Arsenal Pottery


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In operation

1876- c.1905


Rockingham and brown stoneware, fancy flower pots and hanging baskets, hanging logs, stumps and pedestals, stove collars, yellowware, majolica (Mains & Fitzgerald 1877); Rockingham and yellowware, including tea and coffee pots, jars, spittoons, dishes, bowls, pans, etc., also majolica ware (Industries of New Jersey 1882:178); white granite, decorated biscuit, painted and majolica ware … jugs, cuspidors and jardinieres a specialty (Potters National Union 1893) majolica jugs, Toby pitchers, teapots, plates, bowls, creamers, vases, jardinieres and spittoons (Snyder and Bockol 1994:139; Snyder 2005:42-43)


“Manufacturers of Rockingham and brown stoneware, fancy flower pots, hanging baskets, hanging logs, stumps and pedestals; all sizes of stove collars for masons useÉ Mr. Mayer is the only potter in the city of Trenton who is manufacturing Rockingham wareÉ the original Centennial baseball vase was executed by workmen in the employ of Mr. Joseph Mayer” (Mains & Fitzgerald 1877).

“In the manufacture of Rockingham and Yellow Ware the Mayer Brothers excel É Their manufactures consist of the colored pottery known as Rockingham and Yellow Ware, and include tea and coffee pots, jars, spittoons, dishes, bowls, pans, etc. of superior make and favorably known to the trade of the country. They also manufacture Majolica Ware, and are importers of printed and decorated ware of various kinds. Their premises are 100×150 feet in dimensions, on which is a three-story brick warehouse and manufactory 25×40 feet in size. There is an additional building of frame, two stories in height, 24×40 feet, and used exclusively for manufacturing purposes; two kilns, storehouses, packing rooms, etc. The best of facilities are provided for the work and employment is given to forty-three hands É ” (Industries of New Jersey 1882:178).

“This was established in 1876, by Joseph Mayer. A small manufactory of Rockingham and yellow ware was previously in existence on the site of this pottery, Third Street, near the State Arsenal. The same kind of ware is still produced, but the introduction of majolica ware is contemplated. Thirty hands are employed” (Woodward and Hageman 1883:693).

“This flourishing enterprise was started in 1876 by Joseph S. Mayer, who conducted it alone up to 1879, when the style changed to Mayer Brothers – Joseph S. and James – by whom the business was carried on until 1882, when, owing to the death of the latter, the concern passed again into the sole control of the founder, who, under the firm name that heads this sketch [Arsenal Pottery], has since continued it with uninterrupted success. The plant, which covers a superficial area of 250×300 feet, and has excellent transportation facilities (by P.R.R. and canal), comprises several commodious three and four story brick structures, connected, and is supplied with ample steam power, and completely equipped in every respect with the most improved machinery, appliances, and general appurtenances, including five huge kilns, also a decorating kiln, while employment is afforded to ninety or one hundred hands. The products include majolica and barbotine ware of every variety, vases, jardin[i]eres, and jugs of all sizes, in unique and artistic designs, and a full and fine line of flatware, toy tea sets being a specialty, while a vast and varied stock is constantly carried on hand, and the trade, which extends to all parts of the United [States] is exceedingly large É Mr. Joseph S. Mayer É has recently obtained É five patents, three of which cover the most valuable process of jiggering ware in the known world. It is especially adapted to the manufacture of that class of ware in which the neck is smaller than the middle or bottom part, and formed either with recessed bottom or annular base rim, such as bottles, pitchers, sugars, vases, cuspadores, etc. These it will perfectly form in all their endless variety of internal and external configuration, and unite the ears or handles thereto, without joints or seams, in one simultaneous operation, with marvelous ease and rapidity É The Star Pottery Company are using one of these patent machines for $1,000 per year” (Quarter-Century’s Progress 1887:264).

“The Mayer Pottery Company of Trenton was one of the six firms in the entire country to produce American majolica ware in the 1880-90’s” (Van Hoesen 1973:160).

“The Arsenal Pottery produced well-modeled majolica wares including jugs and Toby pitchers. The company also exhibited their majolica at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. The Arsenal Pottery did not mark their majolica” (Snyder and Bockol 1994:139).

“Mr. Mayer was a native of England and came to the United States in 1865, and secured several valuable patents covering the process of jiggering and used the [sic] manufacture that class of ware in which the neck was smaller than the middle or bottom part, and formed with recessed bottom or annular base rim, such as bottles, all in one piece, having neither joint or seam to crack. This concern manufactured Majolica and Barbotine Ware, Vases, Jardiniers, Jugs and Flat Ware” (Wall n.d.:6).

Selected References

Mains, Bishop W. and Thomas F. Fitzgerald. 1877-1879. “Mains and Fitzgerald’s Trenton, Chambersburg and Millham Directory: Containing the Names of the Citizens, Statistical Business Report, Historical Sketches, a List of the Public and Private Institutions, Together with National, State, County, and City Government.” Bishop W. Mains & Thomas F. Fitzgerald, Trenton, New Jersey.

Young, Jennie J. 1879. “The Ceramic Art: A Compendium of the History and Manufacture of Pottery and Porcelain.” Harper & Bros., New York, New York.

Federal Census of New Jersey. 1880. Industrial Schedules. On file, New Jersey State Archives, Trenton, New Jersey.

Fitzgerald, Thomas F. 1880-1899. “Fitzgerald’s Trenton and Mercer County Directory, Together with a Directory of Bordentown, Burlington, Mount Holly and Lambertville, NJ and Morrisville, PA, Included a Fund of Information Concerning Public and Private Institutions, National, State, County, City and Borough Governments, Gathered from Reliable and Official Sources.” Thomas F. Fitzgerald, Trenton, New Jersey.

“Industries of New Jersey, Trenton, Princeton, Hightstown, Pennington and Hopewell.” 1882. Historical Publishing Company, New York, New York, Newark, New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Woodward, E.M. and J.F. Hageman. 1883. “History of Burlington and Mercer Counties.” Everts and Peck, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

R.G. Dun & Company Collection, Mercer County. 1886-89. 2[45]:743.

Quarter-Century’s Progress of New Jersey’s Leading Manufacturing Centres. Dover. 1887. International Publishing Company, New York.

Potters National Union. 1893. Official Souvenir of the Convention of the Potter’s National Union of North America, Held at Trenton, New Jersey. 1893. January. On file, Trenton Public Library, Trenton, New Jersey.

Secretary of State. 1914. “Corporations of New Jersey, List of Certificates to December 31, 1911.” MacCrellish & Quigley, Trenton, New Jersey.

Harney, W.J. 1929. “Trenton’s First Potteries.” Sunday Times Advertiser, July 7, 14, 21 and 28, 1929.

Van Hoesen, Walter Hamilton. 1973. “Crafts and Craftsmen of New Jersey.” Associated University Presses, Inc., Cranbury, New Jersey.

Lehner, Lois. 1980. “Complete Book of American Kitchen and Dinner Wares.” Wallace-Homestead Book Company, Des Moines, Iowa.

Robinson, Dorothy and Bill Feeny. 1980. “The Official Price Guide to American Pottery & Porcelain.” House of Collectibles, Orlando, Florida.

Lehner, Lois. 1988. “Lehner’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Marks on Pottery, Porcelain & Clay.” Collector Books, Paducah, Kentucky.

Snyder, Jeffrey B. and Leslie Bockol. 1994. “Majolica: American and European Wares.” Schiffer Publishing Ltd, Atglen, Pennsylvania.

Goldberg, David J. 1998. “Preliminary Notes on the Pioneer Potters and Potteries of Trenton, N.J.: The First Thirty Years – 1852 – 1882 (And Beyond).” Privately published, Trenton, New Jersey.

Liebeknecht, William B. 2000. “Joseph Mayer’s Arsenal Pottery Dump, Part 1: Yellow Ware.” Trenton Potteries, 1(2):1-2, 4.

Liebeknecht, William B. 2000. “Joseph Mayer’s Arsenal Pottery Dump, Part 2: Majolica.” Trenton Potteries, 1(3):4-5

Kelly, Henry E., Arnold A. Kowalsky and Dorothy E. Kowalsky 2001. “Spongeware, 1835-1935, Makers, Marks and Patterns.” In: A Schiffer Guide for Collectors with Price Guide, p. 102-104.

Liebeknecht, William B. 2001. “Joseph Mayer’s Arsenal Pottery Dump, Part 3: Cut Sponge Decorated Ironstone China.” Trenton Potteries, 2(3/4):1-4.

Hunter, Richard W. 2003. “The Pottery Decorating Shop of the Mayer Arsenal Pottery Company.” Trenton Potteries, 4(2):1-6.

Hunter Research, Inc. 2003. “Archaeological Data Recovery Excavations and Monitoring, New Jersey Route 29, City of Trenton, Mercer County, New Jersey. Volume III: Historical Archaeology of the Lamberton/South Trenton Riverfront.” Prepared for the Federal Highway Administration and the New Jersey Department of Transprotation. Draft.

Earls, Amy. 2004. “Trenton Sponge Wares of the Late 19th Century.” In “Earthenware, Crockery, & China in America, 1607-present.” URL: Viewed: May 4, 2004.

Snyder, Jeffrey B. 2005. “Antique Majolica Around the House.” Schiffer Publishing Ltd, Atglen, Pennsylvania.

Wall, John P. N.d. “History of the Potteries of Trenton, New Jersey.” Manuscript on file, Trenton Public Library, Trenton, New Jersey.

Other Names

Joseph Mayer's Arsenal Pottery; Mayer Brothers; Arsenal; Mayer Arsenal; Joseph Mayer; Mayer Company; Mayer Pottery Company; Mayer Manufacturing Company

Block and Lot:

Historic Street Address:
Third Street corner of Temple Street; Third Street and Schenck Street

City of Trenton

1880 Census

Name in censusMayer Brothers
Number of hands30
Males above 1620
May to Nov hours10
Nov to May hours10
Skilled wages2.1
Ordinary wages1.25
Total wages in year7800
Full time months12
Value of raw material2000
Value of product20800