Subject: final report out re exploratory dig of U.S. Pottery
Sent: 12/12/97 2:57 AM
Received: 12/12/97 8:23 AM
From: CathZusy, [log in to unmask]
To: Kathleen Callum, [log in to unmask]
Forwarded to CRV-NET by GEOARCH, Inc., RR2 Box 2429-1, Brandon, VT 05733
by Robert Sloma, Vermont Archaeological Society, Inc. Secretary
and Kathleen Callum, VAS Education Committee Chair
Thought you would find this of interest! The Newtown Bee ran this story
8 illustrations this week, pp. 82 & 83.
P.S. Do you know of anyone or any institution that might want to help
phase II of the dig (this coming May or June)?
FINAL REPORT OUT RE DIG OF THE UNITED STATES POTTERY CO.
SITE IN BENNINGTON, VT
by Catherine Zusy
Catherine Zusy, David Starbuck, and Vic Rolando have just completed the
report for the
exploratory excavation of the United States Pottery Co. site in
that occurred this spring, May 26-30, 1997. The goal of the excavation
learn more about what the U.S. Pottery (1847-1858) manufactured. The U.S.
Pottery was the first large production pottery in New England, employing
200-300 workers at its height in 1856. There is much confusion about what
Pottery made, especially in the area of parian ware, because the Pottery
marked very little of its parian (and no known decorative figures),
no illustrated price lists, and employed English designers who regularly
copied English forms.
Thousands of ceramic sherds and bits of kiln furniture were found over the
course of the dig
which focused on a concentrated area of the Pottery site behind the 1853
of the Pottery
(erected specifically for parian and whiteware production). It is
that the eleven pits
dug covered approximately 5% of the original four-acre Pottery site.
About two-thirds of what was found was kiln furniture, small clay shapes,
shelves, and saggars
used to separate glazed pieces of pottery from sticking to one another in
kiln. The bulk of the
ceramic fragments (in overall size, not quantity) were unglazed yellow and
white wares (2,600
pieces), parian (3,802 white pieces, generally very small; including 48 in
blue and white parian),
glazed Rockingham and flint enamel wares (1,483), glazed whitewares (321
pieces), agate (also
known as lava or scroddled ware (145 pieces), and miscellaneous fragments
(457 pieces of stoneware, refined stoneware, glazed yellowware, and glazed
other decoration -- the latter not made locally).
Most of the parian unearthed was found in four pits. 99% of the fragments
appear to be of
known pitcher designs, illustrated in Richard Carter Barret's 1958
Porcelain: pond lily (663 sherds), wild rose (546 sherds), tulip &
(233 sherds), palm
tree (122 sherds), climbing ivy (25 sherds), charter oak (18 sherds),
(9 sherds), flower &
vine (4 sherds), bird & nest (3 sherds), and arabesque (2 sherds).
No sherds were found of the following pitcher designs: love & war,
and Paul &
Virginia, although marked examples exist in the Bennington Museum
fragments of decorative figures, vases, or trinket boxes were unearthed.
may be because
these objects were part of the Pottery's early production (made between
and 1853) and may
predate the 1853 Pottery wing.
Most of the yellowware found were fragments of known ware in paneled,
designs. Finds also included, however fragments of toby pitchers
faces and a hand), a
Gothic water cooler, a cow creamer, candlestand, raspberry flask, beaker,
The last four finds are particularly significant because while there are
examples in the
Bennington Museum collection, no marked pieces are known. Finding these
fragments at the
Pottery site confirms that they were made in Bennington. Among the
(unglazed white and
yellowware) finds were also fragments of six pitchers previously only
were of the pond lily, wild rose, tulip & sunflower, palm tree, charter
and flower & vine
We also located fragments of eleven "mystery" pieces exhibiting forms or
previously associated with the production of the U.S. Pottery and several
variations of known
designs. "Mystery" pieces include yellowware, refined stoneware, and
Rockingham fragments of
what appear to have been a teapot with foliage and grape relief
with a fleur-de-lis motif, a yellowware hanging planter with acanthus leaf
handles, and an agate
from with a double-diamond design. (Please see photographs.)
Variations of known forms include yellowware and parian pitchers in a
wild rose pattern
(only unstippled examples are known); an acanthus leaf creamer in parian,
Rockingham and graniteware (a form not illustrated in Barret, but
in the Bennington
Museum collection); and pitchers of the ivy vine design made in parian
are examples in
flint enamel in the Bennington Museum collection). All objects found
have been donated to the Bennington Museum.
While Zusy, Starbuck, and their team of sixteen volunteer diggers did not
unearth any of the
parian figures noted on the Pottery's 1852 price list (the latest
price list for the Pottery)
or any other parian figures, vases, or trinket boxes -- confirming that
objects were made in
Bennington -- they believe the project was worthwhile. These objects may
be found in other
areas of the Pottery site, e.g., behind the 1850 north or middle wings of
Pottery (now the
home of Bennington Elementary School). If they can rally support from the
local community and
commitments of volunteer diggers, they propose resuming the dig behind the
north wing of the
Pottery in May or June of 1998.
Potential sponsors and volunteers interested in contributing to this
should contact Cathie
Zusy, Project Director, U.S. Pottery Dig, 202 Hamilton Street, Cambridge,
617-868-0489. E-mail: [log in to unmask] Copies of the final report for
excavation are available for viewing at Bennington Elementary School, the
the Bennington Free Library, and at the Vermont Division for Historic
Preservation. To procure
a copy (complete with background information, field methodology, site
of what we found and where, details about what we learned, and
representative objects found), send a check for $10 made out to Cathie
the address noted
12/9/97 C. Zusy
PHOTOGRAPHY CAPTIONS FOR ARTICLE
RE FINAL REPORT RE DIG OF U.S. POTTERY CO. SITE
The United States Pottery Co. (1847-1858) in Bennington, VT was New
largest production pottery. At its height in 1856, proprietor Christopher
employed as many as 200-300 workers, many of them English. During the
excavation of the Pottery, eleven pits were dug behind the potwork's most
southern wing, where
whitewares and parian had been made. Drawing by William G. Leake who, as
with his father at the Pottery. Photograph by Nicholas Whitman; courtesy
Over 3,800 pieces of parian porcelain were found during the exploratory
Most appear to be
fragments of known pitcher designs, including charter oak, palm tree,
Virginia, and pond
lily, pictured here. No fragments of decorative figures, vases, or
boxes were unearthed.
This may be because these objects were part of the Pottery's early
predating the southern wing of the Pottery. The southern wing was erected
the fall of 1853.
Photograph by Blake Gardner; courtesy of the Bennington Museum.
During the dig we found eleven "mystery" pieces, bearing designs until
the production of the Pottery. If you have seen whole ceramic forms
please contact Cathie Zusy at 617-868-0489 or Deborah Ann Federhen at the
Museum at 802-447-1571. We are eager to identify and publish these newly
that the Pottery manufactured. Thank you.
Numerous sherds were found in yellowware and Rockingharn ware of a covered
vessel (teapot or
sugar bowl?) with foliage and grape design.
Several whiteware fragments were uncovered bearing a fleur-de-lis motif.
Mystery finds included this yellowware base of a goblet or candlestick
Of the 145 agate (also known as lava or scroddled) ware fragments found,
is the only one
bearing an unfamiliar design.
Several sherds were found of a hanging planter with foliage-inspired
Only one whiteware fragment was found bearing this as-yet-unidentified
stippled, leaf and scroll design.
This yellowware sherd with oak leaf and acorn design was found at the
site in July when
oil tanks were removed from the Bennington Elementary School grounds.