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Monday, October 12, 2009

Andrew Duche, Cherokee Clay Maker

During the 1730s an alchemist working in Meissen, Germany, discovered the ingredients to make hard-paste porcelain similar to that of the Chinese, Kaolin and Petunse. To create the porcelain, high heat is necessary. Andrew Duche learned  the process from his father, a London-born saltglaze potter of the French Hugenot heritage who'd immigrated to Philadelphia in 1700. About 1733, Andrew and his wife Mary removed to Charleston, South Carolina to start his own pottery business but had little success there, so removed to New Windsor, South Carolina, locating in the center of the lucrative Cherokee trade. The Cherokees had a fine white clay they called unaker and used it to make pipes. Andrew recognized it as kaolin.  It was General James Oglethorpe who lured Andrew to bring his craft to the new colony of Georgia, giving him land in Savannah and #230 pounds to get started.  Oglethorpe wrote London that "clay had been found here that a Potter has bak'd into China Ware."  Georgia's trustee, the Earl of Egmont, sent Duche samples of Chinese porcelain to use as models which resulted in Duche asking for a patent for his high-quality saltglaze stoneware and earthenware. When Duche delayed  sending samples to Egmont, the patent was withheld. Duche was in Georgia during the early years of extreme hardship and he became one of the malcontents who complained about the way that the trustees were managing the colony.  During the summer of 1742 when Duche sailed to London and showed his samples to the Earl, he delivered a long letter to the trustees rehashing his complaints. When Duche returned to America he shipped Cherokee clay to England and engaged in Indian trade. Later, he was a land speculator in Norfolk, Virginia.  He later removed to Charleston, South Carolina where slavery was permitted. During the 1760s he went to Bath, England to take the hot mineral baths to cure an illness of his wife, but she died there. In 1769 he announced in the Virginia Gazette "I intend to leave this colony soon, for some time."  Samples of this porcelain have been discovered in flea markets with the mark "AD".

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