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Flask: C.1220-1928

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


Production: Lambeth Pottery (Possibly)



Legal notes

Dr J. W. L. Glaisher Bequest

Measurements and weight

Height: 17.7 cm

Place(s) associated

  • Lambeth ⪼ England

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1928-12-07) by Glaisher, J. W. L., Dr


William IV
Production date: circa AD 1836


This flask depicts the white American actor Thomas Dartmouth Rice (1808-60) in his most famous role, that of ‘Jim Crow’, supposedly an elderly black man. Rice performed blackface and drew on aspects of African American culture, most notably vernacular speech, music and dance. His ‘Jim Crow’ persona was appropriated from the folk stories of a trickster by the same name that had long been popular among enslaved black people. Rice also popularised a traditional slave song entitled ‘Jump Jim Crow’ (1828). However, his exaggerated and racist depiction of the character meant that the term ‘Jim Crow’ was later used to refer to a generalised negative and stereotypical view of black people and was applied to the segregation laws that became prevalent in the U.S.A between 1870s and 1960s. The source of the moulding of the figure on this flask is an image of Rice’s character that appears on the lithograph music cover of a song performed by Rice when he visited England. Rice’s performances had long been popular in North America but he also became well-known in England after performing at the Surrey Theatre, Southwark, London, in 1836, before moving to the more upmarket Adelphi Theatre to perform in a play based around his ‘Jim Crow’ character. A number of flasks depicting Rice in character were made at that time, most probably in Lambeth. Similar examples without the impressed inscription can be found in the Southwark Art Collection (no. CE127) and in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum (no. C.40-2002), who also record a similar flask with a single hook attached to the shoulder, marked by the modeller and potter, Thomas Wetherill of Lambeth. An example with a handle, in the collection of J. F. Mott, is illustrated in J. F. Blacker (1922) 'The A B C of English Salt-Glaze Stone-Ware', London: Stanley Paul & Co., plate opposite p. 116, which is described, perhaps erroneously, as made at Fulham. This is the only known example with an impressed inscription (see below). It may refer to Joseph Archer of the Ship Public House, 32 ½ Gray’s Inn Lane, recorded in the Post Office London Directory of 1843.

People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Upper Part composed of brown dip ( on upper part)
Surface composed of salt-glaze

Materials used in production

buff Stoneware

Techniques used in production

Press-moulding : Buff stoneware, press-moulded, dipped brown on the upper part, and salt-glazed

Inscription or legends present

  • Text: SHIP / GRAY'S INN / LANE\
  • Location: On left shoulder
  • Method of creation: Impressed
  • Type: Inscription
  • Location: On right shoulder
  • Method of creation: Impressed
  • Type: Inscription

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.1220-1928
Primary reference Number: 71613
Old object number: 3344
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Friday 15 December 2023 Last processed: Monday 18 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

Citation for print

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Flask" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-04-16 23:52:01

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