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10 - - Antiques & Auction News — June 7, 2019 antiquesandauctionnews.


The Parkers’ Colonial Stoneware Production In Charlestown, Massachusetts

By Justin W. Thomas Nevertheless, Isaac Parker
must have noticed the
It can be argued that Isaac stoneware trade between
(1692-1742) and Grace Parker’s merchants and consumers in
(1697-1754) red earthenware the Boston area. He must have
business in Charlestown, envisioned an opportunity to
Mass., was the most success- capitalize with his own brand.
ful pottery of this type in Massachusetts author Lura
Colonial New England. The Woodside Watkins (1897-1982)
company was established researched the history of
around 1714, just after the Parker’s business venture,
This is a Colonial slip-decorated red earthenware porringer and chamber pot
couple married, and was in which is largely documented This is the 18th-century salt-glazed attributed to the Parker Pottery in Charlestown, Mass. Image courtesy Boston
operation until the 1750s. in the Massachusetts State stoneware pot discovered by Lura One of the cobalt surrounded handles Archaeology Department.
Archaeological evidence Archives. She later presented Woodside Watkins that she attributed possess a deep finger impression at
has shown the family’s red this story when “Early New to Grace Parker’s stoneware business, the handle terminal. Archaeologists in 1754. This was a landmark used to protect pottery in the
earthenware was exported all England Potters and Their circa 1742-46. Image courtesy Historic Charlestown, Mass., recovered a company that paved the way kiln was illustrated in the
over coastal New England, Wares” was published in 1950, New England. similar handle in the 1980s. Image for other red earthenware chapter titled, “The Potters of
with artifacts recovered as far and her analysis has been courtesy Historic New England. potters businesses in Charlestown, Massachusetts,”
north as Cape Breton Island in cited in other publications, appointed to oversee the Charlestown (and likely and had been recovered by
Nova Scotia, as far south as thereafter. “In Isaac Parker’s financial affairs of the compa- earthenware, some of which coastal Massachusetts), some archaeologists in Charlestown
North Brantford, Conn., and day no stoneware had been ny, whereas the partnership was slip-decorated. This of whom likely imitated the in the 1980s. Pendery
possibly even North Carolina, manufactured in the was named “Thomas Symmes advertisement proves that red Parker’s business model. described the artifact as “like-
and places in between such as Massachusetts Bay Colony. & Company.” earthenware was still pro- Collectively, the industry ly a saggar that was manufac-
Yarmouth, Maine, Berwick, Parker’s greatest difficulty was “On Dec. 1, 1742, the new duced as it always had been flourished during the 1740-75, tured at the Parker stoneware
Maine, Portsmouth, N.H., and to learn the mystery of making firm, including James Duche as since the business was estab- period with production even- pottery in the 18th century.
all over the Boston area, Cape the ware. For this purpose he a co-partner, petitioned the lished in 1714, but they were tually ending due to the con- The glazed round edge indi-
Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. took a trip to New York to General Court for the monop- also apparently successfully flicts that led up to the cates a vent hole at the top of
The Parkers and their 11 investigate the potteries oly previously granted to Isaac producing stoneware. It may American Revolution, and the saggar.”
children were prominent in the there, but the tradespeople Parker. They received a favor- not have been realized by especially the Battle of Further research that I
Boston and Charlestown area. were so wary he was unable to able response and were everyone involved, but this Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. conducted with current
The family was well-to-do, liv- obtain the slightest informa- allowed the sole privilege of was a major accomplishment For all that was ruined at Boston City archaeologist Joe
ing on Charlestown’s water- tion. As a last resort, he sent to making stoneware for a period for potters in New England the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Bagley revealed that this sag-
front with servants, seasonal Philadelphia for a man who of 15 years. Severe penalties seeing that no other company fact that Isaac and Grace gar was recovered from land-
gardens, a dock and all the lat- had been trained there in the were imposed upon any per- is known to have produced Parker developed the idea for fill used at Charlestown’s 18th
est fashions. For example, Mrs. stoneware potter’s art. James son who should build a both types of pottery in the a business to produce both century docks, which was
Parker’s inventory in the Duche (1715-49), son of stoneware kiln or use a kiln region during this period. stoneware and red earthen- located near the Parker prop-
Massachusetts State Archives Anthony Duche, arrived with already built for that purpose.” It was also only a short ware was unusual for the erty. The archaeological con-
indicates the family owned his family on the brigantine period, serving as an accom- text saw a mean date of 1738,
popular imported ceramics for Mary in Boston on July 14, 1742. plishment achieved at few likely suggesting that the
the period, such as Delft and James Duche was perhaps American potteries in the 18th object is evidence of
fine China. The Parkers also skilled enough as a potter but and also early 19th century. stoneware production from
owned a general store in the was lacking in knowledge of Symmes & Company Symmes & Company.
City Square neighborhood in the properties of New England Thomas Symmes & Company’s advertisement from the Boston Gazette on Stoneware Archaeologists also recov-
Charlestown, where they sold clay. The stoneware makers of April 6, 1745, notifying subscribers that over 40 different sorts of stoneware are When Lura Woodside ered the remains of an over-
their pottery and other goods. New York and Philadelphia now available. Image courtesy Boston Public Library. Watkins published the fired salt-glazed cup slightly
However, being the busi- never had any trouble reasearch on Symmes & decorated in cobalt in
nessman that he was, Isaac because they had suitable clay However, stoneware pro- time later that the financial Company in 1950, there was no Charlestown, which was dis-
appears to have been driven nearby. Although Isaac Parker duction did not go as planned cost of this company became archaeological evidence from covered inside the landfill used
by opportunity and desired had heard of Martha’s for James Duche, as he spent a apparent when Grace Parker Grace Parker’s circa 1742-46 for a 19th century utility trench
more success for his pottery Vineyard clay being used for lot of time and energy was unable to repay the loan company. Although it should dug around Charlestown’s
company. He had apparently this purpose, and fearing that attempting to build a kiln and on time in 1746. She had suf- be noted that it is question- docks, and near the Parker
noticed the domestic the cost of transporting clay manufacture stoneware using fered so much financial liabil- able whether Grace was actu- property. Despite the inconclu-
stoneware that was imported from New York or Philadelphia Martha’s Vineyard clay. It was ity that she was forced to sell ally a potter or rather a propri- sive context, the remains of
by the shipload from European would eat up the greater part reported there were at least some of the property she etor. There isn’t evidence to this object certainly date from
manufacturers (found of any profit he might make, three failed kiln firings, which owned. She pleaded with the suggest she was involved with the Colonial period and may
throughout Colonial archaeo- he decided to make a trial of were undoubtedly the result of General Court to extend the the labor of production. represent more evidence from
logical contexts in Boston and the nearby material. the high temperature needed loan under new financial con- Watkins published a Symmes & Company. But the
Charlestown) as well as wares In September 1742, Parker to fire stoneware. On the con- ditions, and the court obliged, stoneware jar as figure 86 in stamped decoration on this
possibly from some domestic presented a petition to the trary, red earthenware is fired allowing her to extend the “Early New England Potters cup is also representative of
stoneware potters, such as General Court stating that he at a lower temperature, which loan agreement until 1751. and Their Wares” that she felt production in Philadelphia and
those employed in New York was endeavoring at great was suitable for the type of At this point, James Duche was made by Symmes & New York City, and this may
City, Philadelphia and perhaps expense to find out the art of clay found in New England. returned to Philadelphia to Company. The jar was discov- speak for the domestic imports
even Virginia. making stoneware and had As a result, Grace Parker work with his father, and for ered in the basement of an that Isaac Parker cited in the
Stoneware was manufac- employed a man to assist him. eventually ordered a load of the most part, the stoneware 18th-century house in Chelsea, Boston and Charlestown-area,
tured at three primary loca- He explained why it would be clay from New York, which business is thought to have Mass. The jar descended from while he pursued permission
tions on the East Coast during an advantage for proved successful, and there ceased production. Although the estate of Watkins’ son, to own and operate his own
this period, but Boston was Massachusetts but said he was are reports that clay may have Grace Parker’s son, John Malcolm Watkins (1912-2001), stoneware business around
not among them. The Crolius unable to provide the funds to been ordered from Parker (1725-65), is believed to until Historic New England 1742.
and Remmey families had do so. Therefore, he asked for Philadelphia, as well. The cost have continued the red earth- acquired it. Watkins described The Parker Stoneware Legacy
arrived from Germany and a loan and the sole privilege of of this stoneware venture was enware business based on it as “a pot with an exterior The amount of stoneware
began to manufacture their manufacturing the ware for also beginning to take its toll entries in his circa 1747-61 salt-glaze, but no glaze on the manufactured under the
ware in New York City as early whatever time the court on the Parker family. potter’s daybook, today interior, cobalt-blue swashes Parker Pottery branch of
as the 1720s. There was also a should see fit. The petition It is unknown how much owned by the Baker Library at around the handles, and Symmes & Company is largely
stoneware business operated was granted on Parker’s terms, clay was shipped to Harvard University, and while warped in burning.” unknown today as wells as
by an Englishman of French and the loan was payable Charlestown from New York he documents many red Interestingly, the form of how it was distributed. In
Huguenot descent, Anthony without interest on or before and Philadelphia, although earthenware transactions, the handles and the bold fin- some ways, this is also
Duche (d. 1762), who began to the last day of December 1746. stoneware was apparently Parker never cited the ger impressions found on the insignificant; Grace Parker’s
produce English and German- Unfortunately, Isaac Parker successfully produced in 1743 stoneware business. jar’s two handle terminals company was the first known
style stoneware along with his unexpectedly died three weeks and 1744. But whether the With that said, English closely resemble a stoneware enterprise to manufacture
three sons in Philadelphia later. Now left with the burden stoneware kiln was regularly poet Geoffrey Chaucer once chamber pot handle recov- stoneware in Colonial New
around 1724. Another of how to operate the family’s fired in those years or inter- wrote, “All good things must ered by archaeologists in England. This was quite an
Englishman, John Rogers, red earthenware business, but mittingly used is unexplained. come to an end.” That is Charlestown in the 1980s dur- accomplishment for all the
owned a pottery in Yorktown, also support her family, Grace On April 16, 1745, Symmes exactly what happened to the ing the archaeology of hardships this business dealt
Va., around 1720, where he Parker decided to continue & Company advertised in the Parkers’ legendary New Boston’s infamous Big Dig with in order to achieve Isaac
must have employed at least with the stoneware invest- Boston Gazette that 40 differ- England business, which Project. This handle was Parker’s ultimate goal of man-
one English trained potter. ment. Her brother-in-law, ent sorts of stoneware were ceased production by the recovered from a mid-18th ufacturing stoneware.
Thomas Symmes (1702-54), available, to go along with red time Grace Parker died in century archaeological con- It may have been consid-
was a red earthenware potter text on Wapping Street, sug- ered minimal at the time, but
and merchant in Charlestown gesting the deposit is from the this was also an important
and capable of operating a same period as when Grace effort in a historical context
potter’s business. He was Parker’s company was manu- seeing that the Parkers,
facturing stoneware. The Thomas Symmes, James Duche
greenish ash glaze found on and likely others involved were
the handle is also similar to able to prove that stoneware
some of the stoneware pro- production could be accom-
duction from Anthony Duche plished in New England. This
An 18th-century stoneware chamber in Philadelphia. groundwork eventually led to
pot handle was recovered by archeol- Former Boston City stoneware industries and busi-
ogists within a mid-18th century con- archaeologist Steven Pendery nesses materializing through-
text on Wapping Street in Charlestown, also published an important out New England.
Mass. The shape of the handle and the An 18th-century stoneware saggar artifact in 1984 when the It should not be over-
finger impression on the handle termi- fragment recovered by archaeologists Library of Congress published looked either that Grace
nal is similar to the handles found on in Charlestown likely related to Grace the book, “Unearthing New Parker owned a Colonial pot-
the pot that Watkins discovered. Image Parker’s stoneware production, circa This is imported German stoneware recovered by archaeologists within a England’s Past: The Ceramic tery in America in the 1740s.
courtesy Boston Archaeology 1742-46. Image courtesy Boston pre-1742 context at Faneuil Hall in Boston. Image courtesy Boston Archaeology Evidence.” A salt-glazed Traditionally, the utilitarian
Department. Archeology Department. Department. stoneware saggar fragment Continued on page 11