Ask a Curator – Handpainted Pearlware Chamber Pot

The questions and comments are in. Now here’s some information on our first Ask a Curator object.

(NPS Photo)

This handpainted pearlware chamber pot from Fort Stanwix National Monument dates to c. 1790-1835. 

The exterior decoration suggests that the chamber pot was stored in a bedroom, while the image of Captain Basil Hall on the interior suggests that the owners were not fond of Captain Basil Hall. The practice of including portraits inside chamber pots became popular during and directly following the Colonial period in America, specifically portraits of kings.

Who was Captain Basil Hall?

The best guess is that the Captain Basil Hall in the chamber pot refers to Captain Basil Hall (1788-1841), born in Scotland and employed by the British Navy. Captain Hall wrote prolifically of his travels, including one volume, Travels in North America in 1827-28 (1829), which was poorly received by many Americans. It was widely felt at the time of publication that this work painted America in an unflattering light. While it is possible that the chamber pot could be referring to a different Captain Basil Hall, both the time period and his reputation make a strong case for his identity.

Be sure to check our Facebook page on Friday, April 22 for the next Ask a Curator object.


Noël Hume, Ivor.  A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. Philadelphia:University of Pennsylvania Press, 1969.


About Megan L.

Megan graduated from Boston University in 2008 with an M.A. in Historical Archaeology. While in graduate school, she wrote her master's thesis on 18th-century glass drinkingware excavated during the Big Dig and interned with NMSC for 2 years. Megan has been a full-time employee since February 2010.
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One Response to Ask a Curator – Handpainted Pearlware Chamber Pot

  1. Pingback: Resource: Captain Basil Hall wasn’t loved by all… « Joyful Molly

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