on the Great River
"Canton Connection: The China Trade on the Connecticut River"
"Pots in Context: The Ceramics Collections
at Historic Deerfield"
Gouache: "Packing in Chests" from Tea Production Album, Guangzhou, China, c. 1790. Gouache and watercolors, Chinese paper, and silk. Album: overall: 13 1/2 x 12 1/8 x 1 in. (34.29 x 30.7975 x 2.54 cm). 56.428, Historic Deerfield, Inc., Deerfield, Massachusetts.
The Connecticut River is New England’s longest river, flowing 410 miles from its source at the Canadian border to its mouth at Old Saybrook, Connecticut, on Long Island Sound. The Connecticut or Great River (as it was also called) first drew permanent English settlements in the 1630s for the fur trade, but subsequently the productive, alluvial farmland along its banks was its chief attraction. The rich topsoil along the banks of the Connecticut River produced bountiful crops and grains. Surpluses connected the region through investment and trade to the larger Atlantic World. Some goods shipped overland to Boston, but most were sent down the Connecticut River, to port cities along the eastern seaboard and to the West Indies, where the food and wood were needed to support the sugar plantations. This trade supported the economy of western New England, and was especially vital after 1750, when the area’s farmers supplied troops during the French & Indian and the Revolutionary Wars, creating wealth for many land-owning families.
This region also developed a pre-Revolutionary material culture quite distinct from eastern Massachusetts or western New York. The dominant rural gentry, often called the “Mansion People” or the “River Gods,” created a regional specific culture in which their values predominated. A small, interrelated group of families (Ashley, Dwight, Partridge, Porter, Pynchon, Stoddard, and Williams), set standards for rural gentility and refinement in western Massachusetts. Farther down the Connecticut River toward Hartford, the Williamses joined six other families (Allyns, Chesters, Pitkins, Talcotts, Welles, and Wolcotts) in social dominance. They controlled positions of power (civil, military, and clerical offices) and enhanced that power by maintaining cultural leadership. Distinguished by their aloofness and concern for appearances, these families sought to put social distance between themselves and their neighbors. The River Gods were often the first to own new and specialized forms like sets of chairs and tea wares, many of which you’ll see in the course of the lectures.
This lecture series will reveal what kinds of ceramics people in the Connecticut River Valley sold, used, saved, mended, and discarded. Sources of documentation for pottery and porcelain in this region of New England include, but are not limited to, probate inventories, merchants’ account books, newspaper advertisements, archaeology, diaries and journals, and objects with histories of ownership. Each form of evidence has its strengths and limitations, but when combined they give a relatively complete picture of the kinds of ceramics that residents acquired and used. These lectures will focus on small country shopkeepers and rural consumers who dealt with larger merchants in Boston and New York, as well as conducted direct trade with Irish, English, and Chinese merchants in the post-Revolutionary period. The activities of early ceramic collectors including Dr. Irving Lyon and Dr. Albert Hastings Pitkin and 20th-century preservationists such as Henry and Helen Flynt at Historic Deerfield will also be explored.
Thank you to our Seminar Sponsors:
Gail Geibel, Frances O'Neil and Joanne Fallon
The 2023 CCC Seminar will take place on
Monday, April 17, 2023, 1:00 - 4:00 pm ET
Amanda Lange will present Ceramics on the Great River in two lectures, with a short break between the two and an opportunity to ask questions and make comments.
The Seminar will begin with a talk on "Canton Connection: The China Trade on the Connecticut River," followed by a talk on "Pots in Context: The Ceramics Collections at Historic Deerfield." Attendees will then have an opportunity to ask questions and all who register for the Seminar will receive a link to the recordings of the lectures.
Prices for the seminar are as follows:
CCC Members: $ 35
Seminar PLUS Membership through June '23: $ 75
Non-member Seminar Only: $ 45
Amanda Lange is the Curatorial Department Director and Curator of Historic Interiors at Historic Deerfield and has been with the organization since 1994. Amanda received her undergraduate degree in Art and Art History from Rice University in Houston, Texas, and her master's degree from the University of Delaware/Winterthur Program in Early American Culture.
As Director and Curator of Historic Interiors, she is responsible for the care, presentation, and interpretation of more than 30,000 collection objects. Amanda has developed several exhibitions at Historic Deerfield including "Delicate Deception: Delftware at Historic Deerfield, 1600-1800," and "The Canton Connection: Art and Commerce of the China Trade, 1784-1860," which focused on trade relations between America and China in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as well as highlighting the museum's remarkable collection of Chinese export art. These exhibitions were accompanied by catalogues. She is currently co-writing a catalogue of the museum's British ceramics collection due in Spring 2023.