Levering and Brothers, Baltimore Importers of English Ceramics and Glass


This little advertising plate was found in the fill of Feature 30, a brick-lined privy that was used by the family of Nathan Mansfield, a Baltimore blacksmith.

This charming little 10-sided plate, measuring a mere 4″ in diameter, was discovered at the Federal Reserve Site (18BC27) in a privy filled with household garbage between 1850 and 1870.  It was most likely a giveaway by Levering & Brothers, located on Lombard Street in Baltimore. This business began as Levering Brothers in 1852 and later became known as Levering and Brothers (Walthall 2013).

The printed text in the well of the plate proudly proclaims Levering & Bro.  as “Importers of China Glass and Queens Ware also Window Glass & Stone Ware at Factory Prices.”  This little plate is not quite as elaborate as a circa 1856 Levering platter owned by Winterthur Museum; it shows a wide range of printed earthenware (jugs, coffee pots, tureens, and a chamberpot), a glass decanter and several lighting fixtures (Winterthur 1956.0015).  These two pieces may have been giveaways to stores who purchased their ceramics and glass for resale (Miller, personal communication 2016).


An advertising platter from the Winterthur Museum collections. Clinton Levering’s import business, also shown as being on Lombard Street, is believed to have preceded that of Levering and Brothers.  This vessel has two small holes along its top edge, presumably for displaying it on a wall.  Winterthur Museum, Delaware.

Ceramics from Great Britain, and particularly earthenware produced in the Staffordshire region, had long graced the tables of American citizens. The two Baltimore advertising plates show that English pottery manufacturers still enjoyed a ready market in the United States in the second half of the 19th century. While a number of pottery manufactories operated in Baltimore in the 19th century, most produced more utilitarian earthen and stoneware, and not refined tablewares.  Therefore, it was necessary to maintain relationships with the British producers of ceramics and glass.

Ceramic importers, like Levering and Brothers, ordered wares they thought would be in demand with their American customers (Ewins 1997, Miller and Earls 2008:70).  Many of these wares would be resold to country stores.  In 1850, Baltimore was the second largest city in the nation, and its harbor served as an important point of entry for imported goods from all over the world.  With three railroad lines running from the city by 1850 and a fourth (the Western Maryland Railway) about to begin construction, it was also a major point of departure for those same goods to travel west and north to eager consumers. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that North American potteries in West Virginia, New Jersey and Ohio began to supersede the British hold on the American ceramic market.


Ewins, Neil.  1997 “Supplying the Present Wants of Our Yankee Cousins …”: Staffordshire Ceramics and the American Market 1775-1880. Journal of Ceramic History. 15 .

Miller, George L.  2016  Personal communication.

Walthall, John.  2013  Queensware Direct from the Potteries; U.S. Importers of Staffordshire Ceramics in Antebellum America, 1820-1860. The Illinois State Archaeological Survey Champaign-Urbana and the Transferware Collectors Club, San Francisco.  Studies in Archaeological Material Culture No. 1.