- Museum number
Blue glass sugar bowl inscribed in gilt 'EAST INDIA SUGAR/not made by/SLAVES' accompanied by a wooden box (not original but of the period) on four gilt brass feet with hinged lid and two lion-mask-and-ring handles containing three compartments, two formerly lined with lead for green and black tea, the central one for the bowl.
- Production date
- 1820-1830 (circa)
Diameter: 100 millimetres (bowl)
Height: 110 millimetres (bowl)
Height: 135 millimetres (box)
Length: 278 millimetres (box)
- Curator's comments
- From the late 18th century, public opinion began to turn against the trade in enslaved Africans, transported to the Americas to work on huge plantations. Many Britons grew rich on the profits from these plantations. The Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was formed in 1787 by a group of Evangelical English Protestants and Quakers. William Wilberforce MP was a leading campaigner. Sugar was one of the most profitable products of the Caribbean plantations, so abolitionists encouraged people in Britain to stop buying sugar from the West Indies, as a means of undermining the economic foundations of slavery, and to buy it instead from the ‘East Indies’, in other words, south-east Asia, especially Indonesia and the Philippines. The first boycott campaign was in 1791-1792. In 1807 the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act made it illegal to engage in the slave trade throughout the British colonies, but the practice of slavery continued in the West Indies and British slavery was not finally abolished till 1833. So the sugar boycott was revived in the 1820s. A number of abolitionist societies had been established to support the campaign for the abolition of slavery, and objects with slogans such as that on this sugar bowl were commissioned for these societies. Many of those behind this type of protest were women, often in influential households. A sugar bowl for tea or coffee, used in the parlour or drawing room, provided a conversation point. Surviving examples rarely have their lids, always the first part to be damaged, suggesting that these bowls were indeed used. Most such surviving objects are ceramic and date from the second sugar boycott of the 1820s. This example in glass, which lacks its lid, is thought to be unique, although according to the vendor, another may have been in the antiques trade prior to 2002.
For a footed pottery sugar bowl of similar shape with lion mask, rudimentary handles and a conical cover with a blue-grey glaze, height 6ins, attributed to Staffordshire or Sunderland, c. 1820, see Ann Smart Martin, ‘Magical, Mythical, Practical, and Sublime: The Meanings and Uses of Ceramics in America’, in Ceramics in America, 2001, University Press of New England, Hanover and London, 2001, fig. 22, p. 41: http:// www.chipstone.org/article.php/4/Ceramics-in- America-2001/Magical,-Mythical,-Practical,-and- Sublime:-The-Meanings-and-Uses-of-Ceramics- in-America (accessed 28.8.20). A bone china sugar bowl (no cover) decorated on one side with a slave kneeling under a palm tree and on the other with a gilt inscription: East India Sugar not made/By Slaves. / By Six Families using / East India, instead of / West India Sugar, one / Slave less is required" is illustrated by Sam Margolin, "And Freedom to the Slave": Antislavery Ceramics, 1787-1865', in 'Ceramics in America 2002', p. 88, figs 18, 19. A drabware sugar bowl (cover lacking) with the same inscription as on the BM glass bowl in gold is in the Norwich Castle Museum, illus. ‘Transactions of the English Ceramic Circle’, vol. 20, part 2, p. 337, fig. 19. A further ceramic example, without lid, is in Wilberforce House, see https:// ageofrevolution.org/200-object/anti-slavery-sugar- bowl/ (accessed 28.8.2020), while a lidded blue- tinted earthenware sugar bowl with the same inscription, is held by the Chipstone Foundation, Milwaukee, where it is described as Staffordshire or Sunderland, ca. 1820, see http:// www.chipstone.org/article.php/4/Ceramics-in- America-2001/Magical,-Mythical,-Practical,-and- Sublime:-The-Meanings-and-Uses-of-Ceramics- in-America (accessed 28.8.20).
For further discussion, see Naomi Gardner, ‘Embroidering Emancipation: Female Abolitionists and Material Culture in Britain and the USA, c.1780-1865, doctoral thesis, Royal Holloway College, 2016, pp. 133-37, available online at https://pure.royalholloway.ac.uk/portal/en/ persons/naomi-gardner(93fa8366-6ea5-47fa-b28f- 68bcec4daa0c)/publications.html (accessed 28.8.2020). Gardner notes that in 1830 the members of Birmingham’s Female Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves, established in 1825, were informed that ‘Anti-Slavery China may be purchased, at prime cost, of SARAH BEDFORD AND SON, China Rooms, New Street, Birmingham; and Associations and District Treasurers can have any quantity by writing to HERBERT MINTON, China Manufacturer, Potteries, Staffordshire’ (The Fifth Report of the Female Society for Birmingham, West Bromwich, Wednesbury, Walsall, and their Respective Neighbourhoods, for the Relief of British Negro Slaves, Birmingham, 1830, p. 69). The ceramic examples listed above may be those produced by Minton. For illustrations of 1828 relating to Birmingham’s Female Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves, see Prints & Drawings Department 2006,0929.42 to 44 and 64. See also two trade cards issued by Sarah Bedford & Co., Banks,66.5 and Heal,37.7.
In London, comparable societies included the Peckham Ladies African and Anti-Slavery Association, who had published a pamphlet in 1828, entitled ‘Reasons for using East India Sugar’ (British Library, shelfmark 8155.a.21). They could obtain their anti-slavery ceramics locally, from a certain B, Henderson, who advertised sugar basins bearing the words ‘East India Sugar not made by Slaves’ to ‘the Friends of Africa’ from her Peckham warehouse (Gardner fig. 3.44, held by the Library of the Religious Society of Friends, London, MIC 899/202). The advertisement is also included in ‘Quaker Strongrooms’, a blog from the Library of the Society of Friends, posted 4.2.2013: https://quakerstrongrooms.org/2013/02/04/ goodbye-to-volume-h/. The bowl in the Chipstone foundation referred to above is very close to that advertised by Henderson. Similar ceramics were exported to America: in 1834, those attending the Boston anti-slavery bazaar could purchase ‘beautiful sugar-bowls’ decorated with the words ‘Sugar not made by slaves’ in gilded letters (Gardner op. cit., p.134).
- On display (G47/dc7)
- Exhibition history
2020-2021 Mar-Mar, Germany, Dresden, Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Future Food
- Excellent. The box, however, lacks the lead liners to the compartments and has replacement feet. Its condition is otherwise generally good.
- Associated events
- Associated Event: Abolition of slavery
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number