A Haunting Discovery
I didn’t believe there was any evidence of a potter or investor who founded the Huntington Pottery until I discovered an obscure passage in a book by Edwin Atlee Barber, a renowned scholar, prolific author, and curator of American Pottery for the Pennsylvania Museum.
In an appendix of the third edition of The Pottery and Porcelain of the United States*, Barber identified Moses Scudder as the originator of the Huntington Pottery “about the middle of the eighteenth century,” and then “in the hands of a certain Williams” in 1775. He continues with a condensed chronology of the Pottery, adding an 1812 “States & Scudder” partnership.
*The Pottery and Porcelain of the United States: An Historical Review of American Ceramic Art from the Earliest Times to the Present Day to Which is Appended a Chapter on the Pottery of Mexico, Third Edition, Revised and Enlarged, G. P. Putnam and Sons, New York, 1909.
Taken aback, I wanted to know how Barber came to know any of this. Unfortunately, he didn’t cite his sources. How could I know this haunting discovery was true? A quick check revealed that Barber’s papers are archived in at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The hunt began.
When the time was right, I made a few phones calls and hopped on a train to Philadelphia. I settled into the archival library in the museum’s Perelman Building, faced with boxes of Barber’s notes and correspondence.
Everything I found was fascinating, but none of it had to do with the Huntington Pottery. The ghost I’d been chasing had not materialized.
But there was a silver lining in that cloud. I had the opportunity to see, touch, hold and photograph the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s collection of Huntington Pottery tools. (See The Tools of a Huntington Potter)
The Ghost Story
Because Barber was such a revered expert, I think his thesis, if not taken as fact, is at least worthy of consideration.
There are gaps in Barber’s chronology and he includes an 1812 partnership that’s not substantiated, but of all the statements he makes about the Huntington Pottery, the only one that can be DISPROVEN is the date that Henry Lewis acquired the Pottery.
With an understanding that I couldn’t consider Barber’s claims to be factual, I married what I knew with what Barber told me:
- By Barber’s account, the Scudder who established the pottery “about the middle of the eighteenth century” would have been Moses Scudder I (1709-1759), grandfather of Moses Scudder II (1761-1825) of Samuel J. Wetmore & Co. The elder Scudder’s establishment of the Huntington Pottery would coincide approximately with the acquisition of Huntington clay by Adam States between 1751 and 1756.
- There’s an unaccounted gap between the elder Scudder’s death in 1759 and the 1775 acquisition by “one Williams.”
- Barber jumps from Williams in 1775 to States & Scudder in 1812. If that partnership existed, Barber still doesn’t account for two known owners between those dates: Jonathan Titus (up until 1805) and Samuel J. Wetmore & Co. (starting 1805).
- Could a partnership of States & Scudder have owned the Pottery in 1812? Yes. The Pottery was in flux during that period. (See Samuel J. Wetmore & Co.) Scudder would be Moses Scudder II. Because he had a quarter ownership of the Pottery in 1805, and full ownership in 1825, it’s reasonable to assume he remained a consistent owner during that time period. The “States” in this possible partnership could be among the family of Adam States — Adam Jr. (1756-1826), William (1778-1823) or Adam III (1779-1864) – all potters in Stonington, CT.
- That “cups and saucers, plates, platters, pitchers, and lamps of rude earthenware were produced extensively” in 1812 is consistent with what is known about pottery production at that time.
- It’s true that in the thirty years following 1812 various changes were made in the firm’s name.
- It’s NOT true that Henry Lewis became the sole owner in 1840. Lewis’s sole ownership began when the Lewis & Gardiner partnership dissolved in 1829.
- The Pottery closed in 1904, but I think as far as Barber is concerned, 1903 is true enough.
- It’s true that from 1840 until the Pottery closed, “the usual sorts of utilitarian articles were made under various managements.”
- The existence of an 1810 Huntington Stoneware Batter Pot wouldn’t be out of the question. Huntington stoneware, as we know from Nathaniel Potter’s daybook, was in production as early as 1808. (The pot referenced is no longer in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, formerly the Pennsylvania Museum.)
Do you believe in ghosts?
The thing about ghosts is that if you think you’ve found one, you can’t prove that it exists.
The same holds true for Edwin Barber’s claim that the Huntington Pottery was founded by Moses Scudder (1709-1759)
I found it, it looks real, but I can’t prove that’s it’s true.
But there it is, to ponder.
Addendum August 25, 2021
There is another mention of “States and Scudder” Pottery ownership in an excerpt from an article in the Long Islander, Nov 19, 1909, titled “A Historic Landmark.”