Antique Stoneware Yale Mug for F.T. Persons

F.T. Persons' stoneware Yale mug.
F.T. Persons' stoneware Yale mug.

The existing group of stoneware mugs made for Yale University students around the turn of the twentieth century are an interesting lot. Quite scarce–they were, after all, made for a rather small population of college students–these vessels were clearly prized by enough alumni that a fair number were passed down to us. While some are typical late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century examples coated in brown Albany slip, others are salt-glazed; these latter pieces, if not baring clear dates, could easily be mistaken as much earlier American stoneware products. It is one of these–a particularly well-crafted example–that we will be selling on March 5.

While heavily decorated American stoneware mugs are themselves rare, I consider the Yale mug to be something close to a unique, hyper-specialized form unto itself. Not just drinking vessels, these were predecessors of the ubiquitous university memorabilia we interact with every day: sweatshirts, baseball caps, and modern, mass-produced mugs. In the case of the F.T. Persons’ mug, which we will be selling in March, we actually know a lot about the young man for whom it was made.

The man who owned the mug: Frederick Torrel Persons.
The man who owned the mug: Frederick Torrel Persons.

Frederick Torrel Persons was born on February 2, 1869 in Sandisfield, Massachusetts, about thirty-five miles west of Springfield. His father, Byron Persons, was a farmer; he and Frederick’s mother, Ellen Spaulding, were both descended from very old Massachusetts families dating back to the 1630’s. Frederick Persons attended preparatory school in Norfolk, Connecticut, and went on, as his mug attests, to Yale College, from which he graduated in 1894. After some postgraduate work in the study of English, he became an English teacher and later the principal of a school in Falls Village, Connecticut. In 1899, he enrolled in Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan, and after graduating three years later, he entered the ministry, serving various churches in Connecticut.

The names incised on this side are those of some of Persons' fellow 1894 classmates.
The names incised on this side are those of some of Persons' fellow 1894 classmates.
]In 1906, Persons married Florence Cummings, who had attended the Yale School of Music, and the two would go on to have at least three sons. At the age of 46, he left his ministry in Connecticut for a post as librarian at Bangor Theological Seminary in Bangor, Maine, and remained there until 1924, when he took the same position at the Congregational Library in Boston.

In Yale-related publications Persons spoke of his love of architecture, on which he became something of an authority, and his fondness for taking walks as a form of exercise. He also expressed a love of life, saying, when about 45 years old, “I am glad to be alive and want to live to do something for the world and to watch it go on till I am past eighty. Above all else, I am proud of [the Class of] ’94, and rejoice in the welfare and success of its members.”

Persons’ goal to live past eighty was almost realized. He passed away at the age of 79 on September 2, 1948.

Persons' name on the bottom of the mug.
Persons' name on the bottom of the mug.

All too often, objects are handed down to us, stripped of any memory of the men and women who handled them on a daily basis, who kept them on shelves in their homes. Pieces like Persons’ Yale mug remind us that real people with real lives actually owned these vessels, and they were capable of holding more than just water or beer, but also great significance to those who chose to keep them.

A Note About Sources: The Yale-related volumes from which most of Persons’ biography was gleaned are Quarter Century Record, Class of 1894, Yale College, and Vicennial Record, Class of Eighteen Hundred and Ninety-Four, Yale College, both by Frederick Dwight, Class Secretary. I also used Union Seminary Quarterly Review (May, 1949), Who Was Who In America, Volume 2 (1943-1950), and the Federal Census.

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A Pot for the President, Made at the Foot of Bunker Hill — Charlestown, Massachusetts, Stoneware

A daguerreotype of Andrew Jackson, supposed to be from the latter part of his presidency.

A daguerreotype of Andrew Jackson, supposed to be from the latter part of his presidency.

During his presidency, George Washington visited each of the original thirteen colonies during a three-part presidential tour. Washington took the opportunity to travel about the new nation as (I’m sure amongst other concerns) a way to help galvanize the states into a Union. Similar to Washington, in the wake of the War of 1812, James Monroe undertook his own national tour, visiting New England, the Mid-Atlantic states, the South, and the West, in four parts. About two decades later, following Andrew Jackson’s reelection to the presidency, fellow Democratic party members in New England tried to coax the President up to their neck of the woods for a tour of his own.

The clamor for the Jackson tour seems to have begun in January 1833 at the Hartford, Connecticut, “Jackson celebration.” The March 26, 1833 issue of the Hartford Connecticut Courant described the initiative this way:

It will be recollected by our readers that at the Jackson celebration in this city last January, a resolution was adopted appointing a Committee to invite the President to visit New England. The letter addressed to the President has been recently published, and we hasten to lay it before our readers, as a production too valuable to be lost. It is the more desirable that the letter should have an extensive circulation at this time, as no less than three of the committee are Jackson candidates for Congress; and if anything were wanting to enlist a becoming state pride in their favor, … it is abundantly furnished in this admirable composition.

The letter itself, mailed in early February and also printed in the Courant, addresses the “Chief Magistrate” in almost comically sycophantic terms:

Sir—The preceding resolution was adopted at a meeting of our fellow citizens at Hartford, on the 8th of January 1833, while commemorating the events of that “glorious 8th” [Jackson’s victory over the British on January 8, 1815 at the Battle of New Orleans] in which you were the principal actor, and from which, has been reflected upon our country, so much honor. …

The savage torch was lighted up—the scalping knife and tomahawk glittered in the sunbeam—and the cry of the innocent victim did not reach your ear in vain. The name and prowess of ANDREW JACKSON have proved a sure defence against savage brutality over the Western States, where dwell our kindred.

The “mother country,” made haughty by European conquests, claimed dominion over the ocean. Under her flag, the right of search, and the right to interrupt the commerce of the whole world, were avowed. To maintain these arrogant claims, and to plant the standard of a King, upon the soil of a Republic, her armies marched boldly on, shouting in advance, their notes of conquest, desolation, and death. The eyes of a nation were fixed on you. General ANDREW JACKSON heard the calls of his country, and met her enemies with his open bosom. He had a home and a country to save, and his own life was thrown between that country and its foes. The results are known to the world, and history shall give to that knowledge, perpetuity.

The letter did illicit responses like that seen in the March 27, 1833 issue of the Norwich [Connecticut] Courier:

The Washington Globe received to-day contains a correspondence between a committee of Jackson men at Hartford, (Conn.) and President Jackson. The committee, it seems, addressed a letter to the President, inviting him to visit New England, as soon as it may suit his convenience. The President thanks the committee for their politeness, and tacitly accepts the invitation—but intimates a doubt whether he shall be able to make the visit during the present, or not until another year.—The letter of the committee is one of the most ridiculous pieces of bombast, and slavish exhibitions of adulation, that we recollect to have seen. It beats the famous proclamation of Sachem Mooney, in which it was represented that “terra trembled,” and “all creation expanded to explosion,” at the approach of General Jackson, when he visited this city in 1818. The reply of the President, however, is a very proper one—and very modest—all things considered.

But Hartford’s invitation set off a string of like-minded correspondence from many other New England towns. On March 11, for instance, a committee of Bostonians wrote Jackson inviting him to their city, saying, “The Republicans of this city, and we may safely assume to say, those of all New-England, … would feel proud to exhibit to the victor of New-Orleans, the plains of Lexington, and the trenches of Bunker-Hill, consecrated to liberty by the blood of our revolutionary martyrs.” (See the June 4, 1833 edition of the Portsmoth New Hampshire Gazette).

The Battle of New Orleans by Edward Percy Moran

The Battle of New Orleans by Edward Percy Moran

Jackson was not able to accept the invitations of every city who sought his presence, but decided he could “leave the seat of Government early in June, and be absent about six or eight weeks, with but little inconvenience to the public interest … .”  Making good on his word, on Thursday, June 6 he set out with the plan of traveling as far north as Portland, Maine; his route to New England took him out of Washington, D.C., through Baltimore, then Philadelphia, then New York—with smaller stops along the way. Besides a slow start in Baltimore, where Jackson was upstaged by the famous Sauk Indian chief Black Hawk (who had joined his delegation for the day) the President’s visits on his way to New England were marked by almost riotous adulation on the parts of thousands of Americans—and Jackson seemed to eat up the fanfare afforded him as he participated in various parades, dinners, and meetings. In Philadelphia, for instance, when Jackson attempted to welcome guests to a private reception at Independence Hall, the crowd outside entered the building and filled it beyond maximum capacity—so much so that, according to one reporter, when someone opened the windows, people came falling out. In New York, one hundred thousand people gathered around the harbor to watch Jackson as the boat he was riding on docked and the General disembarked to review troops on horseback before traveling to City Hall. So many people crowded on the bridge between Castle Garden and the Battery that it collapsed, sending many, including the Secretary of War, into the water.

The over-the-top adulation for Jackson, however, essentially subsided once he hit New England, whose political enthusiasm for him did not in any way match other parts of the Union. He made several barely-noteworthy visits between New York and Boston; in Hartford, the citizens gave him a Bible and Jackson’s thank-you note was printed in the papers (see the Norwich [Connecticut] Courier, June 26, 1833) and in New Haven he visited Yale University. Jackson entered Boston on Friday, June 21—just over two weeks into his journey—at about 4 pm. According to the June 28, 1833 issue of the Amherst, NH Farmer’s Cabinet, Jackson was escorted to Boston Common by a procession of military men, a military band, various city officials, and firemen. The firemen would remain major parts of the various celebrations in which Jackson took part during his time in Boston. After meeting with, among other dignitaries, Massachusetts Governor Lincoln at the President’s quarters in a local hotel, Jackson was treated to a review of the various companies of the Fire Department; one engine decorated with an apparently life-sized Indian figure especially caught his fancy. After dinner, fire engines appeared, all decked out in flags and banners, one in particular hanging a banner emblazoned “January 8, 1815” from a hickory branch (referring to Jackson’s nickname, “Old Hickory”).

President Jackson spent Saturday engaged in more processions and meetings, but by Sunday lingering health problems caught up with him. According to Fletcher M. Green’s excellent article, “On Tour with President Andrew Jackson” (see note at the conclusion of this article), Jackson “suffered infection of the throat, bleeding of the lungs, and severe pain in the back. [The important physician] Dr. J. C. Warren … bled him profusely and ordered him confined to bed where he remained two days.” The President’s illness caused him to miss the ceremonial sailing of the U.S.S. Constitution early Monday morning, at the conclusion of which three canes made from the timber of the vessel were presented to Governor Lincoln, Jackson confidant Joel Roberts Poinsett, and the President himself, via Vice President Martin Van Buren. The sickness also caused Jackson to postpone what was to be a momentous appearance at one of America’s most cherished battle sites.

Shortly before Jackson had departed Washington, on Wednesday, May 29, a group of residents of Charlestown, Massachusetts—now a section of Boston, but at one time its own entity and even the first capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony—met to discuss the prospect of bringing the President to their town. According to the June 10, 1833 edition of the Concord New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette,

A meetimg (sic) was held in Charlestown on Wednesday afternoon, at which resolutions were passed favorable to the services and character of General Jackson, and inviting him to visit Charlestown in his proposed tour. On the question of adopting the resolution, Mr. E Everett observed, that he concurred in the object, for which the meeting had been called. He should cordially unite with his fellow-citizens, in tendering a hospitable reception to the President. Mr. E. remarked, that, though politically opposed to the President, he had ever been able to do justice to his public services; and on the first occasion, on which he ever made a speech in Congress, he has paid a sincere tribute to their value. This he had also done at a later period, and was ready on every proper occasion to do it again. In opposing some of the measures of the administration, he had exercised his right as a freeman: but the most important of those measures, those which had been recently adopted for the preservation of the Union, had had his cordial support. During the four winters, which he had passed at Washington, under the administration of the President, Mr. E. observed that he and his family had received each season the hospitality of the President’s house, and such attentions, as it would be his duty and a pleasure to reciprocate, even to a private gentleman. … It was then voted to appoint a committee to make necessary arrangements, and a committee of twenty-five (including the Board of Selectmen) was appointed.

The orator Edward Everett, from the time period

The orator Edward Everett, from the time period

(The aforementioned “Mr. E Everett” was Edward Everett, at the time a member of the House of Representatives and, as a Whig, a critic of the President, as referenced above. The 39-year-old Everett had graduated from Harvard at the age of 17, became an ordained pastor when he was about 20 years old, and had subsequently taught at Harvard for several years before his election to the House. He would go on to serve as Governor of Massachusetts, President of Harvard University, U.S. Secretary of State (under Millard Fillmore), U.S. Senator, and Vice Presidential candidate as John Bell’s running mate on the Constitutional Union Party ticket in 1860. A well-known orator, he used this ability to promote Abraham Lincoln and the Union itself during the Civil War, before his death in early 1865.)

Jackson had, according to an article in the June 13, 1833 issue of the Keene New Hampshire Sentinel, planned to arrive at Bunker Hill on Monday, June 17, an apt date that marked the 58th anniversary of the battle there. At some point the intended time of the General’s arrival was moved back one week to June 24, and it was on that date that an elaborate military exhibition was planned, presumably by the Committee of Arrangements, and this display proceeded as intended despite the President’s illness and absence. As printed in the June 28 issue of the Farmer’s Cabinet,

The appointed military parade took place in Charlestown in the course of the forenoon, notwithstanding the indisposition of the President.— The troops, consisting of two regiments of infantry, and one of artillery, were reviewed by Gov. Lincoln, and the contemplated ceremonies were conducted with as little deviation as possible from the published arrangements. It is not certain that the President will be able to proceed this morning on his Eastern tour. He was in the hands of Dr. Warren, yesterday, who could not foretell the state of his health to-day.

Jackson did not feel sufficiently hearty enough to venture on until Wednesday, June 26; he left Boston at about 9:30 a.m. that day and arrived in nearby Cambridge where he was welcomed by the President and the Fellows of Harvard University. At Harvard—much to the chagrin of Jackson’s predecessor and political opponent, Harvard alum John Quincy Adams—Jackson was awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws.

Meanwhile, the citizens of Charlestown who lived in the shadow of the most memorable hill in American history had been waiting for the President to show up. The focal point of General Jackson’s visit was to be Bunker Hill (actually Breed’s Hill) and its monument, and that fact taken along with the close proximity of momentous Lexington and Concord reinforced the already strong military bent of the celebration—thus the choreographed military exercises that, although not in any way unique to the Charlestown segment of the tour, held particular meaning within the confines of that place and whose importance seemed to transcend the actual presence of the Commander-in-Chief. The Committee of Arrangements was particularly concerned with presenting Jackson with a gift weighty with a symbolism that encompassed both the place and the man who would visit it. Some local woodworker, probably, fashioned a box—described by one reporter as a “mahogany casket”—out of wood from the U.S.S. Constitution. This container was meant to hold two artifacts rife with meaning: a grape shot dug out of the Bunker Hill battlefield and a six-pound shot, a relic from the Battle of New Orleans. Inscribed on a silver plate probably fashioned by a local smith, the Committee of Arrangements had the following inscription engraved:download full film iBoy

These now harmless memorials of the 17th June, 1775, and the 8th of January 1815, were presented to General Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, by the citizens of Charlestown, on the 24th June, 1833, on his visit to Bunker-Hill.

In the spirit of this fine gift and any number of other commemorative objects produced to mark the President’s tour, the local stoneware manufactory made a pot.

Stoneware jug marked CHARLESTOWN

Stoneware jug marked CHARLESTOWN

The aforementioned manufactory was owned by one Barnabas Edmands. His pottery is perhaps best known for two different types of pots seen in stoneware collections all over the country—early stoneware jugs devoid of cobalt, dipped in a brown, iron oxide slip and often marked “CHARLESTOWN”; and later vessels, reminiscent of other Victorian stoneware such as that produced by the Nortons in Bennington, VT and the New York Stoneware Company in Fort Edward, NY, adorned with cobalt flowers, birds, and, rarely, deer. But between the crude early products of this pottery and the later more familiar ones, the potters working in Charlestown obviously created a wealth of stoneware in line with contemporary design and manufacturing trends.

The best secondary source on Charlestown stoneware I have found is Lura Woodside Watkins’ familiar, extensive 1950 book appropriately titled Early New England Potters and Their Wares. Part of her work seems to have been based on a 1902 book called Old Charlestown by Timothy Thompson Sawyer. Sawyer gives a quick sketch of the trajectory of Edmands’ pottery business as follows:

Barnabas [Edmands], whose homestead was in Richmond Street (Rutherford Avenue), in his early business life was a brass-founder, but he gave this up and, assisted by his brother-in-law, William Burroughs, established a pottery on Austin Street, not far from the State Prison. … For a time in the early history of the pottery Frederic Carpenter … was a partner with Mr. Edmands. After many years the pottery was removed to a wharf-estate on Mystic River which had been purchased by Mr. Edmands. In 1850 he sold the business to his sons, Edward and Thomas R. B., and Charles Collier, who had been his foreman, and they continued it under the style of Edmands & Co., adding to it the manufacture of drain-pipe; the latter part of the time by machinery, an invention of Mr. Collier’s for the purpose having been patented. This part of the business has now been given up, owing to western competition which has made it unprofitable, but the original pottery-manufacture is still kept up by Edmands & Hooper, as successors to Edmands & Co., at their kilns on Medford Street.

Stoneware crock marked EDMANDS & CO, to be sold April 10, 2010

Stoneware crock marked EDMANDS & CO., to be sold April 10, 2010

But expanding on this summary, Watkins says that Frederick Carpenter—a name, like Edmands’, that is quite familiar to students of stoneware—arrived in Charlestown in 1801, about 11 years before Barnabas Edmands bought his pottery, with Carpenter apparently as the master potter (Edmands himself clearly not a potter, but a businessman). During the interceding years, Carpenter may have himself produced stoneware bearing marks like “CHARLESTOWN” and “BOSTON.” Once Edmands’ shop got up and running, Carpenter seems to have ran it until his death in 1827. While I do not know the exact location of the pottery, it was situated on Austin Street, near the State Prison, probably quite near to the river. Watkins says that after Carpenter’s death, Charles Collier “became the foreman” and that by 1831 the pottery employed only five workers; they got their clay out of New York and New Jersey. It seems that making fairly elaborate presentation pieces was a part of Collier’s regular repertoire. According to Watkins,

In 1839 Edmands exhibited a very large stone jug at the second annual fair of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics’ Association. It was described as “an excellent specimen of so large an article of stone ware” and was said to have been turned on the wheel by an expert workman. Again, two years later, they again succeeded in obtaining awards at the Mechanics’ Fair—one, a diploma for Charles Collier, the other, for the company. Since they were the only entrants in the field, we cannot judge the quality of their exhibits by the fact that they won prizes. The commentary from the catalogue of the fair is worth quoting in full:

The Committee have but a limited field on which to construct the Report, as they find but two articles of Stone Ware offered for exhibition—one, a large Fifteen Gallon Water Pitcher, made by Mr. C. Collier; the other, a Water Jar, of nearly equal capacity, from the manufactory of Barnabas Edmands & Co., of Charlestown. The Committee find the material of these two articles of a very superior quality and the workmanship of a higher character than any that they have ever before met with of this country’s manufacture. They show an advance in the article highly creditable to the makers, and give promise that the hitherto almost untrodden field of the finer quality of Stone Ware manufactures may soon be occupied by the skill and taste of our countrymen. The Committee, however, could not but notice, that general fault in all articles made of Stone Ware, applied, (at least in one of the specimens) to those now exhibited. They found that the covers to the articles were not made with that care and fitness which they deem highly necessary; and they felt surprised that articles showing such a high state of improvement in the art, should not have met with a greater share of attention in this respect.

The Edmands Pottery's fine contribution to President Jackson's visit, to be sold in our April 10, 2010 auction

The Edmands Pottery’s fine contribution to President Jackson’s visit, to be sold in our April 10, 2010 auction

Just as he would do for the Mechanics’ Fair, Charles Collier was charged with producing something special for the arrival of the President of the United States. He probably did so at Edmands’ request. A prominent member of the town, Edmands, if not a member of the unknown Committee of Arrangements himself, may have been involved in that day’s planning on some level. We don’t know how many pots Collier—or one of his co-workers—made for the occasion, but my guess would be it was more than one. In doing so, he incorporated the same theme that both colored the plans for the Charlestown celebration as a whole and informed all of the artwork and objects produced for that event, as well as the Boston days. He threw a large jar and applied a molded patriotic eagle to the front. Underneath the eagle he incised the words “Gen. Andrew Jackson” in finely executed script, emphasizing the celebrated military background of the now Commander-in-Chief. He dipped a brush in a dark gray mixture of water, clay, and cobalt oxide and painted over the eagle, encircled the entire design in a cloud-like halo, then filled the General’s name in, as well. On the reverse, in large, bold characters he wrote, “17th June 1775.” Left to dry, what was a very dull, gray, matte vessel would be fired, salt-glazed, and brought out of the kiln shiny with electric blue decoration.

The Bunker Hill date on the Jackson crock

The Bunker Hill date on the Jackson crock

We don’t know, for sure, what Edmands, Collier, et al. intended to do with the jar, but it was evidently made to stand in some prominent position. Edmands’ shop on Austin Street was located near the Bunker Hill monument, but Jackson’s route into town did not take him by the pottery. So although it was possible that this pot was meant to sit either in the shop’s window or out front as a way for the pottery to both participate in the day’s festivities and show off its work, I do not think so. With the prominent Bunker Hill date on one side and Jackson’s name with the eagle on the other, the piece seems to me to have been produced to sit somewhere that could show off both sides and fit specifically with the theme of the jar. With all of this in mind, it very well could have been made to sit beside the Bunker Hill monument. In particular, it may have been used, perhaps along with others like it, to pot plants in or in some other way decorate the area where Jackson was to receive his gift and make his remarks.

WM * PORTER, Pleasantville, PA stoneware pitcher

WM * PORTER, Pleasantville, PA stoneware pitcher

The use of molded, applied eagle designs on American stoneware has been noted on a few other pieces from the time period but until recently was associated almost entirely with one pottery in particular—that of Henry Lowndes in Petersburg, Virginia. See, for instance, this piece—posted on Ceramics in America‘s website—that shows the motif seen on a small number of Lowndes vessels, obviously highly regarded by American stoneware students and collectors. Last year we were very excited to sell a finely-made stoneware pitcher—similar, in fact, to the Staffordshire style of the aforementioned Lowndes pitcher—with applied eagles on both sides and stamped with the maker’s mark “WM * PORTER,” referring to the potter of the same name who worked in Pleasantville, Venango County, Pennsylvania. The discovery of this piece, made hundreds of miles away from Lowndes’ pottery, demonstrated that the use of this decoration was not a technique unique to Petersburg, Virginia, but probably part of some greater design idea within the industry at large.

Ohio stoneware churn with applied eagle and other decorations

Ohio stoneware churn with applied eagle and other decorations

Even before this revelation, though, a different style eagle that was sometimes used in Ohio had been documented for some time. We sold a churn in November 2005 with an identical eagle to that seen on a famous piece pictured in Gary and Diana Stradling’s The Art of the Potter—a six-gallon water cooler inscribed in cobalt “Anthony Baer / Cleveland / Ohio,” referring to a tavern keeper. Another similar churn is also pictured in Donald Blake Webster’s Decorated Stoneware Pottery of North America. But the existence of another eagle done in what was considered to be the exclusive style of Henry Lowndes reinforces a theory I subscribe to that this design—though clearly not often used—was employed by potters working all over the eastern part of the United States.

I do not know where these potters procured the molds for their designs. I do not believe that they fashioned them themselves, and I also do not believe that they “bootlegged” them by making new molds off of other potters’ work (for instance, china or Rockingham ware) or even the products of metal workers. (The Bell family, for instance, in Waynesboro, PA and Strasburg, VA were famous for making plaster molds from spaniels and other pieces of pottery made, I’m sure amongst other places, at Edwin Bennett’s pottery in Baltimore.) I don’t know, for that matter, where potters got a hold of their various potters’ tools—those that weren’t handmade—and this is an area of study that I hope will one day be fleshed out.

Albany-slip glazed Edmands crock with applied eagle incorporated into mark

Albany-slip glazed Edmands crock with applied eagle incorporated into mark

Edmands, in particular, though, seems to have been fond of the eagle design. An Albany slip-glazed stoneware crock we sold in July 2008 reads “EDMANDS, / &,CO / CHARLESTOWN” within a wreath, topped with a molded eagle.

In the late morning of Wednesday, June 26, President Jackson made his way out of Cambridge and headed over to Charlestown, where he arrived around noon. The Columbian Guards and the Warren Phalanx—local military companies—escorted him into town to the sound of the Charlestown Artillery’s guns, and he followed Main Street, flanked by lined-up local school children, to Bunker Hill. (Incidentally, according to Old Charlestown, Barnabas Edmands’ cousin, Thomas Edmands, was one of the original members of the Warren Phalanx when it was founded in 1804 and had also served as its commander.)

At Bunker Hill—that is, near the monument—Edward Everett gave a somewhat verbose speech in which he said,

To you, Sir, who, under Providence, conducted the banners of the country to victory, in the last great struggle of the American arms, it must be peculiarly grateful to stand upon the spot, immortalized as the scene of the first momentous conflict.

We have thought it might not be unwelcome to you, to possess some joint memorial of these two eventful days, and such an one I now hold in my hands;—a grape-shot dug up from the sod beneath our feet, and a cannon-ball from the battle-field of New-Orleans, brought from the enclosure, within which your head-quarters, were established. They are preserved in one casket; and on behalf of the citizens of Charlestown, I now present them to you, in the hope that they will perpetuate, in your mind, an acceptable association of the 17th of June, 1775, and the 8th of January, 1815;—the dates of the first and last great battles fought under the American standard.

The silver plate on Jackson’s gift still read “June 24,” the day he was supposed to show up. Accepting the box of mementos, after Everett finished his remarks, the President made his own, saying, in part,

It is one of the most gratifying incidents of my life, to meet my fellow-citizens upon Bunker-Hill, at the base of that Monument, which their patriotism is erecting; and upon the sacred spot hallowed by so many interesting recollections:—A spot rich in the various national objects which it presents to view, and richer still in the associations, moral and historical, which belong to it. …

I accept with gratitude the interesting relics you have presented to me. I am sure I speak the sentiments of my fellow-soldiers upon the plains of New-Orleans, when I say, that to be associated with the memory of that band of patriots, who fought with Warren, when he sealed his principles with his life, is the highest meed of praise, which our country could bestow. … It was my good fortune, on that eventful day, to lead an army composed of American citizens, appreciating the value of the prize they contended for, and determined upon exertions proportioned to its magnitude;—and it was theirs to expel a superior force, and to preserve an important section of the Union.

Map showing Austin Street in red, Breed's Hill in yellow, and the monument in green. Original map image courtesy David Rumsey Map Collection

Map showing Austin Street in red, Breed's Hill in yellow, and the monument in green. Original map image courtesy David Rumsey Map Collection

When Jackson said that the citizens’ patriotism was erecting the monument, he was referencing the incomplete state of that structure, which—through an interminable process of building interrupted by funding issues—would not be finished for another nine years. (Construction had commenced way back in 1825.) Nevertheless, even incomplete, the monument carried the appropriate solemnity that it was designed to project. After giving his remarks, the President climbed up to the monument.

While two different newspaper articles I consulted (see note on sources) claim Jackson left Charlestown at about 1 p.m. that day, Green states in his article that “Everett’s lengthy speech was followed by a two-hour procession around the city and a party afterwards. The speech-making and the long tour so fatigued Jackson that he was late for his scheduled appearance at Lynn [Massachusetts], where he was too ill to attend the dinner given in his honor.”

The Bunker Hill Monument circa 1850, from Benson J. Lossing's Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution

The Bunker Hill Monument circa 1850, from Benson J. Lossing’s Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution

Jackson was, in fact, quite ill. He would call in sick to the dinners planned in his honor at the next two stops of his tour, as well—Marblehead and Salem, Massachusetts. He managed to move on to Lowell, Massachusetts, and Portsmouth and Concord, New Hampshire, without medical incident, but at some point after reaching the latter town on June 28, he decided—quite abruptly—to cut the tour short. He had, as mentioned previously, intended to take his road show all the way “down east” to Portland, Maine. Partisan bickering in New Hampshire may have played more of a role in Jackson’s quick exit than he let on, and John Quincy Adams suggested as much publicly. Either way, Jackson made up his mind to return to the nation’s capital and embarked on July 1, returning to the White House on Independence Day.

The potters of Charlestown, Massachusetts, seem to have been steeped in the knowledge of their revolutionary, patriotic roots that likewise colored the overall atmosphere of the town. Somewhat ironically, almost two decades later, the Edmands pottery was burned to the ground—though the business lived to see another day—when the nearby rope walk caught fire as the presumed result of firecrackers lit to celebrate America’s independence. (See the July 7, 1852 issue of the Boston Daily Atlas.) The pot that Edmands’ shop produced to mark the occasion of President Jackson’s visit to the hallowed ground of Bunker Hill provides a rare opportunity for us as we study this specialized segment of American material culture–one where the “high” history of Presidents and almost mythical subjects like the American Revolution intersects with the story of artisans and the objects they made and left behind.

Note on Sources: Fletcher M. Green’s excellent article, “On Tour with President Andrew Jackson,” published in The New England Quarterly, June 1963, provided my information for the background, circumstances, and happenings of Jackson’s New England tour, in general. Actual quotes from newspapers, however, were located and quoted directly by me. Green mostly glosses over the actual Charlestown visit, however, and for that large section of my article other sources take over. My three main sources for Jackson’s time in Charlestown are “Politics and Statistics: The President’s Tour” in The New-England Magazine, August 1833, the July 4, 1833 edition of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts Sun, and the June 29, 1833 issue of The Portsmouth [New Hampshire] Journal of Literature & Politics. In some instances, but only when filling in minor details such as the specific date Jackson arrived in a particular city, for brevity’s sake I did not cite the exact newspaper article I used to flesh out the detail. Any significant primary documentary sources are noted in the body of the article.

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L.W. PORTER / 27 NORTH MARKET STREET / BOSTON Stoneware Advertising Jug made by J. & E. Norton in Bennington, Vermont.

L.W. PORTER / 27 NORTH MARKET STREET / BOSTON Stoneware Advertising Jug made by J. & E. Norton in Bennington, Vermont.

The pheasant-on-stump design used at the pottery of Julius and Edward Norton in Bennington, Vermont, is a well-known, but not often seen, decoration that is highly valued by collectors. While most examples are impressed with the makers’ mark, “J & E NORTON / BENNINGTON, VT,” the example we will be selling in our July 11, 2009 auction is unusual–stamped with advertising for a Boston merchant: “L.W. PORTER / 27 NORTH MARKET STREET / BOSTON.”

Like most major American stoneware potteries, many existing pieces of stoneware made at the Nortons’ pottery are stamped with the names of merchants and other traders for whom they made their ware. American stoneware ranging from ordinary bottles and jugs to ornate and specialized water coolers and poultry fountains bear the monikers of general merchants, liquor dealers, distillers, oystermen, butter dealers, ship chandlers, and other nineteenth century businessmen for whom stoneware was a marketable commodity, a necessary container for products, or a means of advertising.

Documenting the people and firms whose names have come down to us as impressions in clay both helps to more accurately date stoneware and better understand its diverse uses. In this case, by looking in period Boston city directories, we can ascertain what the Norton pheasant jug held and, fairly accurately, when it was made.

According to the 1860 federal census, Leonard W. Porter was born in Vermont circa 1820. In or about 1851, he went into business with George Sawin, a Boston wine and liquor dealer, and the partnership of Sawin & Porter began selling libations out of its store at 27 North Market Street, apparently just north of Quincy Market. The primary focus of the firm seems to have been wine, as nearly all references in city directories list the pair as dealing in “wines, &c.” Around 1858, the partnership dissolved, and Porter began running the business under his own name, out of the same location. Circa 1858, then, is the earliest possible date for the jug. However, by the following year, Porter had apparently attempted to expand his business, as he was now trading concurrently out of a second location on nearby Blackstone Street. He continued running both shops until about 1862, when he seems to have contracted back to the single North Market shop for about a year. By 1863, he had procured a new second storefront on Tremont Street. Porter continued to trade at both of these locations until about 1865, when he apparently sold or stopped leasing 27 North Market full film Get Out

Since only the North Market address is listed on the jug, it seems likely that it was made during one of the years when Porter was operating only one shop–around 1858 or 1862. The piece’s ornate design may, however, indicate that it was made just as Porter was moving out on his own, as a particularly attractive advertising piece for his new business.

Based on existing advertising pieces attributable to their pottery, Julius and Edward Norton frequently shipped large quantities of stoneware into Massachusetts and New York State. In a way that, for instance, Crolius’ Manhattan-made stoneware was probably well-known and regarded far outside New York City (as I discussed in the recent Commeraw article), Bennington stoneware seems to have been a respected brand amongst New Englanders and residents of New York State. In an 1859 Boston city directory, a merchant named David Wells ran a very interesting advertisement. Above the large, bold words “BENNINGTON STONE WARE” sit four renderings of stoneware drawn to look like J. & E. Norton’s wares–a jug with a floral decoration, a lidded jar with a cobalt bird, a tall-collared pitcher, and a lidded crock. Wells seems to have been confident that the Bennington name and the images of Norton’s stoneware, both which were probably quite familiar to his potential customers, would have drawn them into his store. For those who had never seen these Bennington wares, those same images were probably meant to show both the diversity of forms and attractive decorations available from the Nortons.

Illustrated 1859 ad for a Boston merchant selling BENNINGTON STONE WARE.

Illustrated 1859 ad for a Boston merchant selling BENNINGTON STONE WARE.

Wells may have been selling J & E Norton pieces stamped with his name (for instance, “DAVID D. WELLS / 27 HAVERHILL STREET / BOSTON”), the Nortons’ mark, or examples of each. While I am unaware of any existing vessels bearing Wells’ name, there are pieces stamped with the mark of an apparent successor to Wells: “WALKER & CO. / 27 Haverhill St. / BOSTON, MASS.” There were two ways to sell stoneware in nineteenth century America–empty (as a primary product for use in a home or business) or full of a drink or foodstuff (as a secondary item provided as a container). Acquiring stoneware by the former method appears to have been a straight-forward transaction. The consumer bought the ware directly at the pottery, or through an agent / reseller who marketed the pottery’s pieces. Sometimes potters advertised their stoneware for sale and as an aside noted that they would accept other materials in exchange–for instance, pine wood, which stoneware makers constantly needed on-hand for fuel. Stoneware bought from a merchant or other agent would be marked with either the potter’s or manufactory’s name, or the name of the merchant. Why, how, how often, and under what circumstances businessmen chose to have their names stamped on stoneware is a facet of American stoneware production that is not well understood. Acquiring stoneware as a container for beer, soda, sauce, turpentine, wine / liquor (as was the case with the Porter jug), and so on was, however, a transaction that is even less understood.

The Porter jug is a somewhat problematic example for this discussion because the ornate and highly decorative design was not the standard container offered for two gallons of wine. But for even a more standard vessel–say, a jug with no decoration, marked with a liquor dealer’s name and address–what was the arrangement between the dealer and the consumer? Did the buyer pay more to receive the jug with the liquor? If so, was this some sort of a deposit system, where any amount of money paid over the price of the alcohol would be refunded if the jug was returned? If the dealer would buy the jug back, would he do so if it was chipped or otherwise minimally damaged? Even if there was no actual deposit system in place, maybe the dealer encouraged the buyer to bring the jug back for a refill that cost only as much as the alcohol itself. If so, would a dealer accept a jug marked with the name of a competitor? In the case of the Porter jug, maybe the unusually ornate decoration was simply an added bonus to the consumer to encourage sales and function as an excellent advertising piece for anyone who happened to see the beautiful jug someone bought at Leonard Porter’s store. Or maybe a jug with this sort of design was thrown in when a customer bought a particularly expensive wine or liquor.

Questions and considerations such as these have not been extensively pursued, but I believe they are important ones to keep in mind as we study eighteenth and nineteenth century American stoneware. Examining this side of the art form enables us to better understand and explain the decorations and other attributes of these vessels that have survived from a time period when day-to-day commerce and social interaction as a whole was quite different from our own.

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Some New Info on Peter Cross, Potter of Hartford, CT

P. CROSS / HARTFORD stoneware jug with incised ship design, to be sold in our July 11, 2009 auction.
P. CROSS / HARTFORD stoneware jug with incised ship design, to be sold in our July 11, 2009 auction.

We were all excited to receive the P. CROSS / HARTFORD incised ship jug–a rare example of stoneware that combines a scarce, desirable maker’s mark with a well-rendered, unusual decoration–for our July 11, 2009 auction. The consignment of this piece got me interested in this fairly mysterious potter, and I took an excursion into some early Hartford, Connecticut, newspapers to see if I could dig up anything new on him.

The best reference I have been able to find on Peter Cross is Lura Woodside Watkins’ 1950 book, Early New England Potters and Their Wares. Watkins’ brief biography of Cross’ career is written as follows:

In the 1790’s, … John Souter, an Englishman, made his appearance in Hartford. He is said to have built an earthenware shop on the northeast corner of Potter and Front Streets. In 1805 he sold it to Peter Cross, a stoneware manufacturer. The name Cross does not occur in the land records, and I believe he was not a native of Hartford. Although he made some excellent stoneware, he was not altogether successful. After a few years he sold his first building to Horace Goodwin and Mack C. Webster and moved to 38 Front Street; but this, too, he abandoned at some time before 1818. Cross’s business was taken over by two retired sea captains, George Benton and Levi Stewart, who lived on either side of the pottery. They found a manager in Daniel Goodale, Jr. (Watkins, 194)

All of these stoneware makers’ names still exist as impressions on pieces of pottery. Jugs and jars marked “GOODWIN & WEBSTER / HARTFORD,” “D. GOODALE / HARTFORD”, and variations thereof regularly come up for sale, and while more difficult to find, “G. BENTON & L. STEWART” pieces do, as well.

According to Watkins, Cross began his career as a pottery owner in Hartford in 1805. While that may be true, he probably was not marking his pieces “P. CROSS” until the following year. In searching Hartford newspapers of the time period, I discovered two interesting ads relevant to Peter Cross’ career. The first appears in the March 27, 1806  issue of the American Mercury:

Dissolution of Copartnership.
THE connection in business subsisting between the Subscribers, under the firm of CROSS & SMITH, was dissolved by mutual consent, on the first day of January last–All persons having any demands against said firm, are requested to exhibit their claims immediately to the Suscribers.

N.B. The business in future of making and vending Stone Ware, will be carried on by said Cross–where all kinds of articles in the Stone Ware line, will be for Sale, on the lowest terms, at his Factory, in Front-street, 40 rods south of the market, in this city.

An apprentice to the above business will meet with good encouragement by applying to said CROSS immediately.

City of Hartford, 27th March.

1806 ad announcing the dissolution of the stoneware manufacturing partnership of Peter Cross and Samuel W. Smith.
1806 ad announcing the dissolution of the stoneware manufacturing partnership of Peter Cross and Samuel W. Smith.

The partnership of Cross & Smith is a previously unknown one, and no pieces, to my knowledge, exist with its mark. Samuel W. Smith, likewise, is a previously unknown potter, but it is likely that he is a relative of prolific Norwalk, CT potter Asa E. Smith, whose work exists today bearing many different maker’s marks.

We can confidently say, based on this advertisement, that pieces marked “P. CROSS / HARTFORD” were made, at the earliest, beginning on January 1, 1806. This first endeavor by Cross to own his own shop ended fairly quickly however. On November 17, 1808, the following ad ran in the American Mercury:

THE Public are respectfully informed, that the Subscribers, have lately taken the Stand, formerly occupied by Peter Cross, as a STONE WARE Factory, where they have constantly on hand, an Assortment of this article, at Wholesale and Retail, where Dealers, in the above article may be supplied, on as accomodating [sic] terms as at any other Factory.
Hartford, Nov. 17.

1806 ad announcing the dissolution of the stoneware manufacturing partnership of Peter Cross and Samuel W. Smith.
1808 ad announcing Goodwin & Webster's takeover of the former Peter Cross stoneware shop.
Watkins says that after selling his pottery to Goodwin & Webster, Cross took up a new business down the street and continued there until “some time before 1818.” As is often the case with the earlier works on American stoneware and redware, Early New England Potters and Their Wares contains no proper citations, so it can be very unclear where the author obtained her information–and, moreover, just what is incontrovertible fact and what is speculation, assumption, or second-hand knowledge. Watkins’ book is, nevertheless, a very good work on its subject and a lot of research clearly went into its writing. In order to verify that Cross did start again in his own firm, however, since no Hartford city directories exist for the years 1800-1824, a search of the city’s land records would have to be done.

At this time, then, the only firm, definite dates for pieces marked “P. CROSS / HARTFORD” are January 1, 1806 to about November 1, 1808. It seems very possible, given Watkins’ research, that Cross did use the mark after this period, and it is also possible, though unlikely, that he did so at some point before, as well. The rarity of pieces stamped by Cross makes me wonder, however, if his signed work was, in fact, limited to that 1806-8 time frame. The incised ship jug does seem to date to an early period such as this.

Hartford, Connecticut, was clearly a hotbed for stoneware production beginning around 1800. Many, many marks were used as various potters and pottery owners opened new shops, took over each other’s businesses, and struck new, and dissolved old, partnerships with one another. Cross’ status as the earliest Hartford stoneware potter to sign his work makes him significant, and his work is quite sought after. Hopefully more research on these prolific potters will better flesh out their lives and the dates of their many diverse maker’s marks.

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