LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

Wedgwood pottery in a display case

Figure 9. This Wedgwood pottery was manufactured from North Carolina white clay. (Photograph by the author. More about the photograph)

Figure 9 shows an example of one of the well-documented cases in which the British colonial economic policy was applied in North Carolina. In 1767, the famous English pottery manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood sent a representative to North Carolina to obtain a supply of unusual white clay from Macon County that the Cherokee owners of the deposit called “unaker.” We, and presumably Wedgwood as well, know the material as kaolin — the very pure white clay Wedgwood used to make the white designs on his famous blue pottery called Jasperware.

Eventually, five tons of the material was shipped back to England, where Wedgwood found it to be better than local Cornish clays. Although they tried several times to develop an effective import system to get this clay to England in large quantities, the logistics proved impossible, and the scheme was given up. Figure 9 shows an example of the type of pots made by Wedgwood, and tells the story of this failed attempt to follow the dictates of British colonial economic policy.