.