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Josiah Wedgwood
Josiah Wedgwood by George Stubbs, 1780, enamel on a Wedgwood ceramic tablet - Wedgwood Museum - Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent, England - DSC09537.jpg
Josiah Wedgwood by George Stubbs, 1780, enamel on a Wedgwood ceramic tablet
Born (1730-07-12)12 July 1730
Died 3 January 1795(1795-01-03) (aged 64)
Etruria, Staffordshire, England
Resting place Stoke-on-Trent, England
Occupation Potter, entrepreneur

Josiah Wedgwood (12 July 1730 – 3 January 1795) was an English potter and entrepreneur. He founded the Wedgwood company. He is credited with the industrialisation of the manufacture of pottery; "it was by intensifying the division of labour that Wedgwood brought about the reduction of cost which enabled his pottery to find markets in all parts of Britain, and also of Europe and America."

The renewed classical enthusiasms of the late 1760s and early 1770s were of major importance to his sales promotion. His expensive goods were in much demand from the nobility, while he used sales effects to market cheaper sets to the rest of society. Every new invention that Wedgwood produced – green glaze, cream-ware, black basalt and jasper – was quickly copied. Having once achieved perfection in production, he achieved perfection in sales and distribution. His showrooms in London gave the public the chance to see his complete range of tableware.

Meeting the demands of the consumer revolution and growth in wealth of the middle classes that helped drive the Industrial Revolution in Britain, Wedgwood is credited as the inventor of modern marketing. He pioneered direct mail, money back guarantees, travelling salesmen, carrying pattern boxes for display, self-service, free delivery, buy one get one free, and illustrated catalogues.

A prominent abolitionist, Wedgwood is remembered too for his "Am I Not a Man And a Brother?" anti-slavery medallion. He was a member of the Darwin–Wedgwood family, and he was the grandfather of Charles and Emma Darwin.


Portland Vase BM Gem4036 n4
The original Portland Vase, British Museum

When he was a child, Josiah had smallpox, but he survived (did not die). The smallpox injured his knee, so he could not easily work as a potter. Instead, he worked hard to design pottery. Working as an apprentice, Wedgwood learned many techniques for making pottery. He used his skills to make one of the first pottery factories, Ivy Works, in Burslem, now part of Stoke-on-Trent.

Wedgwood was very interested in science and technology, and used new ideas to make good quality pottery. He became famous for making pottery for royalty, and became very rich. He spent money on civic works, things that would help businessmen and people in the city, for example canals.

He became friends with Erasmus Darwin, an important scientist and inventor. In 1780, Wedgwood and Darwin became business partners. Wedgwood's son married Darwin's daughter, who gave birth to Charles Darwin. Wedgwood and Darwin were also members of the 'Lunar Society', a group of important scientists, philosophers and businessmen.

By 1763, he was receiving orders from the highest levels of the British nobility, including Queen Charlotte. Wedgwood convinced her to let him name the line of pottery she had purchased "Queen's Ware".

Covered urn with relief portrait of Captain Cook, Josiah Wedgwood and Sons, Honolulu Museum of Art
Covered urn with portrait of Captain Cook, Honolulu Museum of Art

In 1773, Empress Catherine of Russia ordered the Green Frog Service from Wedgwood; it can still be seen in the Hermitage Museum. An even earlier commission from Catherine was the Husk Service (1770), now on exhibit in Peterhof.

In the latter part of his life, Wedgwood's obsession was to duplicate the Portland Vase, a dark blue and white glass vase from the first century BC. For three years he worked on the project, eventually producing what he considered a satisfactory copy in 1789.

Together with his friends in the Lunar Society, Wedgwood worked for the abolition (ending) of slavery. Wedgwood produced medallions asking for the end of slavery. These medallions became very popular. The selling slaves became illegal (against the law) in 1807 in Britain, and having slaves became illegal in 1833.

Wedgwood died in Etruria, Stoke-on-Trent, in 1795.

He was elected to the Royal Society in 1783 for the development of a pyrometer, a device to measure the extremely high temperatures that are found in kilns during the firing of pottery.

He was an active member of the Lunar Society of Birmingham often held at Erasmus Darwin House and is remembered on the Moonstones in Birmingham.

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