Josiah Wedgwood (1730 - 1795), the founder of The Wedgwood Potteries, was an extraordinary man and is frequently referred to as "The Father of English Potters." He was not only a potter but was also an inventer, a tireless experimenter, a first class entrepreneur, and possessed a high sense of artistry. He was born into a third generation of potters and had a rudimentary education, knowing how to read and write, since his mother was the daughter of a Unitarian minister. The Unitarians believed in education. He began to work at the pottery after his father's death when he was nine. At age 22, probably with the small legacy his father left him, he went into partnership with Thomas Alders in Stoke-on-Trent. He remained there for two years when at 24, he became a junior partner with Thomas Whieldon, one of the most highly respected potters in Staffordshire. This was undoubtedly a most productive learning period in his life. Whieldon was a Master Potter of Fenton Vivian, and a man of great philanthropy with great foresight. They had an agreement whereby Josiah was able to do experiments and to keep the methods, recipes, and ingredients his sole and secret property. Only the finished saleable goods were for the mutual benefit of the partnership. Josiah kept meticulous records of all his experiments throughout his life.
The Browning-Wedgwood Connection: Robert Browning and his twelve-year-old son, Pen, returned to London after Elizabeth's death in 1861 to start a new life. Julia "Snow" Wedgwood, one of Josiah's great-granddaughters, lived across Regent's Park from Wimpole Street and the church of St. Marylebone where Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning had married. In 1863 Robert and Julia met, probably through Julia's brother. Tragically, the following year Julia's brother died; and Robert, who had suffered greatly after his wife's death, was very compassionate towards Julia. For two years the friendship flourished with visits and correspondence. A crisis point was reached. The exact details are not known, but it is likely that Julia began to fall in love with Robert, but he kept his emotional distance. Julia ended the relationship and kept her dignity. Later they resumed their correspondence but in a cool manner. She found his masterpiece, The Ring and the Book, abhorrent and told him so quite clearly. They never again recovered the previous intimacy.
Sue Anthony and William Dotson: Sue Anthony Dotson grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, and is a Baylor graduate. William came from Jewett, Texas, graduated from Baylor in 1934, obtained his master's degree in 1937, and became an attorney for Atlantic Richfield. Sue and William met at Baylor and married in 1938, but the family's association with the University has continued on through three generations, to their daughter and granddaughter.
Sue Dotson's love of beautiful things stems from her childhood in the Old South where antiques were treasured possessions. She became interested in ceramics, particularly Belleek fine china and Jasperware pottery. The Dotsons spent three years in Washington State where it was easy to drive into Canada where British goods were readily available and duty-free. Sue Dotson had taught history and was soon fascinated by the history of pottery and the story of the great eighteenth-century artist, scientist, and businessman who founded the world famous Wedgwood pottery in England.
The Dotsons Wedgwood collection grew to over 300 pieces over the years; items were added as presents for special occasions, collected from antique shows, or bought at the famous London street markets in Camden Passage, Portabello Road, Chelsea, and Bermondsey. This interest sparked visits to the great Wedgwood collections in the United States, England, and even St. Petersburg, Russia. At the modern Wedgwood headquarters at Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent, England, the Dotsons watched workmen make the famous pottery and apply the intricate classical figures to the Jasperware products.
After her husband's death, Sue Dotson decided to give their Wedgwood collection to Baylor University. The Armstrong Browning Library seemed the appropriate place because of the link between Julia Wedgwood and the poet, Robert Browning. The William and Sue Dotson Wedgwood collection is displayed in the Cox Reception Hall and in the adjoining ground floor hallway display cases. Visitors marvel at the variety of colors and unique pieces that are in the collection.