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Josiah Wedgwood was born in Burslem, Stoke in the Staffordshire region of England to Thomas Wedgwood, a potter and the father of 13 children. In fact, his grandfather and great-grandfather had also been potters, while his mother ensured he received an education and went to school every day a full 8 miles away from their home. His father died in 1739 when he was only 9 years old, and young Josiah served as a potter's apprentice to his older brother in order to learn the craft. He got smallpocks at the age of 11, leaving him with a severely disfigured right leg which later had to be amputated. He was more interested in the science of making fine ceramics more so than the industrial production which he found repetitive and less challenging than the associated science and business aspects. He partnered with the leading potter of the time, Thomas Whieldon, in 1754 to establish their own operation in Burslem. He experimented with glazes and clays while at the same time learning how to run and grow a business as a new entrepreneur. His first big success was "creamware", patented in 1763, which was a particular favorite of the English Queen Charlotte. Using this as leverage, Wedgwood asked the Queen to permit him to call this type of ceramic "Queensware", which she granted and he subsequently marketed to profitable effect.

As the Wedgwood operation grew, he always maintained two separate divisions for the design and production of finer quality ornamental lines versus items for everyday use. In fact, Wedgwood was an early pioneer of the "weekly wage" (versus piecework) and of modern manufacturing techniques, employing hundreds of people to perform a specific task as only one step of many along the production cycle. It is said that Wedgwood first used the "clocking in" system for factory workers to monitor his workers and their hours, and he invented the pyrometer which measured temperatures in the kiln. In 1762, Josiah Wedgwood first met the merchant Thomas Bentley, and Bentley took over the marketing of Wedgwood's production. Bentley was an experienced businessman, and he increased exports dramatically which further fueled Wedgwood's growing reputation. Meanwhile, Josiah Wedgwood focused on the technology and science, inventing the techniques to make Basaltware and Jasperware. Black Basalt was first created in 1768 and named after the Egyptian rock, but it was Jasperware which proved to be their biggest success. He had been working to create Jasperware since the early 1760s, but it required clay from teh Americas which became expensive and hard to obtain. Finally, using Barium Sulphate which he could obtain locally, Wedgwood at long last produced his Jasperware, a dense white stoneware which could be easily tinted. Jasperware continues to be the most recognizable of the Wedgwood wares, and blue remains the most popular color today just as it was when Jasperware was first introduced.

To ramp up production, they built a new factory in 1771 named Eturia and built the Trent & Mersey canal with the support of the Duke of Bridgewater to bring in clay from Cornwall and deliver completed goods to the market. By consolidating manufacturing and building a new facility, Bentley and Wedgwood were able to optimize all the latest manufacturing techniques and quality controls and organize labor with a social conscience. They employed many innovative worker relations techniques like tying wages to the skill levels of the workers, and many politicians and world industrialists visited the factory to see his theories in action. Wedgwood also is said to have opened the first true shop for the sale of ceramics, for previously pieces were made custom to the customer's designs. Wedgwood developed entire lines which were marketed through the showrooms, the first of which opened in London in 1774. Josiah Wedgwood died in 1795 and left the business to his son Thomas. This lasting legacy continues in operation today, and Wedgwood remains one of the world's most desirable and recognizable brand names.

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