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Dorchester Pottery Collection


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Photos and objects from the Dorchester Pottery Works collection at the Dorchester Historical Society, Dorchester, MA

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Dorchester Pottery Collection

  1. 1. Dorchester Historical Society Dorchester Pottery Collection Dorchester Historical Society Dorchester Pottery Collection 1895-1979
  2. 2. This slide show provides a glimpse of portions of Dorchester Pottery collection at the Dorchester Historical Society Many generous donors have given pieces of Dorchester Pottery to the Dorchester Historical Society over the years. The Dorchester Pottery Museum transferred its collections to the Society on May 1, 1983. In 2007 Filomena Ricci, whose Dorchester Historical Society Society on May 1, 1983. In 2007 Filomena Ricci, whose husband Nando had been a stalwart employee for decades at the Dorchester Pottery Works, gave hundreds of moulds, examples of fired and unfired pieces, saggars and equipment used at the works. The Society welcomes additions to the collection.
  3. 3. Originally from Cambridge, George Henderson returned to the Boston area in1895, moved to Dorchester and founded the Dorchester Pottery Works. He had worked previously in New Haven, Connecticut, as manager of the S.L. Pewtress Pottery under the name of Henderson and O'Halloran. Dorchester Historical Society Henderson and O'Halloran. By the following year, he built a house and a two-story wooden industrial building on Preston Street (now Victory Road) on the east side of the railroad. His advertisement in the 1897 Boston Directory stated "Manu'r of Dip Baskets, Butter Pots, Jugs, Jars, and Flower Pots. Clay Specialties and Large Pots Promptly Made to Order. 9 and 11 Preston Street, Dorchester, Mass."
  4. 4. Dorchester Historical Society The red circle in the center of this detail from the 1899 map shows the location of the Dorchester Pottery Works on Preston Street (now Victory Road). Today the area to the right of the Pottery Works is the location of the CVS on Morrissey Boulevard.
  5. 5. Dorchester Historical Society The address of the Dorchester Pottery Works is now 101-105 Vctory Road. The red circle is the location of the kiln building. Map detail from Google Maps 1/23/2017.
  6. 6. Dorchester Historical Society The company produced custom-made stoneware, a pottery fired under high temperatures to produced vitreous wares that are durable, heat and cold resistant, and not affected by corrosive chemical agents. Under George’s supervision the company produced mostly commercial and industrial stoneware, including acid jars, vats, pitchers, pots, crocks, chicken waterers, jewelers’s pots, dipping baskets, and mixing tanks for acids used in jewelry manufacture.
  7. 7. Dorchester Historical Society In addition to products for agricultural use, Henderson specialized in commercial and industrial ware.
  8. 8. Dorchester Historical Society
  9. 9. Dorchester Historical Society In the early years of the 20th century, the company did very well with a popular item, the Patented Henderson Footwarmer, a ceramic hot water bottle or "porcelain pig." In 1912 Henderson patented his idea for a metal "Tap or Nipple for Earthenware Containers," a significant improvement over the previously-used rubber stopper.
  10. 10. Dorchester Historical Society Footwarmer with dried-out rubber stopper and with the patented Henderson closure.
  11. 11. Dorchester Historical Society Henderson advertised in the Saturday Evening Post, the Ladies Home Journal and the Women's Home Companion. He also advertised the footwarmer in professional hospital journals as a bedwarmer. By the 1930s the popularity of the footwarmer had waned, and the company stopped producing them by the end of the decade.
  12. 12. Dorchester Historical Society Henderson built the monumental kiln and kiln building about 1914 (circled in red on the 1918 Bromley map detail). This brick building is the only surviving building of the Dorchester Pottery Works. The company formerly occupied a wooden building to which the new brick building was attached. By 1918 Henderson had another facility on Neva Street.
  13. 13. Dorchester Historical Society This photo from 1965 shows the wooden portion of the Dorchester Pottery Works building and the Henderson family’s house with the showroom next door.
  14. 14. Dorchester Historical Society This photo of the kiln building is from 1965.
  15. 15. Dorchester Historical Society Photo of Dorchester Pottery Kiln published in Boston Globe, April 6, 2003, taken by Boston Globe staff photographer George Rizer. The kiln is a beehive type, downdraft kiln in a circular form. The interior dimensions, 22 feet in diameter and 10 1/2 feet in height, allowed the firing of two to three freight carloads of pottery to be fired at one time. The walls of the kiln are seven bricks deep, decreasing to five bricks at the dome. No mortar was used - thrust and balance was the key to construction.
  16. 16. Dorchester Historical Society Following George Henderson's death in 1928, Charles Henderson and Ethel Hill Henderson, his son and daughter-in-law assumed control (photos from 1965). Ethel, who had been trained by her father-in-law and by one of his early employees, Augie Ekberg, became superintendent of the company and was responsible for designing the company’s products. She had been a clothing design teacher at the Dorchester High School for Girls.
  17. 17. Dorchester Historical Society Ethel was aided by a staff whose most important members were Ethel's brother, Charles Hill (at left), who took charge of the glazing and decoration, and Nando Ricci (on right), whose father Ernesto had worked for George during the company's early years.
  18. 18. After Ethel took over management, she added tableware to the product line, but even into the 1950s Dorchester Historical Society into the 1950s comercial and industrial products accounted for the major portion of the company’s inventory.
  19. 19. Dorchester Historical Society
  20. 20. Dorchester Historical Society In the late 1960s and 1970s, tableware became their only product line. Tableware from the Dorchester Pottery Works is in great demand by collectors. Distinguished by its sturdy traditional forms and its Cobalt blue glazing on white, grey or buff, the tableware is ornamented with decorative elements that include blueberry, pinecone, scroll, pussy willow, floral fruit and striped motifs. These three items were a gift from Judy Jones in 2017.
  21. 21. The products were all made all made from Raritan clay from New Dorchester Historical Society made from Raritan clay from New Jersey.
  22. 22. Dorchester Historical Society Using wheels and plaster molds, the potters could turn out hundreds of pieces a day.
  23. 23. Dorchester Historical Society Photos courtesy of Special Collections, Healey Library, University of Massachusetts, Boston.
  24. 24. Photos courtesy of Special Collections, Healey Library, University of Massachusetts, Boston. Dorchester Historical Society
  25. 25. Dorchester Historical Society The glaze was applied by dipping.
  26. 26. Dorchester Historical Society The kiln chamber was first filled to capacity.
  27. 27. Dorchester Historical Society The kiln door was sealed with a double wall of bricks laid in mortar.
  28. 28. Smaller items were placed inside larger straight-sided crockery pots with covers called saggars to protect the Dorchester Historical Society saggars to protect the smaller pieces from scorching.
  29. 29. Dorchester Historical Society A large steel band was secured around the kiln.
  30. 30. Each of the doors was mortared over. Dorchester Historical Society
  31. 31. Dorchester Historical Society A peep-hole was built into the doorway to allow the potters to see the pyrometric cones placed inside to show the levels of temperature.
  32. 32. Dorchester Historical Society Pyrometric cones or watchmen slump at different termperatures. The slope on the one at the right is exactly right for a good firing.
  33. 33. The process of loading, firing, cooling and Dorchester Historical Society The process of loading, firing, cooling and unloading the kiln took about two weeks, with the actual firing requiring fifty to sixty hours of constant attendance. There are nine firing holes around the perimeter of the kiln. After, the temperature reached 2500 degrees Fahrenheit (about 40 hours), regular fifteen-minute firings were necessary to raise the heat to the higher temperatures needed for the vitrification of the glazes. Firing a batch of pottery consumed about fifteen tons of coal and four cords of wood.
  34. 34. When the temperature reached the final temperature, the peepholes were plugged, and the kiln remained sealed for five days Dorchester Historical Society while it cooled down. The door was unsealed brick by brick to avoid a draft that could cause breakage.
  35. 35. Plaster Moulds Dorchester Historical Society
  36. 36. Dorchester Historical Society Shaping Tools
  37. 37. Dorchester Historical Society Balance, weights and other tools
  38. 38. Dorchester Historical Society Plate moulds and armature to hold a shaper. A potter’s wheel would have stood beneath the arm.
  39. 39. Dorchester Historical Society
  40. 40. Dorchester Historical Society
  41. 41. Dorchester Historical Society
  42. 42. Feeders Dorchester Historical Society
  43. 43. Dorchester Historical Society Charles died in 1967, and Ethel continued running the business until her death in the early 1970s. Ethel's sister, Lillian Yeaton ran the company along with Charlie Hill and Nando Ricci until 1979, when fire destroyed the wood-frame portion of the works and the business. In 1980, the kiln and kiln building were designated a Boston Landmark. In 2001 Bay Cove Human Services acquired the property and rebuilt the wooden portion of the building for their own use, preserving the kiln and kiln building.