The tableware shipped as cargo aboard the SS Republic included an assortment of largely undecorated earthenware, a variety of pressed glass, and tin utensils, representing goods produced in Great Britain as well as in America’s burgeoning factories.
Predominant among the tableware category are the nearly 3,000 pieces of white ironstone china recovered. Also known as English porcelain, stone china, and white granite, ironstone was a thick-bodied, utilitarian ceramic ware mass-produced for the American market by England’s Staffordshire potters. It was first introduced in the early 19th century as a cheap alternative to white porcelain, yet with greater strength and durability. By the early 1840s, when America received its first ironstone imports, English potters discovered that the inhabitants of its former colonies greatly preferred this unfussy, plain and durable china to more exotic wares. It was an immediate success and demand soared.
In contrast to the predominantly British-made ceramic tableware, the pressed glassware recovered from the site was entirely of American manufacture. Among the glass pieces are caster and cruet bottles designed for holding various condiments enjoyed in Victorian kitchens, as well as water and whiskey tumblers pressed in the fluted and Ashburton patterns still popular today.