"The Norton Potters"

    In 1785, six years before Vermont became a state, Captain John Norton founded what was to become the longest lived pottery works in Bennington Vermont. This first pottery sold crocks, jugs, milk pans, etc. to the local residents. For over one hundred years it was to remain a family owned and operated business. The first pieces of pottery produced by Captain John Norton were made of redware and were covered with a clay slip or a lead glaze. Salt glazed stoneware was also being produced shortly after the first redware. The early redware pieces were not marked with any manufacturing name. The early stoneware was marked "BENNINGTON FACTORY". These early stoneware pieces were rarely decorated. If any decoration was to be applied it would be a very simple design or a number. Some pieces were incised with a decoration. In order to make the salt glazed stoneware pottery, salt was shoveled into the fire in the kiln. Salt vapors formed and condensed on the pottery to form the hard salt glaze finish. Some pieces of stoneware were glazed with a slip of tan, brown, or black.


    Captain John's Pottery prospered and in 1812 he took his eldest son Luman into the business. Soon after, John, his other son, joined the operation. In 1823 the two boys took over the pottery now known as L. NORTON & CO. By 1828 Luman was managing the firm himself, now known as L. NORTON. Luman continued production of stoneware making jugs, crocks, and churns, most of which were decorated with simple designs. In about 1833 Luman took his son Julius into the business. The pottery was now known as L.NORTON&SON. In 1841 Luman Norton retired, and Julius took over. The pottery at this time was being stamped JULIUS NORTON.

     In 1845 a new partner was added, Christopher Webber Fenton, his brother in law. This partnership lasted only to 1847. The pieces of this time bear the mark of NORTON & FENTON. Julius for the next three years managed the pottery by himself. These pieces again bear the mark JULIUS NORTON. After 1850 Julius managed the pottery with Edward Norton, Julius's cousin. From 1850-1859 the pottery being produced was of exceptional quality and decoration(blue designs beyond belief). The business flourished under this partnership. These pieces bear the J & E NORTON pottery mark.


    In 1859 Julius was able to add his son Luman Preston Norton to the partnership. These pieces bear the mark J. NORTON & CO. In 1861 Julius died, and the new business was renamed E & LP NORTON. This partnership was to last a full twenty years. It was during this period that the Little Brown Jug was first produced. We know this for a fact because Little Brown Jugs were produced as souvenirs to commemorate the Centennial of July 4th, 1876. In 1881 Luman conveyed his interest in the pottery to Edward Norton. Edward was now the sole owner of the business. Luman was smart to leave the business when he did for as good as the business was in years past, the role of salt glaze stoneware was decreasing very rapidly. The mark on the pottery at this time was E. NORTON & CO. From 1881 to 1894 the stoneware business continued to suffer.


     In 1883 Edward Norton sold half interest in the pottery to C.W.Thatcher of Bennington. He was the first person not to be related to the Nortons by marriage or direct descent. Edward Norton died in 1885, and it was then that his son of twenty years of age, Edward Lincoln Norton, entered the business. The pottery of this final period bears THE EDW'D NORTON CO. stamp. Edward felt that the business would do better if it were to diversify. They became wholesalers in glassware, china and all kinds of pottery. On Dec. 13, 1894 Edward Lincoln Norton died thus ending the one hundred year plus family owned business. Stoneware production had ceased but the business now owned by C.W.Thatcher continued into the early part of the twentieth century selling stoneware, crockery, glass and lamp goods...

        This photos above were taken about 1871. Top row, left to right: Frederick Godfrey, John H. Norton, Charles C. Kimball, J.A.N. Williams, and William Bates. Bottom row, left to right: Jacob Mertz, Edward H. Moore, William Smith, Frank H. Greenslit, Edward Norton (in top hat), Gilbert F. Burt, and Jerome Johnson.

From the collection of Harriet Gaines

Bennington Museum Collection

     Sepia tone photograph of two rows of men at the Norton Pottery. All men are in work clothes except for Edward Norton, who is in a suit and top hat and holding a small animal in his lap with blurred head. All men identified in pencil writing around edge of image. Mounted on cardboard. "C.C. Kimball" written in pencil on back and blue stamp "4129."

Bennington Museum Collection