Curator Available Sunday to Talk About New Darien Historical Society Display of 19th Century Pottery

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A spittoon, beer bottle and milk pan are part of a unique collection of Norwalk Pottery items featured in the exhibition “Shards of History” now at the Darien Historical Society.

Richard Prowse, a longtime collector of Norwalk Pottery, will discuss the display and answer questions on Sunday, Nov. 17 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Darien Historical Society.

Spittoon Shards of History Exhibit Darien Historical Society

Contributed photo

This spittoon is part of the “Shards of History” exhibition at the Darien Historical Society. Spittoons were common in public places in the late 19th century and used by both men and women who chewed tobacco.

The display features several stoneware and redware pieces manufactured in Norwalk during the 1800s, when that city was known throughout the United States for producing top-quality pottery.

“Glazed pottery items were once as ubiquitous as Tupperware is today,” said Prowse, who with Tracy Goodnow, loaned the pieces to the Museum and co-curated the exhibition. “It was used to store everything — oysters, beer, water, pickles — you name it, there was a special vessel designed to hold it.”

In the days before iceboxes and refrigerators, pottery vessels helped keep perishable foods at cool and even temperatures and glazed stoneware crocks adorned American kitchens from the 1600s through the early 1900s.

Shaped on a potter’s wheel, the potter then scratched a design on the surface using cobalt blue paint. Many vessels on display feature whimsical designs, which are reminders of the utilitarian artistry of an earlier era, said Goodnow.

Advances in glass, canning and refrigeration made crockery obsolete, and Norwalk’s pottery factories eventually fell to ruin, Prowse said.

Tours of the Museum and its exhibitions are free for members and $5 for non-members.

We tell the story of Darien, and with your support we’re writing the next chapter! Let’s make history together. To get involved, give us a call at 203.655.9233 or visit our website:

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