“No Stamp Act” and “America: Liberty Restored” are phrases that illustrate the ceramic teapot recently acquired by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. These phrases are associated with the tax on all printed materials, from documents to playing cards, imposed by the British on the American colonies and served as inspiration for the American Revolution. Made between 1766 and 1770, the teapot boldly proclaims these phrases in black on its sides.
When the Stamp Act was passed by the British Parliament March 22, 1765, it was the first direct tax on the American colonies, and the colonists felt this was taxation without representation. Yielding to the overwhelming response from the colonies concerning the Stamp Act, the British Parliament repealed it on March 17, 1766, the earliest year that the “No Stamp Act” teapot would have made its way to America from Britain. After the repeal, the bells of many American churches could be heard ringing in victory, and many of Britain’s citizens were glad that the balance was restored in relations between themselves and the colonies.
“The ‘No Stamp Act’ teapot allows us to document a significant moment in pre-Revolutionary America and is a rare and wonderful object to add to the national collections,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the Museum.
Research by Museum curators indicates that there are no known identical teapots to this one which was purchased from Northeast Auctions. It is one of three similar teapots known to survive; the other two are in the collections of Colonial Williamsburg and the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Mass.
The fact that the teapot, at only five inches tall, was made in England for the American market to celebrate the repeal of an official Act of the British government illustrates how important trade with the American colonies was to British industry. The teapot, which is illustrated with flower heads and stylized scrolling, will allow Museum curators to convey the connection between home and public life.
The National Museum of American History has one of the most comprehensive public collections of 18th-and early 19th-century English earthenware decorated for the American market. The “No Stamp Act” teapot, along with a pitcher decorated with the 1790 Census of the United States is among the rarest of the collection’s holdings.
The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. Documenting the American experience from Colonial times to the present, the museum looks at growth and change in the United States. The Museum is closed for major renovations and will re-open in summer 2008. For more information, visit the http://americanhistory.si.edu or call (202) 633-1000; (202) 357-1729 (TTY).