A Significant New Huntingdon County, PA Stoneware Discovery

A marked “H. GLAZIER / HUNTINGDON, PA” stoneware jar, bearing his typical floral design in a purplish manganese that he has become known for.
There were three key stoneware potteries operating in Huntingdon County, PA about the middle of the nineteenth century; and while the work of none of these is commonly found, two of them left behind significant bodies of either attributable or signed ware.

One of these is the beloved and fairly well-known Huntingdon shop of Henry Glazier, which operated from about 1830-1854 and (according to Schaltenbrand’s excellent book, Big Ware Turners), may have been the earliest central Pennsylvania stoneware pottery.

E.B. HISSONG / CASSVILLE Stoneware Pitcher
An E.B. Hissong (Cassville, PA) stoneware pitcher made for local tavern keeper, James Hampson.
A second pottery produced ware that, when marked, is at least as equally rare as Glazier’s–that of the Hissong family, who made stoneware in Cassville from 1847-1912. In 2009, we were very happy to handle what is by far one of the best signed examples of Hissong stoneware: a pitcher marked “E.B. HISSONG / CASSVILL” and made for a local tavern keeper.

Philip Kabis / Shirleysburg, PA Stoneware Jar
A Philip Kabis jar inscribed, “Shirleysburg, PA / May 31, 1871.”
(If we want to veer a little beyond the middle of the century, we could include the Shirleysburg shop of Philip Kabis, who worked circa 1864-88 and for whom marked ware is very rare.)

But there is another Cassville pottery that operated for a long time (1842-1913!), but for whom no signed work is known–that of Jacob Greenland and his family. Greenland is notable not only as a long-term Huntingdon County stoneware producer, but as a member of a well-known family of potters operating in southwestern PA and Morgantown, West Virginia. As my brother, Mark, put it on our Featured Photos Page for our 10/26/2019 auction:

Morgantown / Uniontown People Crocks
A Morgantown people crock made by David Greenland Thompson (nephew of Jacob Greenland), beside a Uniontown jug made by Norval Greenland (also nephew of Jacob).

Jacob Greenland (1804-1867), was the youngest brother of early Morgantown, WV earthenware potter, Abner Greenland (1783-1830). Abner Greenland married the sister of Morgantown, WV potter, John W. Thompson, a man responsible for bringing brushed figural decoration to the region. Abner Greenland would later establish a pottery in Uniontown, PA that would be carried on by his son, Norval, an establishment also known for producing people-decorated stoneware.

Indeed, the Morgantown-Uniontown stoneware school of the Thompsons and Greenlands churned out the beloved “People Crocks” that are amongst the most sought-after from the region.

Jacob Greenland (Cassville, PA) stoneware churn.
The Jacob Greenland churn, made for his neighbor, Richardson Read.
And so it is remarkable that a great Huntingdon County, PA churn was just consigned to our October 2019 auction, bearing a distinctive local floral design, the inscribed name of a Cassville merchant (with accompanying 1855 date), and the figure of a woman in the very manner of Jacob Greenland’s family in Uniontown and Morgantown. What cinches this example up as a confirmed Jacob Greenland product is the fact that the aforementioned merchant, Richardson Read, appears on the very same 1850 federal census page as Greenland, making him a close neighbor of the potter.

Jacob Greenland / Richardson Read 1850 Census Listing
The page from the 1850 census showing the close proximity of Richardson Read to potter Jacob Greenland. (Click for a better view.)
Thus for the first time we have a great sense of the type of pottery Jacob Greenland was making alongside his fellow Huntingdon County stoneware manufacturers, and it is just the sort of stoneware we would expect him to make, in terms of decoration. This churn will allow us to attribute future examples to a prolific pottery, and it is always exciting to be able to fill in gaps like this, as we try to flesh out a more complete history of the American stoneware industry!

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J.M. Thompson London, Ohio Redware Jar — Morgantown, Virginia School

J M T & CO / LONDON redware jar by James M. Thompson in London, Ohio.
J M T & CO / LONDON redware jar by James M. Thompson in London, Ohio.
A rare Ohio redware jar will be sold in our April 10 auction. Consigned by a woman in Ohio, the 8 1/2″ ovoid-formed pot features a rounded foot, heavy tooling around the shoulder, and an unusually-shaped flaring rim. The surface is covered in a reddish-brown lead and manganese glaze, typical of most redware produced in America throughout the late 18th and 19th centuries. Most significant about the jar is the large impressed maker’s mark, “J M T & CO / LONDON,” which extends across the midsection.

The initials “J M T” refer to potter, James M. Thompson, Jr., of London, Ohio. Born in 1786, Thompson was the younger brother of John W. Thompson, patriarch of the Thompson family of potters active in Morgantown, WV for most of the 19th century. James’ nephew, and perhaps the most well-known member of the family, was David Greenland Thompson, who produced a large number of stoneware pieces with cobalt people decorations around the year 1870, which are highly prized by collectors today. Much of what is known about James can be found in the well-researched article “The Potters and Pottery of Morgan’s Town, Virginia,” by Don Horvath and Richard Duez, featured in the 2004 edition of Ceramics in America. According to Horvath and Duez, Thompson likely learned the potting trade from Jacob Foulk in Morgantown around 1804. Though no apprenticeship records have been found, Thompson’s involvement in a court case against Foulk suggest a relationship between the two (Horvath and Duez, p. 121). Another book entitled “The History of Madison County, Ohio,” which was written in 1883, offers additional insight into Thompson’s potting career. According to this book, he traveled to London, Ohio in 1813, and established a pottery there in the same year. He was one of the first settlers in the town of London, and, judging by the early date of his arrival, may have been one of the earliest potters in all of Western Ohio. A lawyer named John Dungan, who traveled through London in 1835, described the town as having “two potteries. . . one located on South Main street, in the rear of the present residence of Judge Clark, carried on by James M. Thompson, and the other located on the site of the Presbyterian Church carried on by W.W. Burchnell.” (A signed redware jar by William Burchnell exhibiting Morgantown influence was sold by Crocker Farm, Inc., in July of 2009.) As further noted by Horvath and Duez, Thompson is listed in the 1850 U.S. Census for Mt. Pleasant Township, Madison County, Ohio, as a potter, age sixty-four, born in Virginia, living with his wife, Sarah, also a native Virginian ( Horvath and Duez, p. 121).

Morgantown potter James M. Thompson's London, Ohio maker's mark.
Morgantown potter James M. Thompson's London, Ohio maker's mark.
While Thompson’s career in Ohio spanned forty years or more, Horvath and Duez note that no examples of his work from Morgantown or London were known as of the publication of their article. This jar is the first signed product of this potter to have surfaced. Earlier this year, we received photos from a woman in Ohio, who inquired about consigning the jar. We were instantly intrigued by the impressed word “LONDON,” after having sold a jar by potter, William Burchnell, from the same town. We believe the ovoid form and stylish rim date it to somewhere around the year 1830. The impression of the mark across the midsection is unusual for any early American pottery, and suggests that Thompson wanted his business name to be very noticeable, literally “front and center” when his pots were used. The length of the mark also suggests he may have used a coggle wheel, rather than a very long rectangular stamp, which would be more difficult to apply against a heavily-curved surface. The Morgantown Thompsons were very familiar with such tools, where they were frequently used on both stoneware and redware to ornament a vessel’s shoulder and handles. Several coggle wheels from the Thompson family’s Morgantown operation have survived, and are currently in the collection of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

New discoveries in stoneware and redware are one of the more exciting parts of this business. With each newly-found maker’s mark comes greater insight into the tastes of a specific potter. And as with any antique, just one signed “missing link” piece can help put a name on thousands of otherwise unattributable works.

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William Burchnell London, Ohio Redware Jar — Morgantown, Virginia School

A redware jar featured in our July 11 stoneware and redware auction is both extremely rare and important to the study of American pottery. The jar, stamped, “W. BURCHNELL / LONDON,” is one of the only known vessels signed by William Burchnell of Madison County, Ohio, and, therefore, serves as an important resource for understanding the type of redware manufactured by this potter in particular and early western Ohio earthenware potters in general.

    William Burchnell, London, OH, Redware Jar circa 1835, to be sold in our July 11, 2009, auction.
William Burchnell, London, OH, Redware Jar circa 1835, to be sold in our July 11, 2009, auction.

When a collector consigned this redware jar to our auction, we initially searched our library of books on American potters for any information on potters named Burchnell. Finding this potter to be undocumented, we started guessing about the origin of this jar. With only the town name of London listed in the maker’s mark, we assumed that this jar was probably made in a New England town, possibly London, NH. However, we also saw similarities between this vessel and redware jars manufactured in Morgantown, VA (now WV).

An 1883 book, The History of Madison County, Ohio, answered some of our questions about this jar. According to this book, John Dungan, Esq., came to London, OH, in 1835 and recorded information about the town. According to this information, “There were two potteries in the village, one located on South Main street, in the rear of the present residence of Judge Clark, carried on by James M. Thompson, and the other located on the site of the Presbyterian Church carried on by W. W. Burchnell.”

Further research in Ohio Census and Death Records revealed additional information about Burchnell. He was born in the 1790s in Virginia, arrived in London, OH, before 1830 and lived there until at least 1840, judging by Census records. By 1850, William Burchnell had passed away, leaving his widow, Mahala, raising six children.

However, what makes William Burchnell more significant than an obscure, short-lived Ohio earthenware potter is the style of his ware as well as the larger potting community he participated in. As I mentioned, the Burchnell jar featured in our July 11 auction shares a lot of similarities with Morgantown redware (see Horvath and Duez, “The Potters and Pottery of Morgan’s Town, Virginia,” Ceramics in America 2004), notably its form and horizontal tulip decoration.

These similarities are more than coincidental. The other earthenware manufacturer in 1830s London, OH, was James M. Thompson, younger brother to the patriarch of Morgantown’s Thompson family of potters, John W. Thompson. According to Horvath and Duez, James M. Thompson “almost certainly had begun training with [Morgantown earthenware potter] Jacob Foulk Jr. about 1804” (see Horvath and Duez, p. 121).

According to The History of Madison County, Ohio, James M. Thompson took his Morgantown potting training and settled in London, OH, in 1813, at the fairly young age of 27. Among the first settlers of London, Thompson was also undoubtedly one of the first established potters in western OH. He continued operating in London until at least 1850, according to Census records. As one of the region’s first earthenware potters, as well as one of its longest tenured, James M. Thompson’s Morgantown-style of earthenware production could have possibly defined the type of pottery manufactured in early western Ohio’s cultural blank canvas. With hardly any signed examples to draw conclusions from, it is quite possible that some of the unsigned ware attributed to Morgantown actually originated from this overlooked region of pottery production.

When analyzing the Burchnell redware jar in our upcoming auction, it is important to note that it was made in this potting community with roots in Morgantown, VA (now WV). However, Burchnell’s ties to Morgantown may grow deeper still. According to the death records of Burchnell’s children, William Burchnell was born in Virginia. Along with the fact that he established a neighboring pottery to James M. Thompson, this information indicates that William Burchnell very likely began his potting career in Morgantown. Burchnell possibly trained alongside James M. Thompson and followed his footsteps to Western Ohio when the appropriate time came. With more research necessary, the significance of Burchnell to American earthenware potting history is proving to be greater than an unknown potter, who fortunately signed his wares.

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