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During the 1800ís in Staffordshire England, in an effort to cut costs and increase business, many porcelain manufacturers and potters were trying to find a substitute for porcelain. Porcelain at the time was both expensive and hard to export because of breakage. It was also difficult to mass produce the beautiful porcelain pieces of the time. So the quest for many of the potters was to find a substitute that was easily mass produced to cut costs and to find a durable substitute for porcelain, which could be easily exported to Australia and the new colonies in the United States.
In 1813, a potter named Charles James Mason patented the formula for ironstone, which contained the mineral feldspar, and was pure white when used in the manufacturing process, thus the name white ironstone as some of you might know it. Charles James Mason was of course the son of Miles Mason who owned a pottery company at Lane Delph near Staffordshire. This company became known as the Minerva Works. The patent ran out in the late 1820ís and other manufacturers and potters began to either use the old formula or to experiment with other formulas.
By the mid-1800ís, the English companies had succeeded in both finding a durable product and being able to export it to the new land. The white ironstone china and dinnerware was very popular with the Americans because it was both simple and utilitarian. Some of the ironstone china sold here was embossed with wheat, flowers or corn decorations, which may have also made them more appealing. These products were especially sought after by the expansionist settlers that moved west across the country.
Many of the examples that we find today were made by big time companies including Wedgewood, Minerva, Fenton Works and Spode. Interestingly enough, Charles James Mason married Josiah Spodeís daughter and as such he became an owner of the Spode factory in Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, which was later sold to Josiah Spode I. Charles James Mason died in 1856.
Josiah Spode I was born in 1733 but was not actually the first as his father was also known as Josiah Spode. His father had worked with Charles James Mason in the early 1800ís to help build up production in the ironstone factories of the time. Having come from that lineage helped him get on as an apprentice with Thomas Wieldon, also known as one of the best potters of the time. Additionally, he spent a lot of time learning the business end of the trade from other potters in the Staffordshire area and in 1770, Josiah Spode I founded Spode Works.
One of the smartest business decisions that he made at the time was opening a warehouse and showroom in London. The showroom attracted and served some of Englandís high society people and the wealthy. Not only was his showroom a great place to sell his wares, but it also served as an intelligence base, where he could learn what his clients and would be clients were actually looking for in china, porcelain and pottery. This intelligence is probably the biggest reason for their success and why they are still around today.