While shopping at an antique flea market in New Hampshire one fall morning, I noticed a very shapely piece of stoneware that was painted white. I inquired about the jug and the dealer showed me where he had scraped the paint away from the name and some imprinted designs on the neck and said it was from Charlestown and very collectable. I passed on the jug but that piqued my curiosity about the subject. Most of our customers and my wife liked the grey stoneware with the blue decoration, flowers, birds, and leafy designs, while I was becoming more attracted to the early forms that used very little blue, often just a bit to highlight the maker’s name or city and sometimes around the handle.
These ovoid forms just talked to me. Often they had incised rings around the neck and sometimes on the shoulder of the piece and displayed imperfections in the glaze and body from the crude kilns and erratic firings, all of which showed the handwork involved in their making. On our return from the trip I started to research Charlestown pottery and discovered that Charlestown was across the river from Boston and was the home of Bunker Hill, site of our first big battle with the British in the Revolutionary War. According to our reference books, the Charlestown marked pottery was the product of a potter originally from Connecticut named Frederick Carpenter who started in the business in Boston in 1793 with a partner, Jonathan Fenton. That business lasted only a few years. Pottery produced during this 18th century period was marked Boston with a B the same size as the other letters. Carpenter tried again in 1803 with a new backer and marked his wares Boston with a large B and later Charlestown. After 1812 the Boston mark was no longer used and Charlestown was the mark until Carpenter’s death in 1827. Many wonderful pieces with these marks survived…….The pieces often had stamped designs under the town name instead of a stamped 2 or 3 to indicate the capacity in gallons. Hearts, chevrons with tassels, eagles over cannons, crosses are just some of the designs used . Often the pieces were dipped in a brown glaze top and bottom in the style of English stoneware of that time. The glaze often ran or was mottled and variegated and this effect adds to the pottery’s charm.
During 1804 a few of the pieces were stamped Boston 1804. Pride was taken in the fact that these wares were made in this country and not imported. One article written in the 1950’s said only ten pieces with this marking, Boston 1804, were known to the author. I have personally seen six or seven pieces on the market for sale with this date, so am sure there were more than ten survivors, but still they are quite rare. Enjoy the photos from my collection which I hope show some of the appeal of the pottery……Jack