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32 — Antiques and The Arts Weekly — September 20, 2019

A History Of Pottery Production


ALONG THE MERRIMACK RIVER
BY JUSTIN W. THOMAS (1701-1761), a direct descendent the pottery business that he is Salem, Mass., Historic West- during the siege of Boston in the
NEWBURYPORT, MASS. — of James Bayley (1612-1677) most known for today. Sadly, his brook, Maine, Portsmouth, N.H., early stages of the American Rev-
Settled in 1635, the city of New- who was among the first group wife died two years later, and he possibly Wellfleet, Mass., on olution.
buryport was originally part of of settlers in Rowley, Mass., in quickly married a woman Cape Cod, as well as the site of Some of the Charlestown pot-
the Newberry Plantation (now 1639. It has not been identified named Sarah Stone (d 1792), a Colonial trading posts in Veazie, ters who were around for the
Newbury), which was inhabited where Bayley was taught the widow herself and mother to Maine and Saint John, New American Revolution relocated
by English colonists from Wilt- pottery craft, but he may have three children. Soon after, they Brunswick. elsewhere in New England, such
shire, England in the northeast- learned about it from another had four more kids, two of whom Archaeological evidence recov- as Benjamin Bodge (1747-1822)
ern part of coastal Massachu- Colonial Essex County, Mass., also entered the pottery indus- ered by Massachusetts author, who moved to Merrimacport
setts. Waterways were certainly potter or possibly in Charles- try, William Bayley (1766-1799) Lura Woodside Watkins (1897- (then South Amesbury), Mass.,
a major draw for these early town, Mass., which is where the born May 9, 1766 and Nathaniel 1982) at the site of the pottery about 1775, a small village locat-
settlers, with the area being earliest red earthenware was Bayley (1771-1849) born June was published in 1950 in Early ed along the Merrimack River
surrounded by the Merrimack manufactured in New England 16, 1771. New England Potters and Their just upriver from Amesbury and
River and the Parker River. The in the 1600s. The Bayley Pottery turned into Wares. A Route 1 underpass was Newburyport. Bodge married
port city quickly became pros- Joseph and his wife left Row- a family enterprise, but some of constructed through the Bayley Susanna Pecker in Haverhill on
perous as a popular fishing and ley in 1735, when they were the Bayley kids also worked for site in 1934, revealing an excel- September 27, 1770, but the
trading center, and it turned to removed from the church, and Ebenezer Morrison (1741-1803), lent collection of artifacts now extent of his pottery production
agricultural needs. relocated with their four chil- who established a red earthen- owned by the National Museum in the area is unknown today.
With this success came a dren to Newbury (Newburypo- ware company next to Old Hill of American History at the Susanna’s brother, William
growth in population, and hun- rt). Joseph continued to produce Cemetery in Newburyport. As a Smithsonian Institute in Wash- Pecker (1758-1820) also born in
dreds of first period and Geor- red earthenware in Newbury result, it is believed that the ington, DC. The evidence shows Haverhill, and an Essex County
gian-style homes were built in until the early 1760s, when his forms were similar at both busi- an emphasis devoted to the pro- trained potter is found in Merri-
the area. A demand quickly son Daniel (1729-1792) became nesses. Morrison continued to duction of slipware, a style of macport in 1784. It seems that
grew for artisans, laborers, owner of the business. Daniel produce pottery into the early decoration applied with liquid Pecker remained employed with
imported goods and household must have learned the pottery Nineteenth Century, while the kaolin clay. The known forms his brother-in-law until the early
utilitarian wares. business from his father, but Bayley Pottery declined with decorated in slip include cham- 1790s, when he established his
Newburyport was formed in there is also evidence to suggest Daniel Bayley’s death in 1792, ber pots, plates, pans and por- own pottery. Bodge’s role might
1764, when the General Court he operated a pottery in Glouces- and production ceased altogeth- ringers, while other styles com- have also changed, and he may
of Massachusetts passed an act ter, Mass., in the 1750s, when he er when Daniel Bayley Jr and bine various forms of bowls, have now helped Pecker with his
for erecting part of the town of married Elizabeth Dennen (d William Bayley died in 1799. jugs, mugs and flowerpots. The business.
Newbury into a new town by 1765) from Gloucester on April Daniel Bayley also employed glazes range from dark colors The Pecker Pottery is largely
the name of Newburyport. West 21, 1750. The couple spent the potters who were not immediate like black and brown to more known today for the lead glazed
Newbury set off into its own next decade in Gloucester, where relatives, such as John Thomas colorful glazes such as green. red earthenware that was pro-
town in 1819, forming the three they had three children, but (1754-1843) in the 1770s-80s, The extent of the colors and slip duced during the circa 1791-1820
communities that make up this only two survived. Elizabeth who was a native of Gloucester applied at the Bayley Pottery in period. The most common surviv-
area today. While Newbury and Bayley was born April 2, 1753, and later went on to establish the 1700s was among the more ing glaze is an orange or reddish
West Newbury remain towns, and Daniel Bayley Jr (1755- the industry in North Yarmouth decorative wares manufactured lead glaze with brush strokes of
Newburyport was incorporated 1799) was born July 15, 1755 (known as Yarmouth after anywhere in New England dur- manganese. The skill found at
as a city in 1851. eventually becoming a potter 1849), Maine about 1791. ing this period. this business is some of the most
himself. The wares made at the Bayley refined wares made anywhere in
The Bayley Potteries By 1763, Daniel had relocated Pottery were not only intended The Merrimacport Potteries New England. Known forms
Almost 90 years after Newbury to High Street next to St Paul’s for the local marketplace. Based The landscape of the New Eng- include jugs, pitchers, pots, bowls,
was settled, the first known Church in Newbury, which on archaeology, pottery was dis- land pottery industry changed flasks, pans, chamber pots, por-
local pottery was established became Newburyport the follow- tributed throughout New Eng- drastically with the American ringers and flowerpots. There is
about 1723 by Joseph Bayley ing year. This is where he built land, with examples found in Revolution. The industry in also some speculation that Peck-
Charlestown, Mass., had been a er or Bodge possibly produced
centralized production center in some slipware, but that has not
New England in the Seventeenth been proven in archaeology.
Century through 1775. Wares Archaeology has shown that
were shipped all over the region the wares made at the Pecker
from Connecticut to Cape Cod, Pottery were sold throughout the
Martha’s Vineyard, all over the Merrimack River region, with
Boston area, Portsmouth, N.H., Newburyport serving as a major
Berwick, Maine, throughout marketplace. Although, wares
coastal Maine (then part of Mas- have also been found throughout
sachusetts) and even into parts New Hampshire and southern
of Canada, like the Fortress of Maine.
Louisbourg on Cape Breton An aspect of the Pecker Pottery
Island in Nova Scotia. However, that is somewhat unknown is the
this industry was decimated and fact that dozens of glaze colors
sacrificed in America’s fight for have been recovered at the site of
independence at the Battle of the pottery. The colors range from
Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, black to green to vibrant multi-

Pitchers, attributed to the James Chase Pottery, Merrimacport, Mass, circa 1820-49. These
forms could be mistaken for production from the William Pecker Pottery today. Courtesy
the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institute.

Six-gallon stoneware presentation jar attributed to William Pecker impressed with two Jug attributed to the Bayley Pottery recovered at the site of
bird and flower stamps on each side, a bust of George Washington and the initials “S.H.” Jonathan Lowder’s Trading Post in Veazie, Maine, within a
This form of handle has also been recovered at the site of the Pecker Pottery. Courtesy circa 1775-79 archaeological context. Courtesy the Univer-
Crocker Farm Auction. sity of Maine.
September 20, 2019 — Antiques and The Arts Weekly — 33

Some of the artifacts collected in the 1990s at the site of the Merrimac Pot-
Various Eighteenth Century slip-decorated sherds from the Daniel Bayley tery Company in Newburyport, Mass. Some of the objects are impressed
Pottery Company recovered by Lura Woodside Watkins during construc- “Merrimac Pottery Company.” The pottery used two types of earthenware
tion of the Route 1 underpass in Newburyport, Mass., in 1934. Courtesy of clays, one with a white clay body and the other with a red clay body. Cour-
the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institute. tesy the Museum of Old Newbury.

colored glazes. The couple reportedly met in 1870s-80s, when he focused on


But Pecker was also a stone- Andover, Mass. We do not know the production of flowerpots and
ware potter. In fact, it was not for sure why he was in Andover, vases, some painted and others
identified in publication until the but he may have been attempt- decorated in a variety of glazes.
2004 issue of Ceramics in Ameri- ing to establish a business, mov- He also manufactured tradition-
ca that there are known pieces of ing back to Merrimacport in al utilitarian forms like pie
marked Pecker stoneware in 1816. plates, custard cups, pans and
existence. Archaeologist John Chase took ownership of all red pots.
Kile wrote that article based on a earthenware production in Mer- The story of the Bodge, Pecker
2-gallon handled crock marked rimacport in 1820, when William and Chase potteries ended in the
“Wm Pecker” found at a Ken- Pecker died from a tragic kiln 1890s, when Phineas ceased pro-
tucky flea market. The crock was accident. He owned a house next duction altogether in his 70s. His
decorated on one side with a door to Pecker, and about the obituary reading in 1911, “Mr
stamped bird perched on a time of Pecker’s death, a kiln was Chase was a man of sterling hon-
branch and the other with a built on his property. Chase con- esty and marked integrity and
stamped flower. Since that article tinued to run the business in the had the respect and confidence of
was published, somewhere same way as his mentor. In the the community.”
around one to two dozen (maybe latter years of the 1830s-40s, Slip-decorated pan attributed to the Bayley Pottery recov-
more) pieces of Pecker stoneware James’ son, Phineas Chase (1820- Thomas Nickerson’s ered within a circa late 1760s and early 1770s archaeologi-
have been identified, some of 1911) worked alongside his Merrimac Pottery Company cal context at the site of a trading post in Saint John, New
which have been previously father, learning the family busi- Thomas Nickerson established Brunswick. Courtesy of the New Brunswick Museum.
attributed to other locations. It ness. the Merrimac Ceramic Company
has also been discovered that The forms made at James in Newburyport in 1897, largely picture of a sturgeon, a fish accomplished forms, which are
Pecker applied a fish stamp, as Chase’s business are just as well manufacturing floral and garden native to the Merrimack River. represented in major art muse-
well as cobalt used for an aes- made as the wares produced at wares. Nickerson was an Eng- In 1902, Nickerson changed the ums across the country, such as
thetic blue decoration. the Pecker Pottery, and can be lish-trained potter, who had relo- name of the business to the Mer- the Museum of Fine Arts, Bos-
Nonetheless, Pecker apparently confused for some of Pecker’s pro- cated from Portland, Maine. The rimac Pottery Company. Rather ton; the Metropolitan Museum of
taught his nephew, James Chase duction today. The Smithsonian pottery was given its name after than a paper label, an impressed Art; and the Smithsonian. The
(1778-1849) the potter’s craft; Institute owns the best museum the Merrimack River. A condo- mark was incorporated on the wide variety of glaze colors
James was born in 1779 to Peck- collection of wares made during minium development now base of many products that read, include variations of green, yel-
er’s sister, Hannah, who had this period in Merrimacport, resides in place of where the pot- “Merrimac” with an image of a low, rose, blue and orange. Nick-
married Edmund Chase, and by acquired from the collection of tery business once stood. When sturgeon. The company made erson was also recognized for his
1816 began making his own pot- Lura Woodside Watkins. the condominiums were built in colorful art pottery, exquisite matte, luster and crackle finish-
tery in Merrimacport. He saw After James’ death in 1849, the the 1990s, former curator of the garden pottery and reproduction es.
how Pecker ran the pottery busi- business was taken over by Museum of Old Newbury, Jay Roman pottery taken from actu- Unfortunately, only a few years
ness; he witnessed Pecker’s Phineas, and continued to oper- Williamson and Chris Snow al 2,000-year-old ancient objects after the company was rebrand-
secrets on the potter’s wheel; he ate at the same location in Mer- recovered hundreds of artifacts owned by the Museum of Fine ed, the Merrimac Pottery Com-
knew his glaze recipes; and he rimacport until 1863, when he from the pottery, showing that Arts, Boston. This new direction pany burned to the ground in
even understood Pecker’s won- sold the land to the South Ames- Nickerson was utilizing multiple allowed Nickerson to demon- 1908, never to be rebuilt, and
derful eye for proportion within a bury Wharf Company, and moved types of earthenware clays. strate his true skill as a potter to ending the longstanding tradi-
perfectly balanced form. The the business to his property Nickerson’s products in the a national marketplace. tion of utilitarian and household
Charlestown connection also con- about one-quarter mile from the first four years were sometimes Nickerson’s glazes are often pottery production along the
tinued with Chase, having mar- Merrimack River. The forms marked with a paper label, “Mer- breathtaking with a variety of Merrimack River in the greater
ried Olive Lucas of Charlestown. evolved with Phineas in the rimac Ceramic Company” with a vibrant colors that adorned Newburyport area.

This example features the most common type of glaze that


Pecker is known for today. Jug, attributed to the William
Pecker Pottery, Merrimacport, Mass., circa 1791-1820. Cour-
tesy National Museum of American History at the Smithso-
nian Institute.

Justin Thomas’ niece, Alexis, and nephew, Jason, holding


kiln furniture and kiln bricks recovered at the site of
Phineas Chase’s circa 1863-90s business in Merrimacport,
Mass. Inset Photo: More kiln furniture recovered at the site
of the Phineas Chase Pottery.