Posts Tagged ‘Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics’ Association’

Legacy

February 19, 2012

Benjamin Dodge began a redware pottery shop in Portland, ME in 1798 at 24 years of age.  Other Maine potters of the time sought to build huge manufacturing empires.  Benjamin took a more creative path.

His specialty was elaborately decorated jars and pitchers.  He would often incorporate the initials of the person ordering the item into it’s decoration.  Apparently his work made quite an impression.  According to a later (anonymous?) reminiscence:

“Busts of people received more care.  Most of these were in profile.  After the pieces were finished they were set in another room to dry, and it was a favorite amusement with some bad boys, whom the good man tolerated notwithstanding, to disfigure the human faces by drawing down the corners of the mouths to produce a ludicrous expression.  This disfiguring, the potter did not observe until it was too late to mend, and it was fired in the kiln with the others, set away on the shelf, and sold at reduced prices.”

The 1825 U.S. tour of the Marquis de Lafayette inspired potters across the country to commemorative themes.  When Lafayette passed through Portland, Benjamin made pieces sporting “what purported to be a likeness of Lafayette.”

Dodge’s artistic talents kept the pottery going long enough to pass it on to his son, Benjamin Junior.  Sadly, the old man began suffering what was then called “melancholy” and ultimately killed himself on June 1, 1838.

Benjamin Jr ‘took the wheel’ as the stoneware industry was carving out huge slices of the market, ultimately swamping most redware potters.  But Benjamin Jr saw opportunity where others saw a dead end.  He minimized the type of work offered and exploited qualities of earthenware unavailable in stoneware; exotic glazes.  A particularly striking green glaze earned him a diploma in 1839 at the Second Exhibition of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics’ Association.  Some of his flower pots with this glaze can still be seen at the Maine Historical Society in Portland.  Terms included the de riguer “Country produce taken in exchange for ware.”

One of the longest lived and most creative redware potteries in Maine closed upon Benjamin Jr’s death in 1875.  Like his father, Benjamin Jr died by his own hand.

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

Early New England Potters and Their Wares.  Lura Woodside Watkins.  Harvard University Press/Cambridge MA.  1968.

The Pottery and Porcelain of the United States.  Edwin Atlee Barber.  G.P. Putnam’s Sons/New York.  1909.

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