White ironstone china as we know it was first patented in 1813 by Charles James Mason in Staffordshire, England. It was an improved china harder than earthenware and stronger than porcelain. Mason's patent lasted only fourteen years, and by 1827 a number of other potters had already experimented with his formulas. All of these wares were decorated with transfer patterns or brush-stroke designs. Occasionally an undecorated piece would find its way out of the factory, possibly because it was flawed in some way.

In the 1840's, England began exporting the undecorated wares to the American and Canadian markets. The English potters discovered that the "Colonies" preferred the unfussy plain and durable china. Late in the 1850's and into the 1860's huge quantities of china were sold to the agricultural communities and called "thrashers' ware." These dinner, tea and chamber sets were embossed with wheat, prairie flowers and corn in order to appeal to the farmers, who had to feed all the people that helped with the harvest. Little of this plain embossed white ironstone could be found in England until just recently when a staff member of the City Museum and Art Gallery of Stoke-on-Trent visited the U.S. He purchased several pieces which now reside in the Museum. This is obviously an oversimplification of the history of English white ironstone in America. There is also the advent of American ironstone manufacture but that's another story. WICA's newsletter, WHITE IRONSTONE NOTES, will cover this history and all the patterns and pieces as we go along. Won't you join us on this journey of discovery?

This is an invitation to become a member of an association of people interested in white ironstone china The association is an outgrowth of informal gatherings of collectors and dealers that took place in New England and New York over many years. Jean Wetherbee, author of WHITE IRONSTONE: A COLLECTOR'S GUIDE, has been active on the steering committee and is a charter member. Our aim is to add to the study, history and pleasure of collecting white ironstone china.

The association publishes a quarterly newsletter called WHITE IRONSTONE NOTES. Each issue usually features a "Pattern Profile" of one particular Shape and an interview with the collectors. One special or unusual piece of ironstone is showcased each issue. There have also been features on mugs and teapots covering many Shapes. These articles are regularly updated as we get new pictures and information from our members. This is an invaluable resource for collectors. News items, regional news, articles on the care and cleaning of ironstone, letters to the editor and how to photograph ironstone are among other features. The newsletter has a "Spare Parts" section which allows members, without charge, to list unmatched tops and bottoms in hopes of making marriages. Back issues of White Ironstone Notes are available to members of WICA for $7.50 each. Each year the Association has a convention for WICA members. This is an opportunity to show or sell or buy white ironstone, meet old friends and make new ones. There is also a white ironstone exhibit and a guest speaker. For those who can not travel great distances to the national convention, there are regional districts and activities. If all this sounds like something you are interested in being involved with, please fill out and send the application form.

Kenneth Jennings Wooster
27 Abdallah Avenue Cortland,
NY 13045-3302