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Regional Treasures:  Huntington's Earthenware

In early America, every community of significance probably had its own pottery.  Nature, however,  provided Huntington with plentiful deposits of excellent clay, and the industry it spawned was viable for over a century.  This exhibit celebrates the people and products which brought this clay to the public.

 

 

Native Americans were the first to use the plentiful deposits of clay which had been deposited on Long Island by glacial drift.  They made pots and bowls of very good quality but, as they did not know how to fire them at a high temperature they were fragile and few survived. 

Early colonists engaged in clay mining and established an enterprise long before a formal potting business started in Huntington.  Clay deposits within the town's borders were exploited as early as 1751, but first pottery in Huntington wasn't established until 1783.  Brickyards, the major clay-based industry on Long Island, also began to dot the shores including major ones in Huntington. 

The Huntington potteries were located on  the east shore of Huntington Harbor.  This was ideal, as wares could be easily marketed throughout the island, to New York City, and across the sound to Connecticut.

In the 1840's Frederick Caire, a member of a Poughkeepsie family of potters, came to Huntington to work in the pottery.  He became manager and then partner when it was purchased by his father in law, Isaac Scudder Ketcham and Francis S. Hoyt.  He was an unusually fine craftsman and thus the stoneware of this period is among the best produced in Huntington.

 

 

 

 

Pottery operations remained small and traditional, with only five employees, as late as 1860.  Horses were used to grind the clay and haul the finished products and foot power was used to turn the potter's wheel.  Kilns were fired with wood, which was the most costly raw material the pottery consumed.