The 1930 Bicentenary Pageant

The Wedgwood firm struggled financially in the uncertain world of the 1920s, particularly in its exports to the USA. In an attempt to counter the effects of the Wall Street Crash in 1929, in 1930 the company held an elaborate pageant to celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Josiah I. At a time when the company was running into serious financial difficulty, it spent £4500 on the various bicentenary events, including a fund of £200 to compensate workers for lost earnings whilst they participated in the pageant. Hundreds f local pottery workers took part in the pageant recreating the history of the area from the Romans to the then present day, including an entourage of people dressed in elaborate Portland Vase costumes.

Josiah V said that the pageant '...was all very good fun while it lasted. It was fortunate it happened when it did. For even while it happened, the ghastly whirlpool of the Great Depression was beginning to gyrate and before long most of the potters were too depressed and too short of cash to indulge in pageants or enjoy public celebrations'.

In the Wedgwood Review of 7 June 1959, Josiah V recalling those harsh days, wrote: '...To the world they demonstrated that the Staffordshire Potters, whatever their failings are certainly neither decadent or dismal, but a warm hearted, colourful, constructive people, with great pride in their work, sensitive and resentful of 'bossing' but very responsive and loyal to good leadership and capable of great things when they got it - and with a deep sense of loyalty to one another…'

Images

The 1930 Bicentenary Pageant, © Wedgwood Museum

The 1930 Bicentenary Pageant
© Wedgwood Museum