Century Vase

Karl L. H. Müller, American (born Germany), 1820 - 1887
Union Porcelain Works, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York, active 1863 - about 1922


about 1876-1877

Porcelain, with bisque and glazed surfaces

Overall: 12 5/8 × 10 1/16 in. (32 × 25.5 cm)

Rim: 7 3/16 in. (18.3 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Purchased through the Katharine T. and Merrill G. Beede 1929 Fund



Place Made: United States, North America


19th century

Object Name

Furnishings: Household Accessory

Research Area

Decorative Arts

Not on view


Impressed on bottom, on applied molded disk: UPW / [eagle's head with S in beak] / incised with what is likely potter's mark on bottom: N; impressed, on side (into tree stump, in historical vignette of man seated on stump outside cabin and holding ax): U.P.W.; gummed label on bottom, with typed dealer's inventory number: FAPG15148D


This is a reduced version of a pair of monumental, more ornately decorated vases designed by Karl L. H. Müller and exhibited at the 1876 Centennial exhibition in Philadelphia. At least fourteen of these smaller versions are known—roughly half in polychrome and the rest, like this one, uncolored and probably intended for a middle class audience. Marking the nation’s first century, the vase features motifs and vignettes relevant to American history: a profile of George Washington, handles in the shape of bison heads, and, around the base, six bas-relief illustrations: William Penn meeting with Native Americans; a settler outside his cabin; the Boston Tea Party; a Native American chieftain in full regalia; a Revolutionary soldier standing beside a cannon; and the less well-known tale of General Francis Marion, dubbed “The Swamp Fox,” feasting a British officer on sweet potatoes (served by Marion’s enslaved servant, Oscar Marion). Such vignettes reveal an emerging national iconography and a self-conscious awareness of defining events in America’s young history.

From the 2019 exhibition American Art, Colonial to Modern, curated by Barbara J. MacAdam, Jonathan L. Cohen Curator of American Art


Karl Müller designed this vase for the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. The Pennsylvania location inspired the scene portraying the Treaty of Shackamaxon just below George Washington’s profile, where Lenni Lenape Chief Tamanend enters into an agreement with colonizer William Penn. The design does not acknowledge that the British colonists and their US descendants broke this and innumerable other treaties with sovereign Indigenous nations. Centered between bison-shaped handles, George Washington’s presence suggests his approval for glossing over this violent history of broken promises.

From the 2022 exhibition Historical Imaginary, curated by Michael Hartman, Jonathan Little Cohen Associate Curator of American Art

Course History

WRIT 5, America's Founding Fathers: Why They Still Matter, Marlene Heck, Winter 2015

Film Studies 42.23, Travelers and Tourists, Heidi Denzel, Spring 2023

History 63.02, Reading Artifacts: The Material Culture of Science, Whitney Barlow Robles, Spring 2023

Exhibition History

American Art, Colonial to Modern, Israel Sack Gallery and Rush Family Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 26, 2019-September 12, 2021.

Historical Imaginary, Luise and Morton Kaish Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, December 17, 2022-November 12, 2023.


Private collection, since the early 1990's; Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, New York; sold to present collection, 2008.

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