It May Be Remembered

It may be remembered that I have made a kiln of ware this summer, consisting of milkpans, some pots, pudding pans & wash bowls, but mostly of stove tubes and flowerpots, and have this day finished burning the same, Hervey Brooks”.  September 23rd, 1864.

Hervey Brooks was a rare breed.  He had been making redware pottery in Goshen CT for almost 60 years.   Others gave up long before, either in favor of stoneware, to work in the mills, or to seek better fortunes elsewhere.

Like most potters then, Hervey wore many hats; selling rags, working the roads, making fence poles, trading everything from clocks to oysters, even publishing music for the Sacred Harp.  In his heyday, Hervey could throw 14 dozen milk pans a day.  All this during the time a farmer had between seasons.  Hervey wasn’t a full time potter.  Nor was he particularly gifted.  But he’s a blessing to posterity because an almost complete record of his output still exists in the ledgers he kept throughout his life.

For those who care to see, Hervey’s notes offer a precious glimpse into his world.  “It may be remembered…”  He was writing to us, today.   “…that I have made a kiln of ware this summer…”  Stove tubes and flower pots were the last hold-out items of the redware trade.  They generally turned the notion of “potter” into a factory worker.  But Hervey wanted us to know he still made the old stuff.  “…and have this day finished burning the same.”

He was then 85 years old.  Hervey had fired only one kiln a year for some time.  This was his last.  Included in the journal entry was an account of his wife’s burial.  They had been married for over half a century.

It is easy to assume, given the wide range of activities that people like Hervey Brooks were involved in, that redware wasn’t considered terribly special – even to its makers.  But ask any potter.  Nobody would write such a note if they didn’t deeply care about what they were doing.

Reading:
Hervey Brooks, Connecticut Farmer-Potter; A Study of Earthenware from His Blotters, 1822-1860. Paul Lynn,  Oneonta State University/New York.  1969.

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5 Responses to “It May Be Remembered”

  1. It May Be Remembered « This Day in Pottery History | Beauty of Ceramics Says:

    […] Originally posted here: It May Be Remembered « This Day in Pottery History […]

  2. Cylinders « This Day in Pottery History Says:

    […] Redware potters, like Hervey Brooks of Goshen CT, kept various sized cylinders about the shop.  On hearing of these, my fist […]

  3. Letters From A Neutral Packet « This Day in Pottery History Says:

    […] an 18th century publisher of Sacred Harp music.  Hervey also loved to make redware.  He continued the trade long after most others in the neighborhood had […]

  4. Hervey to Some | This Day in Pottery History Says:

    […] was particularly true for Goshen, CT redware potter Hervey Brooks (1779-1873).  As a child, his parents referred to him as ‘Harvey.’  When his […]

  5. The Coptic Dot | This Day in Pottery History Says:

    […] When I saw a jar replete with a dotted slipware bird attributed to 19th century Connecticut potter Hervey Brooks, whose work is interpreted at OSV, a somewhat snarky thought struck me: to make slipware look old, […]

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