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Bennington Pottery A Vermont
Tradition That Still Lives

The logo of the present-day Bennington Potters.

The pottery made in Bennington, Vermont, dates back to just after the Revolutionary War, when Captain John Norton founded his stoneware pottery in this small town in western Vermont. The Norton Pottery was in operation from 1785 to 1911. The second pottery that made the wares of Bennington famous was the United States Pottery Company, operated by the husband of Norton’s granddaughter, Christopher Fenton. Fenton’s pottery produced the biggest variety of wares during its years of operation, from 1847 to 1858. There were also numerous other short-lived ventures operating in the area.

Blue and white spongeware is one of the products made by Bennington Potters today.
Examples of the blue decorated utilitarian ware made by the early Bennington potteries in the 19th century.

Although today the name Bennington is used almost generically to describe the mottled brownware that was characteristic of much of the pottery made by these companies, they also made much more than that. There was a mottled yellow, stoneware, graniteware, Parian ware (a glazed white porcelain,) blue and white porcelain, a translucent glazed ware that resembled Belleek porcelain, and perhaps the hardest to find, a type called “scroddled,” two colors of clay swirled together. (Glass collectors would call this slag glass, if found in glass.)

The Bennington potteries produced a lot of utilitarian ware, such as crocks and pitchers. They also made decorative ware such as vases and a variety of animals, including lions and dogs, similar to those being made in England’s Stafford shire region. Among the interesting finds of old Bennington pottery are the glazed buttons in brown, green or cream mottled coloring.

An impressive collection of old Bennington pottery, made by both the Norton and Fenton companies, is on display at the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont.
The pottery tradition lives on in that town, where Bennington Potters is producing fine wares in three different clay bodies - stoneware, porcelain and terra cotta or brownstone.

This lion made by the United States Pottery Company in the mid-19th century is going to have a hard time convincing anyone of his fierceness!

This latest factory in the Bennington pottery tradition was founded by David Gil in 1948 and the pieces are marketed throughout the country, in addition to the factory store.

A self-guided factory tour allows a visitor to watch the craftsmen at work; and when we stopped, they were willing to take time to explain to us just what they were doing.

The Bennington wares of the 19th century rarely were marked in any way. The mark of Bennington Potters, the factory of today, although often called a fork, actually represents a hand and lower arm. The six-petaled “flower” on the arm represents the spark of creative energy that flows through the hand. Most pieces will have only the spark, and usually a mold number.

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Tableware Identified Menu Item

This strawberry server uses the leaves and blossoms in the design, and has special holes at each end to insert the cream and sugar, which are also formed of strawberry leaves. The server, made by George Jones, is 14.5 inches long.

The colorfully glazed earthenware called majolica, so popular during the last half of the 19th century, was used for a variety of purposes. In Victorian England, one of the primary uses was to exhibit one’s social status.

One of the ways a hostess could impress her guests was to use the “right” pieces of majolica in her table service. The design on the dishes should match the food served on or in that particular dish. Therefore, the socially correct hostess might serve oysters on a plate with an oyster design, canned sardines in a covered dish with sardines on it, lobsters on a lobster platter, and a salad on a plate shaped like a lettuce leaf.

One of the most popular designs for collectors today are those pieces used for serving strawberries. A hothouse craze in the 1870s and 1880s saw the well-to-do adding conservatories, filled with lush plants, to their homes. Straw berries could be grown the year round, and were a favorite addition to any meal.

Following the trend for matching majolica ware to the food which was served on it, a great variety of strawberry servers were made. Most of these were decorated with molded strawberries, strawberry blossoms and/or leaves. A few were shaped like the strawberry itself. Some strawberry servers had built-in creamer and sugar bowls; others included matching spoons.

Several examples of strawberry servers, along with other serving dishes are illustrated in Antique Majolica Around the House (Jeffrey B. Snyder, Schiffer Publishing, 2005.)

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Candlewick Remains A Popular Pattern

This is a “Junior Place Setting.” It was only offered by a company memorandum, with the tag line, “Just Like Mother’s.” The set is hard to find, and in the original box is valued at $550-$650.

The crystal pattern named Candlewick, made by the Imperial Glass Company from 1936 to 1982, was and still is one of the most popular patterns ever made in America. A revised edition of Candlewick: The Crystal Line, written by Bob and Myrna Garrison, has been recently released by Schiffer Publishing.

The authors have attempted to show examples of every piece of this popular pattern, although in some cases, catalog reprints or company photographs have been substituted for the actual piece. Factory records, catalogs and price lists were researched to assemble the background information.

The book is arranged in categories, such as place settings, serving pieces, and sets. Individual items such as candleholders, baskets and vases are also grouped together. Measurements for stem and tumbler lines are included.

The primary changes in this 3rd edition are updated values in the photo captions and an overall price guide arranged by mold number.

The book is dedicated to Bob Garrison, who died in 2006. Myrna continues to be enthusiastic about the Imperial Glass Company and is happy to talk about it wherever she goes.

Candlewick: The Crystal Line (ISBN: 978-0-7643-4173-1) is priced at $29.99.

Donna Miller

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