Bennington Pottery Gallery and Study Center

Bennington Pottery – From the Beginning

Bennington has long been a town identified with the production of pottery.  Manufacturing began on a small, local scale in the late eighteenth century.  The arrival of the railroad made the transportation of clay and finished materials easier and increased the range for pottery distribution.  Using original forms and design already popular on the American market, Bennington pottery appealed to a new middle class seeking decorative and utilitarian items for their homes.  Bennington’s potteries became widely noted for the volume and quality of their ware and within the community were a source of pride.  Local newspapers avidly covered events relating to the industry, while pottery owners and workers were often active members of the community.

The Norton Pottery (1785-1911) and the United States Pottery Company (1847-1858), along with numerous other short-lived ventures, offer a microcosm of the nineteenth-century American pottery industry.  The Norton Pottery began by making redware but soon switched to stoneware, a durable utilitarian pottery.  The Norton pottery gained fame for its brilliantly decorated stoneware featuring flowers, birds, and animals.  Production ceased late in the century as other materials and technology lessened the demand for stoneware, and the company became a wholesaler of pottery and glass.  

The United States Pottery Company paralleled the emergence of large-scale industrial pottery production nationally.  The company produced an immense amount of white ware, yellow ware, and parian ware in a variety of glazes.  Technically innovative, the United States Pottery Company gained national prominence when its wares were featured in the 1853 Crystal Palace Exhibition in New York City.

Almost from the time the Norton Pottery closed, ceramics scholars expressed a special interest in the subject of Bennington pottery.  There was a clear recognition that the end of an era had arrived and it was important to document a valued part of America’s historic ceramic accomplishments.  Today visitors can learn how these various types of ceramics were made by each company and used in Victorian homes. The Bennington Pottery Gallery and Study Center interprets the story of a revealing chapter of our nation’s industrial and social development.

A study center features an encyclopedic display of production work, along with copies of primary source documents concerning the companies.  The Bennington Pottery Gallery and Study Center was funded in part with grants from the Henry Luce Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Vermont Community Foundation.