Exhibitions: Visible Storage ▪ Study Center

Water Filter

This unusual object is an early water filter that combined the latest decorative style, Japonisme, with technological advances. Beginning in the late 1870s, artists and consumers in the United States became fascinated with the arts of "the Orient," which had recently been opened to the West. The internal filter in this object was supplied by the Gate City Stone Filter Company, whose advertisement suggests the growing concern for hygiene in the United States in the nineteenth century. Thomas C. Smith was the head of both Union Porcelain Company, which made the porcelain shell, and the filter company that shared the same address in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. The water filter, which would have been proudly displayed in the dining room of a private house or in the office of a prosperous business, was produced during the dynamic tenure of Karl Mueller (1820–1887) as chief designer at Union Porcelain Works. A German-trained sculptor, Mueller was hired to create objects to show at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.