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Hal E. Pugh and Eleanor Minnock-Pugh
The Dennis Family Potters of New Salem, North Carolina

Ceramics in America 2010

Full Article
Contents
  • Figure 1
    Figure 1

    Dish, attributed to the William Dennis pottery, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Lead-glazed earthenware. D. 13 3/8". (Courtesy, The Barnes Foundation; unless otherwise noted, photos by Gavin Ashworth.) Antique dealer Joe Kindig Jr. of York, Pennsylvania, purchased this dish prior to April 1935, when he advertised it along with other southern earthenware in The Magazine Antiques 27, no. 4 (April 1935): 121. 

  • Figure 2
    Figure 2

    Map showing the location of the William Dennis and Thomas Dennis pottery sites. (Artwork, Wynne Patterson.)

  • Figure 3
    Figure 3

    Indenture of George Newby, Randolph County, North Carolina, May 3, 1813. (Courtesy of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, North Carolina.)

  • Figure 4
    Figure 4

    Mendenhall and Dicks family tree. (Compiled by Hal Pugh and Eleanor Minnock-Pugh; artwork, Wynne Patterson.) John Mendenhall married Elizabeth Maris (b. 1665) in 1685; in 1708 he married Esther Maddock Dicks, the widow of Peter Dicks.

    n            Documented potter

    n            Undocumented potter claimed through family tradition

    n            Documented maker of clay smoking pipes 

  • Figure 5
    Figure 5

    Dennis and Webb family tree. (Compiled by Hal Pugh and Eleanor Minnock-Pugh; artwork, Wynne Patterson.)

     

    n            Documented potter

  • Figure 6
    Figure 6

    View of the William Dennis kiln after partial excavation, Randolph County, North Carolina, 2001. (Photo, Linda F. Carnes-McNaughton.) The kiln measures 10' by 10' and had 2'-thick rock walls.

  • Figure 7
    Figure 7

    Dish rim fragments recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Lead-glazed and bisque-fired earthenware. (Private collection.) The extrapolated diameters of these dishes are 11 3/4"–12".

  • Figure 8
    Figure 8

    Notched wooden tool with a rim fragment recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. (Private collection.)

  • Figure 9
    Figure 9

    Dish rim fragments recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Bisque-fired earthenware. (Private collection.) The impression left in the clay by the potter’s notched wooden tool is clearly visible on the edges of these rims, particularly the one at the upper left.

  • Figure 10
    Figure 10

    Mug fragments recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Lead-glazed earthenware. (Private collection.) The concentric tooling on these mugs appears to have been generated with a multitoothed rib. 

  • Figure 11
    Figure 11

    Mugs, Staffordshire, England, 1700–1720. Lead-glazed earthenware. (Courtesy, James Glenn Collection.) 

  • Figure 12
    Figure 12

    Dish rim fragments recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Bisque-fired earthenware. (Private collection.) The extrapolated diameters of these dishes are, from top to bottom, 11 3/4", 12", and 13".

  • Figure 13
    Figure 13

    Reproduction dish, based on fragments from the William Dennis pottery. D. 12". Lead-glazed earthenware. (Private collection.)

  • Figure 14
    Figure 14

    Dish fragments recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Bisque-fired earthenware. (Private collection.) The reproduction dish illustrated in fig. 13 was based on these and other related fragments. 

  • Figure 15
    Figure 15

    Detail of the upper left corner of a sampler by Ann Grimshaw, Ackworth School, Yorkshire, England, 1818. (Courtesy, Philadelphia Museum of Art.) 

  • Figure 16
    Figure 16

    Dish, attributed to the William Dennis pottery, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Lead-glazed earthenware. D. 13". (Courtesy, Old Salem Museums & Gardens.) The decoration in the cavetto of this dish is closely related to that on the fragments illustrated in fig. 14.

  • Figure 17
    Figure 17

    Dish, attributed to the William Dennis pottery, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Lead-glazed earthenware. D. 13 1/4". (Courtesy, The Barnes Foundation.) 

  • Figure 18
    Figure 18

    Dish fragments recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Bisque-fired earthenware. (Private collection.) All of these fragments have petal-shaped motifs with contrasting slip outlines and jeweling.

  • Figure 19
    Figure 19

    Dish, attributed to the William Dennis pottery, New Salem, North Carolina, 1812. Lead-glazed earthenware. D. 13 1/8". (Courtesy, Old Salem Museums & Gardens.)

  • Figure 20
    Figure 20

    Detail of the dish illustrated in fig. 19, with a cavetto fragment recovered at the William Dennis pottery site. The background engobe and slip decoration on the fragment would have matched those on the fired dish. The beige jeweling and concentric banding on the fragment would have burned green during the glaze firing.

  • Figure 21
    Figure 21

    Dish, attributed to the William Dennis pottery, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Lead-glazed earthenware. D. 13 7/8". (Private collection.) 

  • Figure 22
    Figure 22

    Detail of the marly of the dish illustrated in fig. 21.

  • Figure 23
    Figure 23

    Detail of the underside of the dish illustrated in fig. 19 with a fragment from the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832.

  • Figure 24
    Figure 24

    Dish fragments recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Bisque-fired and lead-glazed earthenware. (Private collection.) The extrapolated diameter of the middle dish fragment on the left is 11 3/4"; the extrapolated diameter of the dish fragment at the lower left is 10 1/2".

  • Figure 25
    Figure 25

    Dish fragments recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Bisque-fired earthenware. (Private collection.)

  • Figure 26
    Figure 26

    Dish fragments recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Bisque-fired and lead-glazed earthenware. (Private collection.) The repetitive trailed slip device creates a flame or sunburst pattern. 

  • Figure 27
    Figure 27

    Reproduction dish, based on fragments recovered at the William Dennis pottery site. Bisque-fired earthenware. D. 12 1/8". (Private collection.)

  • Figure 28
    Figure 28

    Detail of the dish illustrated in fig. 27, with a marly fragment recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. The Dennis potters made engobes ranging from brown to purple-black by grinding iron/manganese nodules with scale produced during the forging of iron.

  • Figure 29
    Figure 29

    Dish, attributed to the William Dennis pottery, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Lead-glazed earthenware. D. 13 1/4". (Private collection.) Bearing the initials “AH,” this dish reputedly belonged to Quaker Abraham Hammer.

  • Figure 30
    Figure 30

    Kiln tiles recovered at the Thomas Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1812–1821. High-fired clay. (Private collection.) The tiles on the right are fused together with glaze. 

  • Figure 31
    Figure 31

    Dish fragments recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832 (left) and the Thomas Dennis pottery site (right). Lead-glazed earthenware. (Private collection.) The form and profile of these pieces are very similar.

  • Figure 32
    Figure 32

    Dish fragment recovered at the Thomas Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1812–1821. Lead-glazed earthenware. (Private collection.) The extrapolated diameter is 11 1/2". 

  • Figure 33
    Figure 33

    Dish, attributed to the Dennis potteries, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Lead-glazed earthenware. D. 13 1/4". (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum.) 

  • Figure 34
    Figure 34

    Dish, attributed to the Dennis potteries, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Lead-glazed earthenware. D. 13 1/2". (Courtesy, North Carolina Pottery Center.)

  • Figure 35
    Figure 35

    Handle fragment recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Lead-glazed earthenware. (Private collection.) This fragment is the lower terminal.

  • Figure 36
    Figure 36

    Handle fragments recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Lead-glazed earthenware. (Private collection.) On the fragments at the upper and lower right, the potter applied the green on a white engobe, which produced a light apple-green color.

  • Figure 37
    Figure 37

    Handle fragments recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Bisque-fired and lead-glazed earthenware. (Private collection.)

  • Figure 38
    Figure 38

    Front and back views of a handle fragment recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Lead-glazed earthenware. (Private collection.)

  • Figure 39
    Figure 39

    Iron-manganese nodules recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. (Private collection.)

  • Figure 40
    Figure 40

    Dish, attributed to the Dennis potteries, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Lead-glazed earthenware. D. 10 1/2". (Courtesy, Old Salem Museums & Gardens.) 

  • Figure 41
    Figure 41

    Hollow-ware fragment recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Lead-glazed earthenware. (Private collection.) The light apple-green color of this fragment was achieved by applying a green lead glaze over a white engobe. 

  • Figure 42
    Figure 42

    Dish fragment recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. Bisque-fired earthenware. (Private collection.) Marbled in a flattened buff and red slip, the dish from which this fragment came appears to have been drape-molded; it would have been similar in appearance to the example illustrated in fig. 43. 

  • Figure 43
    Figure 43

    Dish, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ca. 1780. Lead-glazed earthenware. D. 7 1/2". (Courtesy, Independence Hall, National Park Service.)

  • Figure 44
    Figure 44

    Saggar fragments recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. High-fired clay. (Private collection.)

  • Figure 45
    Figure 45

    Kiln tile recovered at the William Dennis pottery site, New Salem, North Carolina, 1790–1832. High-fired clay. (Private collection.) This finger-grooved tile is 11 1/2" x 4" and varies in thickness from 1/2" to 1".

  • Figure 46
    Figure 46

    Dish, central piedmont region of North Carolina, 1780–1820. Lead-glazed earthenware. D. 12 7/8". (Courtesy, The Barnes Foundation.) This dish has compositional affinities with the examples illustrated in figs. 1 and 33, but its rear profile differs significantly from those of dishes and fragments associated with the Dennis sites. This compelling object might be part of the larger Quaker slipware tradition that extended beyond the confines of New Salem.