Old Pots and Favorite Books

I love bringing new books home; the way the crisp untouched pages feel when I first turn them, the smell of the ink, and most of all, the treasures that wait within. But the reason to own books, to keep them with you in your house, is to visit them again, reread them after the ink is no longer fragrant, look up information and, if you are a potter, find inspiration. Having a personal library is a joy and I realize, a privilege.

Recently, I have had occasion to become reacquainted with one of my books, Early New England Potters and Their Wares by Lura Woodside Walkins, first published in 1950 by Harvard University Press and widely considered the best on the topic.  The book has been reissued as a facsimile several times and is available as a Google edition. My copy is a reissue and looks like a bad photocopy, but I do love it.

I was chatting with Guy Wolff (more about that in another posting) and looking at his wonderful pot collection in the loft over his showroom, when he said that he admired the work of the early Hartford potter Seth Goodwin and wished he owned one of his pieces. I remembered seeing a wonderful jug in one of the antique shops in Putnam, Connecticut last spring, and thought the tag said it was by Seth Goodwin.

When I got home from my visit with Guy, I of course, looked Seth Goodwin up in Early New England Potters and Their Wares to remind myself of his details.  According to Watkins, he was the first of the Goodwin potters in Hartford. When he was twenty-three, he set up shop in what later became the Elmwood section of West Hartford and made redware. This was the tail end of the 18th century, 1795. His son Thomas O’Hara Goodwin was also a potter, though he expanded to stoneware. In 1831, Seth’s brother, Horace Goodwin and Mark C. Webster bought a pottery on Front Street in Hartford.

Armed with this information, and sure the jug I’d seen was stoneware not redware, I returned to the antique shop. I needed to see the jug again, though I thought it likely that it was sold, or moved to a new spot in the cavernous shop where I would have difficulty finding it. I was wrong on both counts. It was right where I’d seen it, and as magnificent as I’d remembered.

I read the tag: Ovoid stoneware jug. Probably Goodwin and Webster, Hartford, Connecticut. 1830.

So, the dealer believed Seth’s brother, which makes sense, as it is stoneware, made it. Whichever Goodwin made it (or maybe not a Goodwin at all?); it is a strong pot, wonderfully proportioned from foot to shoulder with a lovely fire mark on the front. I took a few photos and sent them to Guy. From the handle, he believes the jug is earlier than 1830.

Maybe Thomas made it.  It would be nice to know with certainty, but no matter;  I enjoyed rereading Watkins on  early potters in Hartford and of course flipping pages to read about other early potters in New England. And it was fun to go and visit a truly great pot.