Isaac Broome: Ott and Brewer’s Ceramic Artist




Randolph, Molly

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American ceramics created before the Centennial celebration of 1876 were largely unsophisticated and liberally copied the ceramic manufacturers of Europe. The American public yearned for European-made goods because potteries in the United States had the reputation of crafting crude unsophisticated wares not fit for American dining tables. Ceramic makers saw the Centennial as an opportunity to change the minds of the American public and the rest of the world; they wished to show the creative force and the skill that could be found in American ceramic firms. In preparation for the Centennial many firms, like Ott and Brewer, hired talented artists to design the company’s display. Isaac Broome, a marble sculptor educated at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts was the perfect person to achieve this. This paper argues that the Centennial encouraged American makers to step out from behind the shadow of European achievements. American potters wished to impress at the Centennial not only for national pride, but to provide themselves with economic opportunities imperative to their success. Isaac Broome was essential to not only the success of Ott and Brewer’s exhibition display, but also in helping to plant the seeds of change that would blossom into a thriving industry. He did this by positioning his country as the inheritor of a Western tradition, as the next step in the progression of European art. In his display, American subjects became high art, their imagery merged with old tropes to create a hybrid of concepts that an American audience would find affirming, and thus encourage them to buy American. Broome was successful and his pieces caught the attention of a national and international audience. The American ceramic industry, over the last quarter of the nineteenth century would thrive and grow.



Ott and Brewer, Isaac Broome, Philadelphia Centennial, Baseball Vase, New Jersey Ceramics, John Hart Brewer