Posts Tagged ‘John Hancock’

The Sweep Of History

March 27, 2011

George Brooks was one of the signers of a 1783 petition to John Hancock seeking to establish a settlement at Orrington, ME (then still part of Massachusetts).  He set up a pottery shop there and built the town’s first wind-powered gristmill before 1800.  One of his sons, John Brooks, moved to Cincinnati Ohio shortly thereafter and claimed to have built the first steam powered boat on the Ohio River.

Harrison Nash Brooks began working in great grandpa George’s pottery when he was 7.  He would guide the horse that powered the clay sweep, grinding a batch of clay in about an hour.  He was paid a penny for each batch.  Harrison eventually took over the shop.  By 1873 the shop employed 5 men.  They dug their clay from a nearby riverbank. The shop operated about 10 months out of the year, and annually turned out about $3,500 worth of ware, a small to middling enterprise.

Harrison was never himself a professional potter, but he did like puttering about in the shop.  Some time around the turn of the century he retired and moved to Brewer, ME.  There he set up a little pottery in his garage, where he made a few things and sort of offered pottery classes to friends.

Harrison wasn’t very good with glazes and the several kilns he built over the years never worked very well.  His last project was a huge, newfangled “electric kiln,” costing him over $3,000.  His wife and friends implored him to dismantle the beast before he electrocuted himself.  He finally did without ever having used it.

The pottery he personally made tended to be rather heavy.  His glazes were equally thick and problematic.  His one success was his “Laminated Glaze,” a sort of tiger-striped glaze he made up from scratch.

It seems the only thing that really mattered to Harrison Nash Brooks was just being able to play with clay.  Well, that’s good enough for me.

The Early Potters and Potteries of Maine.  M. Lelyn Branin.  Wesleyan University Press/Middletown Ct.  1978.

Now You See Him…

July 31, 2010

Imagine what political discourse would be like today without bumper stickers.  Transfer print pottery was the “bumper sticker” of the early 19th century. The invention of transfer print pottery was squarely at the fore of a newly evolving mass culture in Europe and America.  While perhaps not the most important outlet for disseminating news and ideas, transfer print pottery played a  uniquely intimate role in insinuating such topics into peoples daily lives.

For example, thanks to the Liverpool factories that churned out transfer print pottery by the shipload, we know a little bit about Phillip Crandall, an early New England politician.

Same Face Philip Crandall

One of his more famous colleagues whose likeness was also forever enshrined on the sides of a Liverpool pitcher was John Hancock.

Same Face John Hancock

Another was James Monroe, the 5th president of the US whose “Monroe Doctrine” boldly declared that the Western Hemisphere was now our little playground.

Same Face James Monroe

Yes, the whole story can still be read on the sides of these humble items…


Anglo-American Ceramics, Part 1 Transfer Printed Creamware and Pearlware for the American Market, 1760-1860. Arman, David and Linda.  Oakland Press/Portsmouth, RI.(1998)

American Patriotic and Political China. Marian Klamkin.  Scribner’s and Sons/New York.  1973.

If These Pots Could Talk. Ivor Noël Hume.  University Press of New England/Hanover, NH.  2001.