Crocker Farm and Thomas Commeraw in The New York Times

One of the finest pieces Thomas Commeraw left behind.
For those of you who may have missed it, my Commeraw project and the two examples of Commeraw’s pottery that we will be selling on the 29th were both featured in today’s issue of The New York Times. Click here to read the article.

Those who have kept up with my various updates have seen me comment on the remarkable life that Thomas Commeraw led; but Eve Kahn’s article in today’s paper is the first time I have spoken in any real detail about this man’s story. Sometime in 2003, a chance encounter with a census record embarked me on a quest that has more or less consumed the last eight years of my life. Since that time, I have gone a long way toward fleshing out the life of a man whose identity somehow slipped through the fingers of history. Someone who once burned a kiln with regularity near the beach of the East River, whose name was well-known throughout Manhattan and beyond–not only for the mark he left on thousands of pots, but for the mark he sought to leave on American (and world) history–essentially vanished for almost two centuries.

An oyster jar Thomas Commeraw made for free African American oysterman, Daniel Johnson.
My study of Commeraw has, naturally, taken me beyond the potter himself, into realms of American history that have little to do with stoneware–the story of people and places that populated the world in which Thomas Commeraw lived. One of these people was an oysterman named Daniel Johnson. In the fall of 2005, we sold two stoneware oyster jars clearly made by Commeraw, one of which was marked, “DANIEL / JOHNSON. AND Co No 24 / LUMBERSTREET / N. YORK.” A few years ago I set about to try to establish the identities of the few known people for whom Commeraw turned his ware. In so doing, I determined that Johnson, too, like so many New Yorkers ensconced in the oyster trade, was a free African American. We were privileged to be consigned another one of the oyster jars Commeraw made for Daniel Johnson, and it, along with the monumental Commeraw jug, will be sold on the 29th.

Thanks to everyone for taking interest in this remarkable story, and I look forward to sharing more of it with you soon, as I get closer to completing my long-labored-over book on the life and times of Thomas Commeraw.



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Crocker Farm Makes the Cover of This Month’s MAD

Crocker Farm on the cover of Maine Antique Digest (May 2011 issue).
I just wanted to draw everyone’s attention to this month’s issue of Maine Antique Digest, by far one of the most respected and widely-read publications on the subject of American antiques. We were honored to be heavily featured on the cover of that issue, along with Karl Pass’s story on our record-breaking March 5 auction of American stoneware and redware. (The attributed John Bell redware dog figure we sold for $19,550 is pictured.) We have been very fortunate to have remained a staple in MAD and other antiques publications over the years; you can read some of the many articles written about us here. If you don’t already have a copy of this month’s MAD and want to check it out, it is available in major bookstores.



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Brandt’s Interview on “Artisan Ancestors”: Researching American Stoneware, Thomas Commeraw, and More

Artisan Ancestors, a podcast by Jon Kay.
Artisan Ancestors, a podcast by Jon Kay.
Jon Kay, the director of Traditional Arts Indiana, recently launched a great new podcast called Artisan Ancestors. Jon describes it as a “podcast where I explore ways to research and understand the past,” and he does just that, talking to professors, researchers, authors, and scholars about American decorative arts. A couple of weeks ago, Jon interviewed me about Crocker Farm, our stoneware-related research, and the Commeraw project. If you’re at all interested in any of those topics, and you can put up with listening to me talk for twenty minutes or so, you might want to give it a listen. I think you may find it interesting.

(For those completely new to this sort of thing, a podcast is essentially an internet radio broadcast; it just takes a click of the mouse to listen.)

Click here to check it out.

(Once there, simply click the play button or the “Play in new window” link on the left-hand side of the page to start listening.)



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Crocker Farm Acquires Gorsuch Barn

Our new headquarters and auction venue.
Our new headquarters and auction venue.
We are extremely pleased to announce that we have purchased the historic Gorsuch Barn in Sparks, Maryland, as our new headquarters and auction venue. The Gorsuch Barn was built in 1841 for John M. Gorsuch, a prominent Maryland landowner who farmed wheat and corn off of his hundreds of acres of land near Glencoe Village, Maryland. A stone barn, it was decorated with what has been called “the finest example in Maryland of brick louvers set in native stone.” The striking red brick louvers, or vents, were placed into the structure in what is often called a “sheaf of wheat” pattern.

We are thrilled to be able to acquire this historic property, and are in the process of converting it into a first-class auction facility. Our intention is to make the Gorsuch Barn the auction home for stoneware and redware in the United States. Our address is now 15900 York Road, Sparks, MD 21152, which is located just off of Interstate 83, about thirty minutes south of our old auction location at the York Expo Center. As we prepare our new building for its grand opening, we are also, of course, gearing up for our Fall 2010 auction, and will be loading our first photos of featured lots onto the website on Wednesday, September 8. We will soon be firming up the exact date.

We cannot emphasize strongly enough the unique opportunity that our first auction in our new building will present for you to showcase your stoneware and redware. If you are considering selling your pottery, we feel that this inaugural auction, presented in an atmosphere that we have never before been able to achieve at our previous locations, will attract a record-breaking crowd of serious bidders. Please feel free to contact us for a free evaluation of your pottery. Our seller’s commission is still 11%.

Stay tuned to our website for more exciting news as Crocker Farm continues to grow, and, as always, if we can help you in any way, please do not hesitate to call or email us. Thank you all for your support over the many years, and we look forward to the future in our new home!



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