In My Opinion
Bored beyond belief on the Massachusetts Turnpike, my mind wandered idly around things that had interested me recently. Three drifted up to the top: Nehemiah Bull’s desk (see our cover and p.34); our recent vacation in the Hebrides (See “In My Opinion,” July 2016); and Brexit (see everywhere and anywhere). It slowly dawned on me that, vastly different though they are, there’s a common theme running through all of them.
‘1 Studdy Table’
A home office for a Puritan minister
In the year 1700, or thereabout, an unidentified joiner in Springfield, Mass., produced a remarkable desk. It’s a good guess that he made it for the Reverend Edward Taylor of nearby Westfield. But it’s more than a guess – in fact a near certainty – that its second owner was the Reverend Nehemiah Bull, also of Westfield: We can be sure of this because Bull signed the desk on the bottoms of two drawers.
A Pottery Moves to New Hampshire
Peter Clark and his family in Lyndeborough
Traditionally, treasure maps consist of sketchy outlines with a large “X” that marks the burial spot of hidden treasure. Factual or fictional, treasure maps are not traditionally associated with eighteenth- or nineteenth-century American utilitarian potters. However, a recently discovered nineteenth-century document has unintentionally revealed the location of one of an eighteenth- or early nineteenth-century New Hampshire pottery – that of Peter Clark (1743-1826) in Lyndeborough, N.H.
The ABCs of Alphabet Wares
All photos courtesy of a private collection.
Victorian writer William Brighty Rands captured the peddler’s peripatetic world as he roamed the English countryside in his caravan of colorful merchandise designed to entice country folk to part with their hard-earned cash. Items sure to capture the imaginations of his youngest customers were earthenware plates and mugs decorated with child-friendly scenes and alphabets. When this poem was published in 1868, Staffordshire potters were manufacturing these vessels in hundreds of patterns, exporting them to the United States and British colonies worldwide.
Family Friendly Then and Now
Rose Hill Manor in Frederick, Maryland
Thomas Johnson had led a productive life. Successful in his career, held in high esteem by the community, and intimately acquainted with well-connected personages, Johnson, at the age of 62, decided it was time to downsize and retire. Newly widowed, he moved in with one of his favorite children and spent his remaining years enjoying the grandchildren.
As I stuck my thermometer into the thick slab of pork on our charcoal grill, I was immediately reminded of Ruth Goodwin. Ruth is the sort of historian I love; she lives history, she doesn’t just write about it.
When she bakes in a seventeenth-century oven, we experience exactly how a seventeenth-century housewife made her bread and pies and custards. The oven was three feet in diameter with a perfectly domed roof. Ruth lights a pile of small twigs in the center of the floor and keeps feeding the fire as she watches the flames. At first they rise up in a column then they begin to spread out around the dome and down the sides in an even sheet of flame. Then the exhaust gases, which had escaped as smoke, get sucked back into the fire: The fire gets hotter and the smoke disappears. The flames gradually change from spiky orange to lazy blue and now, some 45 minutes later, the oven is almost hot enough for baking.