The pots shown above were produced by small pottery industry that operated in South Ashfield from 1848 to 1856. Ashfield was apparently chosen for the pottery because, at the time, it was a center of the peddler trade and had an unusually good location for distribution of the pottery on peddlers carts. The products of the three firms are similar except for the markings of the maker. All were stoneware of rather ordinary quality made of clay brought from Perth Amboy, New Jersey. There was a blue decorated gray stoneware as well as stoneware with a chocolate brown glaze.
Three firms were involved in the pottery business over these years, and they used at least five different labels on their wares. The first firm was that of Walter Orcutt & John Guilford & Co. John Guilford provided the land, and Walter Orcutt and his brother Eleazer provided labor and knowledge of pottery making they had acquired from their father, Stephen Orcutt, who was Whately's first potter. In the same year, the production of pottery in Whately was almost wholly abandoned. In 1850, Walter Orcutt sold his share of the factory to Wellington Hastings and David Belding. Accounts from this period indicate there were seven workers at the factory. Finally, in 1854 the Hastings and Belding firm went into receivership, and the business was taken over by Staats D. Van Loon and George Washington Boyden. In 1856 this business also failed.
Several factors contributed to the demise of the pottery business in Ashfield and in other small towns in New England. One factor was that the quality and durability of the work could not compete with the product of a factory in Bennington, VT. Also, there was rapid population movement to the West during this period, with the essence industry finding better conditions in Michigan. Ashfield's population dropped from 1,610 in 1840 to 1,394 in 1850. (This account is based on "The Stoneware of South Ashfield, Massachusetts," Lura Woodside Watkins, Antiques, September 1934, pp. 94-97, and on exhibits at the museum.)
These patent models, for a hay rake and hay loader, were made by William H. Gray around 1870. Also shown are the box made to store the models, and patent correspondence. Mr. Gray also invented a cow tail holder and a hay tedder.