Lecture #5 – Ceramics and the Early American Frontier

Forging an American Identity Through Clay: Ceramics and the Early American Frontier

Guest Speaker:
Brenda Hornsby Heindl, Independent Scholar


If you have questions or comments, please contact our guest speaker,
Brenda Hornsby Heindl at libertystoneware@gmail.com


Ceramics were often used historically to signify wealth, but were also used to forge identities by those who consumed them and made them. Archaeology, probate inventories, and accounts from the early American South reveal that individuals strived to have access to a broad world of goods, perhaps more commonly than previously thought. This includes free and enslaved people and potters of color, as well as a range of economic communities and frontier forts. Even the wares of the potters who worked in early America reflected the consumer interests of Americans, sometimes copying items being imported, or making similar forms and decorative techniques to satisfy their customers. As a working potter, Brenda will also share insights into how even the kilns and materials used to fire the pottery made spoke to the heritage of where the potters came from and the crossovers of cultures we see in pottery production, particularly in the south. Brenda will lead you through an exploration of American life on the early southern frontier through the ceramics being sold, purchased, used, and made, and what those materials told about the lives of the people who interacted with them.


Brenda is an independent potter and scholar of early American material culture with a focus on ceramics. She has worked a number of historical organizations, universities, and museums in Virginia, North Carolina, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. Brenda has published numerous articles, holds a BA in History from Berea College in Kentucky, and an MA in American Material Culture from the University of Delaware. She was also a McNeil Fellow in the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture at the University of Delaware.

This year’s lecture series is brought to you by a generous grant from Virginia Humanities.

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