Albert Hastings Pitkin.

Early American folk pottery, including the history of Bennington pottery online

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BY



ALBERT HASTINGS PITKIN

Curator of Wadsworth Atheneum and Morgan Memorial Hartford Conn.

Member of the Connecticut Historical Society

Member of the Walpole Society

Member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants

in the State of Connecticut



HARTFORD CONNECTICUT
MDCCCCXVIII



COPYRIGHT

BY

Mrs. Albert Hastings Pitkin



This Edition is limited to Two hundred and Sixty
copies of which this is No.



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List of Illustrations (Bennington) 7

Preface ll

History of the Bennington Pottery 15

Catalogue of Bennington Pottery 5°

Marks of Bennington Pottery 69

List of Illustrations (Early American Folk

Pottery) 77

Introduction 79

Early American Folk Pottery 79

Catalogue of Early American Folk Pottery 115
Tributes and Resolutions on the Death of

Mr. Albert Hastings Pitkin 129

Index J 46



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No. i.

Grave-stone in Old Bennington Grave-
yard, of Captain John Norton, the
Pioneer Potter 16

No. 2.

Group of Granite Ware (left) and
Parian (right) Water Pitcher, First
Parian Ware made in the United States.
Marked: " United States Pottery, Ben-
nington, Vt.," circa 1846. Height, 9
inches.

Granite Ware Water Pitcher, Dark Blue
under glaze and heavy Gold decoration.

Height, 9^ inches 18

No. 3.

Group of Pitchers (from left to right).
Pitcher, green, light yellow and brown.
Height, 7 inches.

Pitcher, light green and yellow.
Height, 7^ inches.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



Pitcher, dark brown, marked: " Norton
and Fenton, Bennington, Vt." in a
circle. Rockingham. Height, 8
inches.
Pitcher, brown glaze. Marked: "Nor-
ton and Fenton, East Bennington,
Vt." in two horizontal lines. Height,
6y2 inches. Extremely rare.
Pitcher, decoration, dark blue, yellow,
green, brown and orange. Mark:
" Lyman and Fenton, Bennington,
Vt., 1849 " m usual circular mark.
Flint enamel. Height, 6 inches. ... 20
No. 4.

Group of Flint Enamel.

Pitcher, brown glaze, reeded. Im-
pressed mark in a circle, " Norton
and Fenton, Bennington, Vt."
Height, 8 inches.

Covered Jar, reeded. Height, 9
inches.
Pitcher, dark brown Hunting Scene.
Flint enamel. Height, 7 inches ... 22
No. 5.

Large Water Cooler 24

No. 6.

Group of Flint Enamel.

Coffee-pot, Tea-pot, Creamer and

Sugar Bowl 26

No. 7.

Flint Enamel Foot Bath. Large elliptical

mark. Diameter, 21 inches 28

No. 8.

Pitcher, hound handled. Decoration,
Grapes and Leaves. Rockingham.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



Water Pitcher. Flint enamel, tortoise-
shell decoration. Signed " Lyman,
Fenton and Co. Fenton's Enamel,
Pat. 1849, Bennington, Vt." Height,
10^2 inches.

Water Pitcher. Flint enamel. Marked
in circular mark " Lyman & Fenton,
Fenton's Enamel, Bennington, Vt."
Height, 1 1 inches.

Little Covered Jar. Reeded. Tortoise-
shell. Height, 7 inches 30

No. 9.

Lion on base. Flint enamel. Mark:
" Lyman, Fenton & Co. Fenton's
Enamel. Pat. 1849. Bennington, Vt."

Lion not on base. No mark. Flint
enamel.

Lion on base. Very curly mane. Mark:
" Lyman, Fenton & Co. Fenton's
Enamel. Pat. 1849. Bennington, Vt."
Flint enamel 3 2

No. 10.

Deer on base. Flint enamel. Height, 1 1
inches. Mark: "Lyman Fenton &
Co. Fenton's Enamel. Pat. 1849.
Bennington, Vt." 34

No. 11.

Doe on base. Flint enamel. Height, 1 1
inches. Mark: " Lyman Fenton & Co.
Fenton's Enamel. Pat. 1849. Ben-
nington, Vt." 36

No. 12.

Dogs with Baskets of Flowers. One,

Parian Ware 38



IO LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

No. 13.

Parian Pitcher 4°

No. 14.

Vase. Scrodled Ware. Tulip shaped.
Height, q inches. Unusual piece in
Scrodle Ware 4 2

No. 15.

Child at Prayer. Parian 44

No. 16.

Monument composed of various Benning-
ton Wares, exhibited at the New York
Crystal Palace, in 1853 46

No. 17.

Water Cooler. Flint enamel 48



flr*far*

Having devoted much time, during the
past thirty-five years, to research work, and the
study of Early American Potteries, and their out-
put, I long since concluded that the pottery estab-
lished in the first decade of the Nineteenth Cen-
tury, at Old Bennington, Vermont, and its suc-
cessors, was probably the most important pottery
of New England, during the first half of that
century.

To the study of this noted pottery, I have
given so much time, obtaining so much historical
data, and so large a Collection, of its most interest-
ing productions, in great varieties of bodies and
glazes, that my dear friend, the late Dr. Edwin
A. Barber of Philadelphia, the foremost ceramist,
and the most prolific author on the subject in our
country, exacted from me, the promise that I
would cause to be published the information which
I had obtained, relative to this Pottery.

I offer this explanation as my reason for
presenting this work to the public.



My principal sources of information have
been the potters, themselves, those who worked at
this pottery, of whom only a few are now living.

When one realizes that the Bennington
Pottery has now been closed nearly sixty years,
and that the men employed there would be seventy-
five, or more, years old, one can readily perceive,
that, in some instances, memories may have failed.
Hence slight inaccuracies may have crept in. But
I have endeavored by a comparison of statements,
as given by the different workmen, to as much as
possible eliminate, or correct such statements, if in
any way conflicting one with another.

Without serious attempts at literary style,
I present these pages to the reader.

Albert Hastings Pitkin.

Hartford, Connecticut.
September, 19 17.



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Manufacturing interests in the United
States, previous to 1800, were somewhat limited
in extent and variety.

Among these industries, that of the potter,
seems to have been prominent and we find records
of small potteries well distributed throughout New
England. These early potteries produced what
are now called " red wares " and " stone wares,"
the latter becoming more abundant later on. The
red wares were made from common brick clay,
thoroughly levigated, fired at a comparatively low
temperature, lead-glazed and more or less deco-
rated, in colored slip, in a large variety of forms
and sizes such as : — pitchers, cups, mugs, jugs,
bottles, pie-plates, milk-pans, jars, crocks, bread-
trays, and many toys and shelf ornaments, but
principally articles of utility. The stone wares
consisted largely of crocks, jugs, bottles, jars, and
churns and were salt-glazed.



1 6 HISTORY OF THE BENNINGTON POTTERY

Connecticut seems to have led the other
New England States, both in the number of her
small potteries, and the amount of their out-put.

John Pierce, was born in Wethersfield,
Connecticut. He went to Litchfield, Conn., in
1753, where he established a pottery. He was
well-known as " Potter Pierce."

David Norton left Durham, Connecticut,
and moved to Goshen, Connecticut (an adjoining
town to Litchfield) about 1752. John Norton, the
fourth child of David Norton, was born in
Goshen, Connecticut November 29th, 1758, and
married March 6th, 1782, Lucretia, daughter of
Capt. Jonathan Buel, of Litchfield, Conn. He was
known as Captain John Norton, and as we shall
see, later on, was " Bennington's Pioneer Potter."

Capt. John Norton was with Capt. Good-
win, at New York, in 1776. Also, in the service
in 1780. He was one of the selected guard,
which was stationed around the scaffold at the exe-
cution of Major Andre. (See History of Goshen,
for this War Record.)

In addition to the potters mentioned above,
was Jesse Wadhams, and Hervey Brooks. These
constituting what I would designate as the " Litch-
field Group, of the Early Connecticut Potters."

Capt. John Norton and his wife, left
Goshen, Conn., and went to Williamstown, Mass.,
and Luman Norton, their oldest son, was born
there, February 9th, 1785. The following Spring,
they moved to Old Bennington, Vermont. Capt.




Sacred to

the iiipmoryof

Gapt.John Norton

who departed
this life August
2 ( '" 1828:
in the7D*year '
' Of III:




No.



HISTORY OF THE BENNINGTON POTTERY 1 7

Norton purchased land in the south part of the
town, comprising what is now the Moses Wilson,
the W. S. Hinman, and the Charles Tudor farms,
about a mile and a quarter, south of the Old First
Church of Bennington, and he built his pottery,
opposite the spot where the Hinman house, now
stands.

Five years later, he built the house standing
north of this property which is now occupied by
Charles Tudor and which was known for many
years, as the " Old Norton Homestead." His
oldest son, Luman, built the Hinman house.

Capt. Norton carried on farming, and
about 1793, established a Pottery. The Captain
was nicknamed " Potter Norton."

From whom, Captain John Norton learned
the pottery trade, has not been accurately ascer-
tained, but there were several potters, in Litch-
field County (referred to above) in his day.

Presumably, Capt. Norton was originally a
maker of what are now known as red wares.
Every indication tends to show, that in his first pot-
tery, at Bennington only salt-glazed stone ware
was produced. He made ordinary house-hold
utensils. Several pieces of this ware are known to
be in existence. John Norton died in 1828. In
1 83 1, his son Luman, or Judge Norton, as he was
known, moved to the present village of Benning-
ton, and built a pottery on the site of the present
building. It was about the same size and style of
architecture. Here the business was conducted on



1 8 HISTORY OF THE BENNINGTON POTTERY

i

a much larger scale, and they manufactured stone
ware, yellow ware and Rockingham, which is a yel-
low ware, spattered before firing, with a brown
clay, which gives it the mottled appearance. It
was first made in England at the Swinton Pottery,
on the Estate of Charles Marquis, of Rocking-
ham, which gave the name.

All this was before the days of traveling
salesmen. The ware was packed into large wagons
built for the purpose. They had high sides and
were painted dark green, and in large yellow let-
ters was printed " Bennington Stone Ware," and in
much smaller letters " Norton Pottery." It re-
quired four horses to draw these wagons, and that
they should be perfectly matched was a subject of
much pride. These wagons went through New
England and the ware was sold at the general
stores. To drive these teams, and sell this Ben-
nington ware, was considered the best position, for
young men, that the times afforded. It required
considerable versatility to be able to handle four
horses over all sorts of roads, sell the ware, and
get home safely, with the money. Very little busi-
ness in those days was done through banks. In
suitable weather these young men wore silk hats,
in the style that was appropriate at that time.
Among the early drivers were Edward Norton,
Henry Hall (who was Governor Hall's son),
George Rockwood, and E. L. Nichols.

In 1839, Judge Norton took his son-in-
law Christopher Webber Fenton, of Dorset, Ver-




No.



HISTORY OF THE BENNINGTON POTTERY 1 9

mont, into business with him. He had previously
learned the pottery trade, at a red earthen-ware
pottery at Dorset, Vermont. Soon after, we find
the firm, " Norton and Fenton, Bennington, Ver-
mont " (Mark 1,) impressed on the octagonal
pitchers, of the " single glaze " Rockingham ware.
This mark also appears on elliptical form, on sim-
ilar pitchers (Mark 2).

A few years later, we find the mark "Nor-
ton and Fenton, East Bennington, Vermont "
(Mark 3) showing that they had moved to what is
now the town of Bennington, which was then
called " Algiers " in derision, by the residents on
the Hill.

About 1828, Mr. Fenton married Judge
Luman Norton's daughter, Louisa, and Judge
Norton had erected, on Pleasant Street, the large
and commodious brick mansion, the west side of
which was occupied by Mr. Luman Norton's
family, and the east side by that of Mr. Fenton.
Here, on the adjoining land, was erected the first
down-town pottery, and it was conducted, for the
first years of its existence, under the name " Nor-
ton and Fenton " (Mark 4).

Christopher Webber Fenton was born in
Dorset, Vt., in 1806, where he learned his trade
as a common red-ware potter. No record has been
found, showing the date when Mr. Fenton went to
Bennington. Had he done so as soon as he fin-
ished his apprenticement in Dorset, he might have
worked for Capt. John Norton one year. At the



20 HISTORY OF THE BENNINGTON POTTERY

end of which time, Captain John Norton died, in
1828. From the dates and ages given in the Nor-
ton Family Records, it is safe to assume that Mr.
Fenton first associated himself with Mr. Luman
Norton, Capt. John Norton's oldest son, succeed-
ing Captain John Norton in business.

Later on, the firm became Julius and Ed-
ward Norton and still later, about 1865, Edward
and Lyman P. Norton, then Edward Norton and
Company, when Mr. C. W. Thatcher became a
partner.

In 1846, Mr. Fenton wished to go into a
more decorative line of ware, and Judge Norton
did not care to, but he offered no objections to the
younger men making the venture, and in the north
wing of the Norton Pottery, Mr. Fenton, Julius
Norton, and Henry Hall started the manufacture
of Parian Ware. This is a hard porcelain, and
took, its name from the resemblance to Parian
marble. They brought John Harrison from Eng-
land to do their first modeling.

This partnership lasted but a few years,
and Mr. Fenton leased from the Nortons the
north wing of the old Stone Ware Pottery and was
in business for himself alone, at which time the
Mark used was " Fenton's Works, Bennington,
Vermont" (Mark 5). During this period, we
find the use of this Mark on pieces of various
bodies, such as Rockingham, Cream Ware, Parian
Ware, glazed and unglazed, and these, in various
forms, and many quite elaborately ornamented.




No.



HISTORY OF THE BENNINGTON POTTERY 21

-■

This, evidently, was an experimental
period with Mr. Fenton and the partnership, with
the Norton's, having been severed by them, he was
endeavoring to produce as large a variety of wares
as possible, in order that he might enlist new
capital from new partners, which he again suc-
ceeded in doing, for a partnership was formed
with Alanson Potter Lyman (a Bennington law-
yer), the firm name becoming "Lyman and
Fenton."

The Norton's relinquished their interest
in this pottery in 1881, when it was sold to Mr. C.
W. Thatcher, who now carried on the business,
under the firm name, " The Edward Norton Co."
and on whose sign we read, " Established in
I 793-" For several years past, no pottery had
been made here, Mr. Thatcher dealing in western-
made wares.

Thus we have a record, covering nearly
one-hundred years, of the manufacturing and sell-
ing of Pottery by various members of one branch
of the Norton Family, at Bennington Center, East
Bennington, and Bennington, Vermont.

Captain John Norton and his wife are
buried near the Congregational Church, in the old
Cemetery at Bennington. From the Tablet we
read, " Sacred to the memory of Capt. John Nor-
ton, who departed this Life August 24th, 1828,
in the 70th. year of his age." (Plate No. 1.)



22 HISTORY OF THE BENNINGTON POTTERY

Many pieces of the Norton Pottery are to
be found now, bearing the Firm names. These are
invariably, Stone Ware. Capt. John Norton may
have made Red Wares for a few years, but no
marked pieces of this have been found. Moreover,
specimens of Red Ware are seldom seen in Ben-
nington vicinity, and brick-work was not often
seen, the local clay being best adapted to the mak-
ing of Stone Ware. Mrs. W. B. Walker has an
ink-well and several pieces, which were dug out of
the ground, at the old Norton Pottery, when the
men were ploughing. Mrs. L. S. Norton has a jar,
which Tradition said, was one of the first pieces
made at the old Norton Pottery, on the farm.
The Ostrander family in Hoosick, N. Y., have a
similar piece, on the bottom of which is written,
"This was made in the old Norton Pottery."

The earliest settlements in Bennington
were in that part, long known as Bennington Cen-
ter and more recently called Old Bennington. It
was settled in 176 1, by the Robinsons, Deweys,
and other prominent families. From their homes
went forth valiant Christians, under whose leader-
ship was enacted the memorable event of August
1 6th, 1777. This event is commemorated by a
magnificent shaft, three hundred and six feet in
height, standing at the upper end of Monument
Avenue, a little more than a mile west of the vil-
lage. Many of the farms of the early settlers, ex-
tended to the present limits of the village which




No. 4.



HISTORY OF THE BENNINGTON POTTERY 23

was then known as East Bennington and in deri-
sion, called "Algiers."

Among the fine old houses of Bennington
Center, now standing, the most interesting is the
Robinson house, built in 1796. It is still in the
possession of and occupied by a direct descendant
of its builder, Mr. George Robinson. Within are
still many choice specimens of antique furniture,
family heir-looms and veritable Revolutionary
relics.

The grand old-style mansion which was
built by Judge Luman Norton, is also an interest-
ing house. It was built in 1 838. Mr. Samuel Keyes
contracted for the masonry at a cost of eight hun-
dred dollars ($800.00). Later, when Mr. Keyes
built the kilns for the United States Pottery he
remarked that each kiln required more bricks than
did that large mansion which leads us to believe
that the kilns were large ones for that date.

There is conclusive evidence that Mr.
Fenton was associated with Mr. Norton, in the
early part of Mr. Fenton's career in Bennington.
Stone Ware jugs and crocks are often found
marked " Norton and Fenton, Bennington, Ver-
mont." There is a fine large water pitcher, hexago-
nal in shape, on each panel a floral design, in re-
lief. This pitcher has a dark brown glaze, is of
a cream colored pottery body and bears on the
under side the Mark " Norton and Fenton, Ben-
nington, Vermont." This is in the Pitkin Collec-
tion. A companion pitcher, in circular form bear-



24 HISTORY OF THE BENNINGTON POTTERY

ing the same mark, may be seen at Pennsylvania
Museum.

So far as has been ascertained the firm
known as Norton and Fenton made nothing but
Stone Ware and brown-glazed pottery.

About 1845, when we find Mr. Fenton
alone in the business as is shown by the mark
11 Fenton's Works, Bennington, Vermont " (Mark
5) . It is found on Rockingham ware, Parian, and
pottery of a yellow body.

About this time, in 1845, was produced
the first Parian ware, made in the United States,
which was only three years after its first appear-
ance in England.

A Parian pitcher bearing this mark is in
the Pitkin Collection, in the Morgan Memorial at
Hartford, Connecticut. The Rockingham piece,
in the Pitkin Collection, so marked, is an octagonal
water-cooler, of yellow body mottled in light
brown. In the same Collection is also a beautiful
sugar bowl, elaborately decorated with vines and
flower bearing the same mark.

We must infer, that Mr. Fenton was a
practical potter, of extraordinary skill, well-nigh a
genius at his trade, artistic in his tastes, a natural-
ist, something of a chemist, a profound student,
probably erratic and perhaps visionary. He was
never content to plod along under moderate suc-
cess but must needs pull down and build larger,
thereby exhausting capital and presumably, the
patience of his partners. On the whole a far bet-




No. 5-



HISTORY OF THE BENNINGTON POTTERY 25

ter potter than financier, as is evidenced by the fre-
quent and numerous changes in the partnerships
of which he was a member.

Presumably much elated over his success
shown in his early productions in Parian, Rocking-
ham and other wares, he was enabled thereby, to
interest Bennington gentlemen, securing their co-
operation, as capitalists and formed the partner-
ship of " Messrs. Christopher Webber Fenton,
Henry D. Hall and Julius Norton, in 1846."

They produced yellow, Parian and Rock-
ingham wares, still occupying a part of the Old
Stone Ware shop of the Norton's. Mr. Hall re-
mained in the firm only a short time. Next, Mr.
Norton withdrew. The firm then became " Lyman
and Fenton," with the admission of Mr. Alanson
Potter Lyman, a prominent lawyer of Bennington.

Soon after this, Mr. Calvin Park took an
interest and the firm name was known as " Lyman,
Fenton and Park." Mr. Park remained a partner
but a short time.

During this period, November 27th, 1849,
Mr. Fenton obtained from the United States Gov-
ernment, the Patent for the process of applying
colors to the flint-enamelled wares.



26 HISTORY OF THE BENNINGTON POTTERY



United States Patent Office.

C. W. Fenton of Bennington, Vermont.
IMPROVEMENT IN GLAZING POTTERY-
WARE.

Specification forming part of Letters Patent No.
6,907, dated November 27, 1849.

To all whom it may concern:

Be it known that I, Christopher W. Fen-
ton of Bennington, in the county of Bennington
and State of Vermont, have invented a new and
useful improvement in the application of colors
and glazes to all articles made of potters' materials
— such as crockery, earthern, and stone ware,
signs and door-plates and knobs, picture-frames
and architectural ornaments; and I hereby declare
that the following is a full and true description
thereof.

The article to be colored and glazed, be-
ing in the usual state for applying the glaze, is
immersed in a transparent under-glaze, then with
a small box perforated with holes the colors are
thrown or sprinkled on through the holes over the
surface of the article in quantity to produce deeper
or lighter shades, as may be desired, leaving a part
of the surface for the body of the article to show
through in spots. By fusion in the kiln the colors




No. 6.



HISTORY OF THE BENNINGTON POTTERY 27

flow and mingle with the under glaze, and are
carried about over the surface in various forms,
and the article is thereby made to present a close
imitation of the richest shells, varigated stones, or
melting and running fluid, almost every variety of
rich and beautiful appearance being produced by
flowing and mingling of the colors with the under-
glaze, and the appearance of the article being
varied according to the complexion of the body of
the article and the colors and quantity thrown
upon it.

The colors may be applied to the article
by other means than that of the perforated box,
provided the same effect is produced. What I
claim as my invention, and desire to secure by
Letters Patent, is —

The coloring of the glaze of pottery-ware
by the means substantially as herein set forth and
described.

C. W. Fenton.
Witnesses:

A. P. Lyman
L. Norton.

Note particularly, that the fore-going
Patent covered only the coloring process, and not
the composition of the flint-enamelled glaze, which
had previously been made by Mr. Fenton and co-
temporaneous potters, among them the Bennett
Brothers of Baltimore, F. Bagnall Beach of Phila-
delphia and others of lesser note.



28 HISTORY OF THE BENNINGTON POTTERY



The mark used at this time was " Lyman
Fenton and Company. Fenton's Enamel. Pat-
ented, 1849. Bennington, Vermont " (Mark No.
6). The use of this Mark was continued for sev-
eral years on the best examples of Rockingham
ware.

Shortly after this, another change of part-
nership occurred, when the United States Pottery
was formed. They occupied the building directly
across the small stream from the Norton Stone
Ware Works. Here was erected, what, for those
days, was a very large establishment having six
kilns. These kilns were built by Samuel Keyes a
brick mason, who in previous years, did the
masonry work on the double brick mansion of the
Nortons, before mentioned, and Mr. Anson
Peeler, a master carpenter, erected the large and
suitable buildings, on the north bank of the small
tributary of the Walloomsac river, across the
stream from the Norton works. The reorganized
firm took the name of the " United States Pot-
tery." Among the several capitalists interested in
this venture were Messrs. Lyman, Fenton, Park,
Gager, Dr. Hollis and others. Finer wares were
attempted, elaborately decorated Parian, white
granite and a small quantity of soft paste porce-


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