( Originally Published 1940 )
With carpentry and cabinetmaking, pottery-making was among the first
crafts practiced on a wide scale in
In Colonial America every community of importance must have had its pottery. Yet the records of these enterprises are surprisingly meager. The town-clerks, diarists, and travelers of that day apparently felt that there was nothing worth noting about the mere existence of a pottery. To all intents and purposes we have little evidence, prior to 1684, except that they were there.
In 1684 a large pottery was founded by one Daniel Coxe, near
An inventory of his properties tells us, in part, "I have
erected a pottery att Burlington for white and chiney ware, a greate quantity to
ye value of L1200 have been already made and vended in ye Country, neighbour Colonies and ye Islands
of Barbados and
The "chiney ware" may have been
a good grade of saltglazed white earthenware but, as
we shall understand later, was certainly not real chinaware, or porcelain. Coxe had trouble with his white ware. There is a record of
a plant superintendent, Edward Randall, imported from
The early American pottery industry is characterized by the existence of large numbers of small enterprises scattered all over the colonies, with a heavy mortality rate among them. Success in any of our early manufacturing efforts, even such fundamental ones as pottery, was the exception. In our scanty records there was apparently no room for accounts of those who fell by the wayside.
By 1750 there was such recognition of the necessity for domestic
manufactures for the general welfare of the colonies that public subsidy was
not uncommon. Yet, as always, it was more often sought than granted. Two
partners, Goussin Bonnin
and George Anthony Morris, started a pottery in
The Grim map shows very distinctly, a short distance to the
southeast of the other buildings, a "Corselius Pottery." As it
happens, John Remmey and William Crolius married sisters by the
name of Corselius
and consequently were brothers-in-law. I. N. Phelps Stokes, in his Iconography
of Manhattan Island, says: "The first stoneware kiln or furnace in the
John Remmey carried on his pottery until his death in 1762. His place was taken by John 2nd. He, in turn, took his own sons, Henry and John 3rd, into partnership in 1790, dying two years later. The two brothers remained in partnership for two more years after their father's death. In 1794 Henry left John and went into business independently. He subsequently left the potters' trade altogether. The last accounts of his activities indicate that, after a variety of enterprises, he fell upon evil days, ultimately fleeing the city to escape the consequences of the embezzlement of public funds.
The third John Remmey, however, maintained
the old Pottery on Potter's Hill. He took a dignified part in the city
government as became a noted scholar. He was Assistant Alderman of the Sixth
Ward from 1817-1818. (The same post, incidentally, was held by John Crolius, Jr.,
1799-1800, and Clarkson Crolius,
1802-1805, apparently being something of a potter's prerogative.) He was one of
the five members of the Committee on Arts and Sciences, 1817, and thus assisted
at the rendering of many wise decisions. For example, ".
. . . resolved that so large and growing a City
He never travelled, yet was the author of
a scholarly book, Egypt As It Is. He owned one of the
largest libraries in
The Crolius family was prolific. The original William, who married Veronica Corselius, was in partnership for a time with his brother Peter. Peter was issueless. William, on the other hand, was followed in the stoneware craft by five more Williams, five Johns, one George, and two Clarksons, making fifteen Crolius potters in all.
The first Clarkson Crolius, grandson of William, became active in city politics. He served on a diversity of committees protesting elections, inspecting elections, etc. When he held office as Assistant Alderman of the Sixth Ward, however, he was scant in attendance at meetings.
His career in office hardly appears to have been notable. He sponsored "A law to prevent dogs from running at large." The measure was passed and soon revoked. In 1803 he was one of only two Assistant Aldermen favoring a revision of the City Charter. The conservatives of the Council were stern in their defense of the document. "It is perhaps inexpedient for the Common Council at this time to express any opinion of the motives of those who appear solicitous to obtain alterations in the charter or to animadvert upon the means which have been used and are now pursuing to accomplish their views."
Of course to advocate change in a charter is far from being necessarily suspect. On the other hand, whatever the merits of the particular case, the subsequent activities of Crolius hardly show him in an enviable light. In spite of his habitual absence from meetings he had a great desire to be re-elected to his office in i808. He had lost the confidence of his constituents and exercised considerable ingenuity trying to regain it. An affidavit of the election states that ". . . . while the Inspectors were engaged in the manner above stated (counting the votes) they were interrupted by a person of the name of John A. Crolius who proposed to them a different mode of counting." And in addition to John's proposal, whatever it may have been, ". . . . Mr. Leonard Seaman one of the Inspectors (related to Crolius by marriage) did make the proposition that said Inspectors should take each for himself a separate parcel of ballots and examine it." By means of these special systems of ballot-counting variously endorsed by Cousin John and his wife's relative Leonard Seaman, Clarkson Crolius was elected. But the election was held over again, and when tallied by more conventional methods was won by Crolius' opponent.
The second Clarkson succeeded his father, and Crolius Pottery continued to be made far into the 19th century. Both the Remmeys and the Crolius made stoneware, usually of a light grey or tan color, salt glazed, and decorated with flowers and formal patterns in cobalt blue. It was extremely hard and sturdy and may be taken as representative of the best in early American stoneware.