Tea Caddy Maker: Joseph Smith (American, 1731–1777)


American Decorative Arts

On view, 1st floor, American Decorative Arts before 1900

This large tea caddy, essentially an English form, shows techniques more commonly associated with Pennsylvania-Dutch pottery made by members of the Moravian religious sect who settled in eastern Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century. These German-speaking potters applied contrasting coats of slip, or liquid clay, over a red clay body to decorate domestic crockery. In sgraffito, the main technique employed here, Joseph Smith scratched out a design of a tree in the slip. His choice of subject appears to have derived from the raised tree motifs that decorated English salt-glaze stoneware tea caddies. Such imported luxury wares would have resonated with the Anglo-American potter, who made this special object from local materials for his daughter, whose name is inscribed.


Earthenware with white slip decoration


6 3/4 × 5 × 5 in. (17.2 × 12.7 × 12.7 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of C. Sanford Bull, B.A. 1893

Accession Number



18th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Esther Smith (died 1812), Wrightstown Township, Bucks County, Penn., 1767. Emeline Letitia Guild Stevens (Mrs. Seymour Stevens, 1810–1881), Milton, Conn., by 1881; by inheritance to her niece Augusta Roxanna Johnson Griswold (Mrs. Horatio Griswold, 1847–1923), Milton, Conn., 1881; sold to James Terry (1844–1912), New Haven, Conn., October 1884. C. Sanford Bull (1871–1955), Middlebury, Conn., by 1949; given to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 1949
  • American Art: Selections from the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2023), 58–59, no. 10, ill
  • Jeffrey L. Marshall and Bertha S. Davis, Wrightstown Township: A Tricentennial History (Wycombe, Pa.: Wrightstown Township Historical Commission, 1992), 38
  • Handbook of the Collections, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 123, ill
  • Scott T. Swank et al., Arts of the Pennsylvania Germans (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1983), 182—83, fig. 134
  • Florence Mellows Montgomery, "Ceramics, Glass, and Textiles at Yale," Antiques 117, no. 6 (June 1980), 1329, pl. 1, ill
  • Edwin AtLee Barber, Pottery and Porcelain of the United States (Watkins Glen, New York: Century House Americana, 1971), 68-69, fig. 29
  • Edwin AtLee Barber, Lead Glazed Pottery: Part First, Common Clays: Plain Glazed, Sgraffito and Slip-Decorated Wares (New York: Doubleday, Page and Company, 1907), 13, fig. 11
  • Edwin AtLee Barber, Tulip Ware of the Pennsylvania-German Potters (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art, 1903), 108–109, fig. 27
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

earthenware, tea caddies, utilitarian objects


"Esther Smith / Her Tea / Cannister / Sept. ["t' superscript with dot below] ye 6 / 1767 / E Smith," scratched in the slip panel on one side. Paper label found inside the caddy inscribed in brown ink, "This Tea Caddy, purchased of Mrs. Horatio Griswold of Milton, Ct / Octo["o" superscript] 1884 for $15,00[zeros superscript and underscored] she was a daughter of Mrs. Stevens, who was a / descendant of Benj Tallmadge to whose family it formerly / belonged. / J. Terry"

Technical metadata and APIs


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