Daily Archives: January 21, 2011

Pottery by the Numbers (and Letters)

In anticipation of the presentation next week at the Salem Athenaeum on the “Potteries of Salem” by Rick Hamelin, a Massachusetts Scholar in Residence at the Peabody Historical Society as well as a recognized redware potter, I brushed up on my early redware and slipware:  domestic glazed earthenware often glazed and embellished with liquid clay “slip” decoration.  I’m somewhat familiar with English slipware but much less so with American, so I was surprised to learn that there were some 75 potteries in the Salem area—located mostly in present-day Peabody and Danvers—in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  Looking at examples of this period pottery, both from America and England, I find myself drawn to numbers and letters decoration, which is very predictable given my typographical inclinations.  The first three examples of slip-decorated redware  (two “tygs”, or large handled mugs, and a flask) below are from the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London; the latter two American plates are from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Cogswell’s Grant, one of Historic New England‘s House Museums, in Essex, Massachusetts.










Apparently Bertram and Nina Fletcher Little, major collectors of American folk art and the owners of Cogswell’s Grant for much of the middle of the twentieth century before its donation to Historic New England, hung this “temperance” plate in the pantry/bar of the house.


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