Ceramics and Pottery

small piece of brightly colored pottery


small piece of decorative porcelain



These pieces of a polychrome (multi-colored) porcelain bowl was discovered at Sutro Baths. It is believed to be Japanese Import, possibly from the Imari Tradition, which was notable for its bright cobalt blue, red, and gold designs. During the late 1800s, Asian Import ceramics were extremely popular with Europeans and Americans. They reflected a growing Western world view that high-class citizens should be aware and educated about other cultures. San Francisco was an extremely trend-conscious young city at the time, and Asian Import ceramics are common at sites across the city from this time period.

fragment of pottery showing pastoral scene


colorful detail of pastoral scene on ceramic



This transferware ceramic vessel depicts an elaborate 18th century pastoral scene….a young gentleman clad in fashionable clothes plays the flute for a woman richly dressed with yellow and red dress, white wig, and fan. "Transferware" refers to a kind of ceramic decoration that developed in England in the 1700s that used inked designs to transfer images onto unglazed ceramics. Previously, workers hand-painted designs onto ceramic vessels, either before or after the pieces were fired. The process was time consuming and did not produce standardized results. Transferware revolutionized the ceramics industry because it made creating detailed, standard images possible for a lower cost. This ceramic sherd was discovered at a prehistoric midden at Lands End.

small pieces of brown and white ceramics



These pieces of brown-on-white transferprint ceramic form part of a saucer or cup. Although the piece is believed to be manufactured in England or the United States, it is decorated to reflect an Asian theme. The interior is decorated with a band of repeating decorative panels, floral tableaus with bamboo and cherry or plum blossom alternating with scenes of ships and rocky shores. The exterior is decorated with larger sprigs of blossoms and leaves, surrounding a scalloped panel of maritime scene with a junk style ship on ocean with rocky shore. Western-made copies of Asian style ceramics were popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. These sherds were recovered from Merrie Way Stands, a popular food and goods concessionaire at the amusement park above Sutro Baths.


Please visit the park's Artifacts and Collection page.

Please visit the park's Archeology at Golden Gate page.

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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