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Job & John Jackson (Maker)

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Job and John were the sons of Mary Clews Jackson and William Jackson. They were the nephews of Ralph and James Clews who took Job and John into their factory and taught them the business of pottery manufacturing.  They learned their lessons well, and in 1830 left to start their own company.   At the earliest opportunity John Clews Jackson set off to America to secure custom for their products, leaving Job to take care of the factory.  John took with him some plates with transfer-printed decoration made as gifts to prospective clients.  One such plate was “printed in the light blue version of Florentine Villas … the underglaze inscription on the plate’s reverse … reads:  presented to J. Greenfield Esqr. as a small testimony of esteem from his friends job & john Jackson.”[i]

While some may think they were enterprising and inspirational in setting up their business, their uncles were not of that opinion.  In a letter written on December 31, 1830, by Ralph & James Clews to New York merchants Ogden, Ferguson & Co., colleagues of Mr. Greenfield, they complained bitterly about their treacherous nephews.   They alerted their customers that one of their nephews was traveling “Per the Packet Ship of tomorrow for New York purposely to establish a connexion in our line of business—they have been in our Manufactory under our bringing up, consequently all well acquainted with the names of all our customers, and to our very great surprise and disgrace have sent to each [or] nearly so small consignments of their ware to introduce it. We are not afraid of their doing us harm as they are of no extent. About 25£ to 30 is all they can make weekly. And what business they have to go with the America Trade astonishes us much. Indeed on January 1st 1831, John Clews Jackson, Merchant, boarded the ship St George in Liverpool, and his arrival in America was announced in the New York Spectator on February 18th 1831.  Despite their uncles’ protestations, the Jacksons seemed to have gained the American market they were looking for.  They had taken over the Church Pottery in Burslem previously occupied by John Mosely and “Job and John Jackson” were listed as earthenware manufacturers in Pigot’s Directory of 1830. 

They apparently prospered, and it was from this potworks in 1834 that the Jacksons sent an invoice that is now held at Winterthur Museum[ii].  The document tells us that they had shipped 31 crates to Philadelphia containing approximately 1,220 dozen or 14,460 pieces of pottery.  Most of it was transfer printed in green or blue in Clyde Scenery and Asiatic Scenery, a small proportion of the order was Painted in Colours and some was Blue edged.  It might have looked as if business was good, but the 1830s was a period of industrial unrest in the Potteries.  Poor wages, abuse of payment systems such as truck and ‘good from oven,’ and the restrictive hiring practices of pottery owners all came to a head.  Not long after this invoice was issued there were work stoppages in the north of the Potteries.  These were followed by further unrest as the Union of Operative Potters and the manufacturers Chamber of Commerce could not come to a mutual agreement about pay and working conditions.  By 1836 they were involved in what came to be known as “the Great Strike.”  But even before this time many manufacturers found it impossible to continue business, including Ralph and James Clews, and Job & John Jackson.  By 1835 both companies were bankrupt. Fortunately for the Jackson brothers they had a plan B. 

Conscious of the demands of the growing American market, and with knowledge of the Staffordshire manufacturers, the brothers’ plan B led them to America and great commercial success.  They established themselves, not as potters like their Uncle James[iii], but as retailers.  They set up shop in Water Street in New York, near to the port for incoming cargoes and close enough to the major shopping street that they could attract customers.  They thrived. 

Of Job there are few records.  He became a citizen of the United States in 1844. Mary Clews Jackson joined her sons in New York, living at Prospect Hill Brooklyn, where she died in 1847.  Job’s birth records have not so far been discovered, but from census records we can deduce he was born about 1805. He died in August, 1866 at his home in Jamaica, Long Island, where his widow died in 1881.  There appear to be no record of children and little of his success in New York is recorded.  But brother John Clews Jackson left a lasting legacy.

John had made a number of visits to America after that first commercial venture in 1830. He was back again in 1833 and by 1834 had established a business.  Longworth’s American Almanac published in 1834 lists Jackson John C. dealer in Earthenware & China, firm of Job & John Jackson, Burslem, England. At this time Job was back in Burslem dealing with the brothers’ pottery works and imminent bankruptcy, and a few years later Job left England to join John in their New York business.  Meanwhile John met, and in 1835, married Mary Moore Riker, whether this brought him financial or social support is not recorded but he is reputed to have retired with a fortune of more than a million dollars[iv].  The brothers moved their business a little further north in the early 1860s to Barclay Street, and John C. Jackson was still operating there in 1880.  But he already had other business interests; he was a Trustee of the Commercial Mutual Insurance Company, a director of the Flushing Railroad, President of the National Horse fair and Queen’s County Agricultural fair, and a Commissioner of the Central Railroad Company of Long Island.  As President of Hunters Point, Newtown and Flushing Turnpike Company, Jackson orchestrated local planning and road building.  Under his direction Jackson Avenue [now Northern Boulevard] was built, and named for him.  After his death, in recognition of his civic achievements, the area now known as Jackson Heights was named in honor of John Clews Jackson.[v]

[i] Robert Hunter and George L. Miller, “All in the Family: A Staffordshire Soup Plate and the American Market” Ceramics in America. 2001. Milwaukee, WI.: Chipstone Foundation

[iii] Following the Clews bankruptcy in 1834/35, James Clews travelled to America and established the Indiana Pottery Co. in Try Indiana.

[iv] Obituaries for John C. Jackson appear in the New York Times, New York Tribune and New York Herald on September 19, 1889.