WHITE, JOSEPH, potter; b. 28 Dec. 1799 in Bristol, England, son of Joseph White and Charlotte Somers; m. in England Elizabeth Wilkey, and they had seven children; d. 15 Jan. 1870 in Saint John, N.B.
A potter’s son, Joseph White Jr established a pottery in Bristol with his brother James in 1828. The Whites’ staples were stoneware dipped in a liquid glaze (a process that superseded salt-glazing in Bristol in the 1830s) and dark-bodied earthenware. Their stoneware glaze was of such quality that it was purchased by leading English potteries, including, it is said, Doultons. Joseph White later brought to Canada the formula for this glaze, superior for utilitarian stoneware to the old salt-glaze widely used in North America.
In 1855 White retired, leaving his son Joseph Augustus to manage the Bristol business. Another son, Frederick James, had been attracted to the gold mines of Nova Scotia but returned to England after a visit to Saint John with the news that a pottery owned by William Warwick in Crouchville (East Saint John), N.B., on Courtenay Bay was for sale. Joseph White was then persuaded to emerge from retirement to emigrate to New Brunswick. On 3 Sept. 1864 White, with his sons Frederick and James Alfred, arrived in the province, took possession of the Crouchville pottery, and began a bold attempt to produce in British North America wares that had made them prosperous at home. Joseph White came not as a journeyman looking for employment, but as a master potter, ready to take over an existing business and to introduce into New Brunswick improved potting methods and techniques.
Five weeks after their arrival they had an impressive showing of earthenware, “plain and ornamental,” at that year’s provincial fair in Fredericton. A circular handed out at the fair promised that from an enlarged Crouchville plant would be coming “better descriptions of Ware, as made . . . in England.” Dark-bodied earthenware of “latest English Designs” and “superior” stoneware coated with a glaze “impervious to acids” were advertised in succeeding years. But potting in British North America was beset by difficulties: basic materials for anything but rough earthenware had to be imported; and British ware of all kinds poured into the country, usually underselling what could be made locally, particularly in port areas. The White pottery was struggling when Joseph White died in 1870. Though it survived in one form or another for nearly 20 years longer, finding customers as far away as Montreal for its tobacco pipes, stoneware, and black teapots, bankruptcy finally closed it.
Joseph White’s influence, however, endured. He had brought from overseas the spirit of a more advanced industry, and despite the fact that the Crouchville pottery never knew significant financial success, White established a potting tradition that lived on in Canada. A grandson, James William Foley, founded his own pottery with Samuel Poole as partner; their wares made a good display at the Dominion Exhibition held in Saint John in 1883. The Foleys potted in Saint John until 1964, when fire gutted the plant; the firm, headed at that time by Joseph White’s great-great-grandson, then moved to Labelle, Que.
The White family papers, in the possession of Fenwick D. Foley, Saint John, N.B., were used in the preparation of the biography. N.B. Museum, White pottery, account book. St James Church (Bristol, Eng.), baptismal register, 1799–1800. Daily Sun (Saint John, N.B.), 3 Oct. 1883. Morning News (Saint John, N.B.), 7 Oct. 1864. Morning Telegraph (Saint John, N.B.), 8 Oct. 1864. New Brunswick Courier, 8 Oct. 1864. St. John Daily Telegraph and Morning Journal (Saint John, N.B.), 18 Jan. 1870. Hutchinson’s New Brunswick directory, for 1867–68 . . . , comp. Thomas Hutchinson (Montreal, ), 33. McAlpine’s Nova Scotia directory, for 1868–69, containing directories of each place in the province . . . (Halifax, ), 47. Elizabeth Collard, Nineteenth-century pottery and porcelain in Canada (Montreal, 1967). W. J. Pountney, Old Bristol potteries (Bristol, Eng., 1920).