The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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John Gerald Potter, 1829-1908

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1829
Place of Birth: Dinting, Derbyshire
Date of Death: 1908.01.09
Place of Death: London


John Gerald Potter was a wallpaper manufacturer and patron. He was the only son of Charles Potter (1802-1872) and Grace Gordon. On 20 August 1851 he married Eliza Adelaide Chapman at Parish Church, Preston; she was the daughter of Commander James Chapman, R.N.. They had 3 daughters and 3 sons, the eldest son being John Charles Potter (1854-1920).


John Gerald Potter joined the family wallpaper manufacturing firm as a partner in 1849. C. and J.G. Potter of Darwen, Lancashire had patented the steam driven, rotary wallpaper printing machine in 1839. This enabled cheap production of wallpaper and was adopted universally by mid-century. The company had begun with calico printing and grew into interests in paper staining, bleaching, spinning and coal mining; by 1865 the company had the huge number of sixty-five block printing tables. At the Great Exhibition of 1851, 'Potters' displayed a range of products and received an 'honourable mention'. At Universal Exhibition, Paris, 1867, a floral wallpaper design was awarded a gold medal.

Potter was a patron of JW, and bought Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl (YMSM 52), about 1865. He also owned Blue and Silver: Blue Wave, Biarritz (YMSM 41) and Grey and Silver: Chelsea Wharf (YMSM 54). When Potter sold Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl (YMSM 52) for a large profit in 1893, JW was indignant (see #05010).

Both Potter and his wife were very active during the Cotton Famine of 1861-5. Potter participated in local politics, standing as Independant Liberal candidate four times, although always unsuccessfully. Through his efforts, legislation was put into operation for education and the regulation of hours of employment for children. Apparently he was a 'very able and public-spirited man, whose every action was inspired by the highest principles'.

Potter lived in Earnsdale, Darwen, Lancashire; Mytton Hall, near Whalley and 2 Ennismore Gardens, Princes Gate, London (in 1884). The latter years of his life were spent on the Continent.


Entwisle, E. A., The Book of Wallpaper: A History and an Appreciation, London, 1954; Sugden, A. V., and E.A. Entwisle, Potters of Darwen, Privately printed, Manchester, 1939; Oman, Charles C., and Jean Hamilton, Wallpapers, London, 1982.