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.


4 responses to “Pottery by the Numbers (and Letters)

  • jenyjenny

    I just found your blog through Word Press Tag Surfer, and I love it. My ancestor is Roger Conant, one of the founders of Salem, but I have never visited the city. Thanks for the beautiful posts!

  • Jane Steward

    A most enjoyable virtual browse through our town, there is always more to learn.
    Jane Steward

  • Rick Hamelin

    Thank you very much for the kind words and mentioning me in your blog, as well as putting this together.Did you say hello? I hope we met and that you enjoyed the program. Your thoughts on it are appreciated.
    I should be giving a pottery demonstration and house tour at the Felton House in Peabody this summer and invite you to attend. I erred at the SA lecture and didn’t mention that William Vinson’s pottery kiln was unearthed “some years ago” prior to a reference I found dated 1950. Vinson’s was Salem’s first potter and his kiln was located on the northside of Bridge St where Planter’s St crosses it and had a house in “Potter’s Field”Please let me know if you ever witness any deep excavation in that area, something might be found!
    best regards,
    Rick Hamelin

    • daseger

      Hi Rick, we didn’t get to meet as I had to run, but I enjoyed your topic very much. Your topic is yet another example of how Salem history gets totally obscured by the witch trials—there’s just so much more.

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