The excavation of the SS Republic yielded an assortment of toilet wares, the necessities of a previous era lacking the conveniences of indoor plumbing. The collection includes a dozen chamber pots accompanied by two lids, all of which are made of sturdy, white ironstone china. Largely unembellished, most of the pots have molded handles forming decorative fruits and leaves, popular themes suggestive of the American prairies. One distinctive chamber pot features the now faded remains of a gold trim, a pattern present on other toilet wares recovered from the wreck site. The other gold embellished examples include wash basins, a water pitcher, a slop pot and lid, as well as foot baths, soap dishes and tooth brush containers-the latter of which are referred to in period documents as "brush boxes." These decorative pieces were clearly intended as matching sets.
A heavy, thick-bodied, utilitarian ceramic ware, white ironstone china, also referred to as English porcelain, stone china, and white granite, was first introduced by Staffordshire potters in the early 19th century as an alternative to white porcelain; yet without the cost of these finer wares and with the added advantage of greater strength and durability. The Staffordshire district in particular, offered an abundance of clay and proximity to the seaports of Liverpool, Bristol, London and Hull to ship finished wares.
By the early 1840s, America received its first ironstone imports which were soon mass produced for the U.S. market. English potters had discovered that the inhabitants of the "colonies" greatly preferred this unfussy, plain and durable china to more exotic wares. It was an immediate success and public demand soared. Although clay was plentiful in areas of the United States, most dinner and toilet wares, including chamber pots were imported until the late 19th century.