Founding Fathers

Patriotic Ceramics and Shakespeare in the United States


  • Helen A. Hopkins Birmingham City University & The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust


This essay examines an early nineteenth-century bowl from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust's US collection to explore the ramifications of seeking and finding connections to Shakespeare in such an item. With no direct link to Shakespeare or his works, the bowl illustrates Christy Desmet's concept of accidental appropriation and reveals the ambivalent relationship between US independence and a reliance on the Old World as a source of refined cultural identity that endured for most of the nineteenth century. As this reflects on US annexation of Shakespeare as a symbol of refinement, Shakespeare's cultural capital is also recognised in its manner of arrival in the collection, and indeed, in the desire by SBT curators and researchers to 'find' Shakespeare within it.

Author Biography

Helen A. Hopkins, Birmingham City University & The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Helen A. Hopkins is currently studying for an AHRC Midlands4Cities funded collaborative PhD on "International Responses to Shakespeare in the Collections of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust" with Birmingham City University and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. The project explores concepts of cultural capital, diplomacy, and representation through the narratives of the collection. Helen has a background in English Literary Studies with an MRes (Master of Research) in Early Modern Studies, which focused on maternity in Shakespearean Comedy. Helen is enjoying employing new approaches to her object-oriented PhD and seeing intersections with the skills developed in her previous work.