Sunday, March 10, 2013

Kentucky Stoneware Meets Colonial Williamsburg

Antiques Forum representing the Summer Institute at MESDA

 Yours truly had the pleasure recently of presenting at Colonial Williamsburg's Antiques Forum on the topic of my Summer Institute project I worked on last summer with the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA). My research last summer revolved around these three pieces of stoneware pictured below in the collection of the museum.

Isaac Thomas churn, dated 1836. Courtesy, MESDA.
 The first two pieces were made in Maysville, Kentucky. Above, is a large stoneware churn in the shop of Isaac Thomas. Not one of the earliest Maysville pottery families, but the Thomas family may have been the longest in production and had ties with other pottery families of the area. Below is a piece made in the shop of brothers John Wood and Ezekial Wood. There are few pots that I have turned up yet to be identified or marked as being made by J&E Wood.

Crock made by J&E Wood, dated 1845. Courtesy, MESDA.
 Below is a simple crock with an illustrative handwritten note across the top reading, "Made by Geo.(George) Swingle Junr./Mrs. E. Cups/June 9th 1827/Vanceburg, Kentucky". If only other historical potteries wrote the details of the dates and places on them! George Swingle, Junior is a harder case to crack for me, as no other pieces than this one have been identified as his manufacture. The dates of his pottery production are not known, but this piece is the earliest known dated piece of Kentucky stoneware. Very exciting.

Image of SW Pennsylvania potters transporting pots via flatboat. Shaltenbrand.
 Aside from talking about the production points (which I hope to share in a future blog post) and the possible uses of the pieces (all likely kitchen-related), one of the greatest aspects is the movement of the pottery made by these potters. I should say that while this may apply to George Swingle's work, it is not known for sure. So, I refer this bit to Thomas and the Wood brothers. It turns out that one of the Wood brothers was a flatboater. Pictured above and in detail below is an image of Southwestern Pennsylvania potters transporting pots via flatboat. One of the early transportation devices along the Ohio and Mississippi River, materials were transported from Kentucky down to New Orleans and beyond.
 Prior to the development of the steamboat in the second quarter of the 19th-century, those who went by flatboat from Kentucky returned through the Natchez Trace, by foot.
Steamboat with pots lined up. Shaltenbrand.
 This is a great image of a steamboat with pots stacked beside it for shipping. The steamboat allowed travelers and merchandize to travel down river and up river.
 While I have not located any pieces of the Wood brothers further South, I have come across pieces made by Isaac Thomas, specifically for merchants along the Mississippi River. Frontier capitalism at its best! Below is a piece made for a merchant A.L. Yeiser in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Another piece I have seen reads, "Bayou Sara, LA." I hope to find out more about these connections down the Mississi
This project has gone beyond just the Summer Institute, and I am pursuing further research which I hope to find a chance to share soon!


Dennis Allen said...

Love the examples you chose to share. Wish I had seen the whole presentation.

Liberty Stoneware said...

I really enjoy the KY stoneware. It's nice to find such a fresh topic. I will be presenting a longer version at the Kentucky Historical Museum in June should you want to cruise down I-75 and have a listen! I'll post more information on the calendar when I get it.