Visitors to Kenmore’s Drawing Room may have noticed an unusual pairing of glassware and ceramic pieces displayed on the gaming table – a beautiful, air-twist stem wine glass sitting next to a Westerwald pottery jug. At first glance, this small vignette may simply appear to depict a wine jug at the ready, waiting to fill the glasses of those seated for the card game. But a closer inspection reveals that there’s more to the story.
In addition to its delicate air twists and balusters, the cup of the wine glass is etched with intricate designs. On one side, there’s a rose, and on the other is the word “Liberty.” The rose refers to the Scottish House of Stuart and their exiled claimant to the Scottish throne, the Bonnie Prince Charlie. The word “Liberty”, in this case, refers to the Jacobite Uprising of 1745 – 1746, in which the Scottish clans attempted to overthrow the English king and re-install the Bonnie Prince, thereby ending the English occupation of Scotland. The Uprising ended in a bloodbath for the Scottish forces at Culloden Moor, and the Bonnie Prince remained in exile for the rest of his life. The defeat at Culloden ushered in a period of extreme violence and repression of Scottish Highland culture known today as the Clearances. Thousands of Scots were forced from their homes and prosecuted in English courts for crimes against the Crown. Those found guilty were often sentenced to “transportation,” which meant they were crowded onto prison ships and sent to the American colonies.
The stoneware jug is decorated in typical Westerwald-style cobalt blue glaze patterns, with the addition of a sprigged central medallion bearing the letters “GR.” Those initials stand for Georgius Rex, the Latin for King George of Britain, probably George III in this case. Westerwald ceramics produced in what is now Germany for export to Britain in the 18th century were often decorated with the GR emblem in honor of King George. Most British households, including young George Washington’s home at Ferry Farm, would have had a piece or two exhibiting the GR motif.
Both items are included in Kenmore’s furnishings today because fragments of similar pieces were found archaeologically on the site during excavations in the 1990s, so we know that both were used by the Lewis family at very nearly the same time. The juxtaposition of their messages, though, illustrates what a very strange and confusing time the Lewis family were living in. Literally up until the very eve of the American Revolution, Fielding Lewis saw himself very much as a proper English subject. His business relied almost entirely on good relations with English counterparts. He built Kenmore to emulate in every way the proper English manor house, and apparently he owned ceramics that honored King George.
Almost overnight, however, the Lewis’s world completely changed. They were no longer English subjects, but rather traitors to the Crown. Fielding’s income and business were gone, and his very English house was now a liability. Those transported Jacobites living in the American colonies, many of them neighbors to the Lewises like Hugh Mercer, were among those who advocated for war with Britain. The symbols and ideals of the Jacobite Uprising were adopted into the American revolutionary movement. And so our placement of the Liberty glass next to the GR jug on the gaming table is both a wink and a nod to the idea of rebellion hidden in plain sight, and a recognition of the complicated times in which the Lewis’s found themselves.
Celebrate the 245th anniversary of liberty from the King during the Fourth of July at George Washington’s Ferry Farm from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, July 4, 2021! Tour the Washington house, learn about archaeology at Ferry Farm, enjoy a patriotic flag retirement ceremony at 1:00 p.m., interact with historic reenactors, listen to festive music, view living history demonstrations and theatre performances, make crafts, play games, and enjoy other activities for the whole family. $5.00 per car for a combined parking and event admission pass. Advance purchase of parking and event admission pass is strongly encouraged. Visit kenmore.org/events to learn more and purchase pass.
Aldrich Director of Curatorial Operations