The story of the line begins in 1730 with the birth of Josiah Wedgwood to a family who manufactured pottery. At six years old, Josiah was an apprentice and by 14 he had suffered a bout of smallpox that weakened his right knee. By 1760, Josiah had his own factory and had been experimenting with different formulas of porcelain, clays and glazes and technological advances in the art of transferring designs to the finished product. In 1765 he manufactured a complete set for Queen Charlotte, advertised himself as the “potter to the Queen” and his business took off.
Josiah’s crowning achievement was his creation of Jasperware. Jasper is translucent clay that marries the basalt and Josiah’s original formulas to produce a dense, homogeneously colored stoneware. After more than 10,000 failed experiments with various clays and glazes, Jasperware was launched in 1775 to overwhelming success, especially to his customers in the new democracy of the United States of America. Josiah stated shortly thereafter, “there was no item too rich or too costly for Americans.”
Wedgwood died in 1795 and the business was left to his sons, who, having been brought up wealthy, had absolutely no interest in running it. The job fell to a nephew, Tom Byerly who struggled greatly with the burden of running a business he had little love for. The next 25 years proved difficult for the company and Josiah II took over to turn things around by restoring the formulas and business standards set by his father. Needless to say, constant economic turmoil, wars and growing competition made the 1800’s very difficult and it wasn’t until the 20th Century, under the leadership of Josiah V that things began to improve.
With new, streamlined production facilities, aggressive worldwide marketing especially in America, and exclusive designs, Wedgwood China products began gaining prominence in the industry. In 1966, Wedgwood’s shares were introduced into the London Stock exchange and since that time, the company has been involved in aggressive expansion. The assets of Susie Cooper, Royal Tuscan, William Adams, Franciscan, Mason’s Ironstone, Waterford, and Rosenthal have been merged with Wedgwood to form the Wedgwood group. Josiah Wedgwood I would be proud.