PHILADELPHIA — A colonial-era punch bowl that has been called the “Holy Grail” of American ceramics is to go on public display for the first time in New York this month after its discovery during excavation on the site of the new Museum of the American Revolution here.
The ceramic bowl, dating from about 1770, is the earliest known example of American hard-paste porcelain, a technique that was perfected by the Chinese hundreds of years earlier but which eluded European china makers. Although scholars have found documents indicating that the porcelain was made in America during the Revolutionary period, no such objects had previously been discovered.
“It’s the first physical evidence of what we call hard-paste porcelain being produced in America,” said Robert Hunter, an archaeologist and the editor of the journal Ceramics in America. “I’ve used the term ‘Holy Grail of American ceramics.’”
The bowl was found in 2014 among some 85,000 other items on the museum site. It was initially thought to be stoneware but later determined to be porcelain that was probably made in Philadelphia.
The production of technologically advanced goods like the bowl can be seen as more evidence of the colony’s efforts to become independent from England, Mr. Hunter said. “The making of porcelain in Philadelphia in particular was a revolutionary act,” he said. “It was the American attempt to gain economic independence.”
The bowl will be exhibited at the New York Ceramics and Glass Fair at Bohemian National Hall on East 73rd Street from Jan. 19 – 22. Later, it will go on show at the Museum of the American Revolution, which is to open in Philadelphia on April 19.