There was a conversation between two 19th century redware potters that never actually happened. Their little ‘chat’ was just a letter to a friend and a newspaper ad written in two different states several decades apart.
Norman Judd worked in Rome, NY starting in 1814. Rome was a frontier boom town at the time, catering to fortune seekers on their way to the Western Reserve (preset day Ohio). In such a place people cared only about cheap, instant access to the necessities of life. Anyone willing to mass produce tableware could make a quick buck. Bennington trained Judd was just the guy for the job. He described his life to a friend:
“We make Earthenware fast – have burned 8 kilns since the 8th of last May – amtg to $1500 – Ware here is ready cash. It is now 8 o’clock at night, I have just done turning bowls – I rest across my mould bench while writing – no wonder if I do make wild shots…”
James Grier faced a very different situation. When he started his Mount Jordan Pottery in Oxford, PA in 1828, the competition was fierce and growing fiercer. Grier, and his son Ralph who took over the shop in 1837, followed the (by then) common path of advertising their talents in local newspapers to set themselves apart from the crowd. Most 19th century pottery ad language tended to the ‘best there ever was’ sort of hyperbole. But Ralph Grier took a slightly different tack. An 1868 notice in the “Oxford Press” read:
“EARTHENWARE of all kinds of the very best quality. No poor ware ‘cracked up’ and foisted upon the public.”
What potter has not at one time or another teetered into the depths of the chasm exposed between these two sentiments?
American Redware. William Ketchum Jr. Holt & Co./Ney York. 1991.