One a businessman, the other an artist. Both great innovators. Both integral in the development of the American pottery industry. Both Baltimoreans. Although their names are now recognized by very few, Edwin Bennett and David Haynes were key characters in the tale of Baltimore’s art history.
“FORWARD-THINKING Edwin Bennett established the first industrial pottery south of the Mason Dixon line in Baltimore around 1845 and, over the course of a century, created an assortment of wares from art pottery down to common utensils. He purchased and merged with many small potteries—by the 1890s, Edwin Bennett Pottery Co. had become the largest single pottery manufacturer in America. Bennett would eventually serve as President of the United States Pottery Association. First and foremost, Bennett was a businessman, and he experimented with various types of bodies and glazes, continuing to produce only those that turned a profit.
David Haynes, on the other hand, was an artist first and a businessman second. Haynes’s goal for D.F. Haynes & Co., established around 1881, was to elevate the quality of the products available to the middle class rather than to craft pieces that only the richest could afford, as was common with European pottery. He created beautiful pieces and marketed them to the masses at bargain prices. Although considered a top artist in American pottery, Haynes’s business practices would eventually lead to his financial fall.
Edwin Bennett and David Haynes were known to be great innovators of their time. Their pieces were awarded gold and silver ribbons at several of the nation’s largest fairs such as the World’s Columbian Exposition and the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. These potters begged comparison to some of the great traditions of Europe including Wedgwood. Surprisingly, their stories span only 100 years.
1835-1850 Bennett’s Early Years
According to collector and dealer John Collier, James Bennett, brother to Edwin Bennett, established the first American pottery to create Rockingham and yellow wares. It comes as no surprise, then, that these wares made up the largest percentage of Edwin Bennett’s inventory during the 1840s and 1850s. The yellow ware bodies (Queensware if you want to sound fancy) were covered in a dark caramel-colored glaze and often displayed unusual patterns such as swirls.
“I’ve been in the pottery business almost 35 years,”says David Rago, owner of Rago Arts and Auction Center,“and I’ve only gotten about 15 Bennett pieces. These pieces usually sell for $3,000-$4,000, but you are more likely to find a Bennett piece at a yard sale for $20, because people don’t know what they have.”
Bennett’s yellow ware was also sometimes decorated with brown glazed bands and scrolls. Such pieces are the only identifiable yellow ware bodies from the E. Bennett Chinaware Co., as Bennett didn’t mark his early pottery, notes Collier.
Although unmarked, E. Bennett Chinaware Co.’s Rockingham ware can be identified by its consistent caramel-colored glaze and the care given to the body’s glaze. While other manufacturers glazed just over the lip of their pieces, Bennett’s Rockingham wares were finished as nicely on the inside as they were on the outside.
1850-1875 Expanding Product Line
In the latter half of the 19th century, Bennett began capitalizing on American tastes for the exotic and religious. Well-liked were pitchers with “Gypsy” and “Fortune Teller” designs, but none did so well as the “Rebekah at the Well” teapot. Over the 75 years that it was produced, this relief-molded image was the single most popular scene on American ceramics. Thought to be copied from a stoneware pitcher made by the English pottery Samuel Alcock & Co., “Rebekah at the Well” features a woman standing beside a well, jug in hand. Many have speculated that the scene is biblical.
As early as 1853, Bennett had begun experimenting with formulas for colored bodies as well as Parian—a dense unglazed porcelain resembling marble—in an attempt to emulate English ceramic types. According to Collier, Parian was the only true porcelain that Bennett Pottery Company ever made.
Another new development for Bennett Pottery Company was malachite glaze. Probably applied over a yellow ware body, the dark green malachite “gave customers something to choose from other than the brown, yellow, and white wares then in fashion,” says Collier. Bennett produced malachite teapots, pitchers, and presentation pieces in the 1860s and 1870s.
1875-1885 A New Face In Pottery
While Edwin Bennett experimented with malachite and various other wares including a white semi-porcelain ware known as Ironstone, another Baltimore potter was on the rise. Armed with an understanding of English productions from trips abroad as a youth,David Haynes founded D.F. Haynes & Co. in 1879, moving his factory to the corner of Nicholson and Decatur Streets two years later, after purchasing the Chesapeake Pottery. Since trained modelers with original artistic skills were difficult to pro-cure, Haynes began to design wares for the pottery himself.
Clifton was one of Haynes’s earliest products and is considered to be the first true majolica made in America. Produced by applying color under a transparent glaze and then firing, Clifton pieces are usually found with their color intact. Avalon, though a similar ware, was crafted by applying color over the layer of glaze before firing. As a result, Avalon pieces are often found with chipped paint. Haynes produced these wares for close to five years.
By 1885, itinerant artist James Priestman had also created D.F.Haynes & Co.’s most famous Parian pieces—medallions modeled after Bertel Thorvaldsen’s “Seasons” plaques. In addition, Priestman crafted plaques bearing cattle heads in high relief.
1885-1895 All About Art Pottery
Around 1885, D.F. Haynes & Co. introduced several other types of pottery including what some consider Haynes’s most beautiful work, Severn ware. A fine, thoroughly vitreous body, Severn had a soft grayish-olive tint (achieved not through artificial coloring but a combination of American clays) and hand-decorated gold details.
Calvertine, a white majolica, was also decorated in gold, and its bands were grooved on a lathe. Haynes’s other wares included Calvert, similar to Calvertine but with green or blue bodies, and Cecil, solid gray earthenware bodies with applied Parian flowers and handles.
In 1891, Haynes designed the “Pompadour” porcelain clock case with Rococo relief ornamentation and gold finish. The clock case became the firm’s best-selling product into the early 1900s.
Edwin Bennett Pottery Co. also crafted art wares in limited quantities. Closely related to Parian, Belleek was a very thin walled porcelain with a lustrous ivory glaze. Brubensul combined brown, red, and green glazes and was typically applied to large pieces such as umbrella stands and pedestals.
1895-1935 Goodbye Haynes, Goodbye Bennett
Into the 20th century, Art Nouveau pieces formed the majority of Haynes’s line. According to Collier, almost all of these pieces were marked. Using decorative transfers on earthenware bodies, Haynes created romantic and whimsical pieces featuring scenes like Holland Sunset and the pastoral Cloverdale. Always the artist, Haynes had his staff paint over top of the transfers for a deeper look.
Like D.F. Haynes & Son, Edwin Bennett Pottery Co. also applied decals to its white- and cream-colored dinnerware but marketed them without the additional hand painting. The cheaper alternative satisfied middle class budgets. During the Depression, however, potters needed to keep people interested in buying their wares, so Edwin Bennett Pottery Co. replaced decals with intense colors and stenciled designs such as polka dots, flowers, checks, and silhouettes.
Bennett also continued to experiment with art wares. His Albion pieces were slip-painted using colored liquid clay, usually with Far East subjects, then coated in clear glaze for richness and depth. The pottery’s Vice President also received three patents for his Cameo ware processes, which included encrusto (digging in) and intaglio (building up) methods.