Updated: Sep 3, 2020
I started collecting redware about 40 years ago. At that time I had the opportunity to view examples of redware that were made locally in the collections of Ralph and Madolyn Strong as well Ruth and Ralph Farnsworth. The beautiful forms and glazes of these utilitarian objects made in the 1800 to 1860 time-frame are regarded as a work of art. Crocks, jugs, pots, pitchers, and plates were the most common forms produced by local manufacturers.
The “Turnpike”, now known as Route 20, was the main east-west road for travel through western New York State. Consequently, there was a great deal of commerce and local industry along this route. Redware potteries offering their goods for sale to local residents as well as people traveling on their way west were numerous. The towns of East and West Bloomfield in Ontario County housed the potteries of some of the most well-known manufacturers.
In the first quarter of the nineteenth century, there was an active redware manufacturer located at the site of the farm then owned by Nathaniel Rochester. He would later relocate to the area of the city which bears his name. Not a potter himself, Nathaniel Rochester must have employed others in the making of the redware. The wares produced from this site exhibit the best of form and decoration in American produced redware (my opinion). The following two photos are examples of their work.
Further to the west, in the village of West Bloomfield, was the location of the pottery owned and operated by Alvin Wilcox in the middle of the nineteenth century. Much is known about this pottery and it was one of the most prolific producers of redware. Many of the pieces manufactured are marked “A. Wilcox, West Bloomfield” or simply “A. Wilcox”. The photo below is a marked example.
As the 1850’s arrived the manufacturers of redware goods were experiencing competition from the stoneware industry which was located in many towns along the Erie Canal. Stoneware became the favored choice among households as time went on. As a result of this Alvin Wilcox began making redware drain tile in order to maintain his business.
This is an extremely brief discussion of the redware industry located in the Genesee Valley region. There are many more potteries and potters of note that could be discussed. The following photos are examples of additional redware from this area. More to come.